The trends shaping work in 2022: green dividends

The trends shaping work in 2022: green dividends

More and more companies are recognising the many sustainability benefits of hybrid working.

The blue skies seen over previously smog-bound global cities during periods of lockdown were a graphic demonstration of how the environment – and our own health – can benefit from reduced commuting. But cleaner air is not the only sustainability benefit that comes from hybrid working, which lets people work remotely at home and at local workspaces, making only the occasional visit to head office. In fact, it can play a major role in supporting a number of the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals for 2030, allowing businesses to easily achieve substantial green dividends in areas such as sustainable cities and communities, clean energy and climate action, gender equality, and good health and wellbeing.

As Mark Dixon, Founder and CEO of IWG, says: “There is no doubt that sustainability is now very much front of mind for companies around the world – and they know this is something their customers expect. At IWG, we believe that the adoption of a hybrid working model can be a major pillar in any company’s ESG agenda. And it can also be the foundation of a new approach to work and life that benefits both the planet and its people.”

Companies are increasingly realising that hybrid working can significantly reduce their overall carbon footprint. Reduced commuting to a central office not only means fewer cars on the roads but also allows organisations to downsize their city-centre HQ and incorporate shared flexspace into their real estate portfolio, which has the added benefit of reduced energy consumption.

“Carbon footprint modelling is becoming a significant part of what we do now,” says Doug Demers, Managing Principal at B+H Architects and the Centre for Advanced Strategy. “And it’s not just about an individual office space. It’s also thinking about how the carbon footprint changes with a hub-and-spoke model. Will people travel smaller distances to a local satellite location by bike or by walking, or by car for five minutes versus a 45-minute drive to a headquarters somewhere?”

According to Global Workplace Analytics, if all US residents who could and wanted to work from home started doing so for half the week, it would be the greenhouse gas equivalent of taking the entire New York State workforce off the road.

Good health and gender equality

There are also various health and wellbeing benefits that come from hybrid working. Cutting down on stressful commuting gives us more time for health-promoting activities such as exercising and sleeping. And walking or cycling to a local flexspace brings added health benefits. A Slack global survey of 9,000 knowledge workers looked at the peace of mind that comes from working close to home and concluded: “With more time and fewer office stressors, on average, they seem to experience a boost in their quality of life.”

And the hybrid working model can play a key role in evening up the gender imbalance in many workplaces, where women are often forced to do a ‘double shift’, doing a full day of work while also caring for children or other family members. If both parents in a family are working in a hybrid way, they can split household responsibilities, with men doing their fair share of picking up kids from school or looking after toddlers.

The increased recognition of the green dividends brought by hybrid working is one of ten trends identified in IWG’s white paper, The Future of Work: a trends forecast for 2022. You can download it here.