Sitting at my home office desk last week taking a micro-break (yep, they’re a thing in our household these days), I had one of those moments where the mental dots got joined. It struck me, as I gazed out over our soggy garden, that for professionals to enter the all coveted ‘flow state’, it pays to get the home office right.
Speaking from my own early lockdown experience, I can safely say that my office space essentials need to comprise more than sporadic wifi, four walls and a little natural light. And let’s not discuss my brief stint working from our patio (not even my trusty Patagonia jacket and thermal gloves could solve that one).
For me (and a growing number of individuals and organisations), working from home now needs to tick some solid sustainability boxes, including minimal energy usage, high productivity, and the kinds of office accessories, technologies and good habits that make waste reduction easy.
Sure, not all of us will work from home forever. But there are some great economic and holistic pay-offs to creating an eco-friendly home office space. Better still, some of your own efforts to create a greener home office can be measured and added to your business’ own carbon reduction targets using the Pawprint for Business tool.
Now, even as CEO of Pawprint, I’ll admit I’m still a student when it comes to mastering my own green office ethos. But creating a cleaner, leaner, more energy-efficient workplace somehow helps me work smarter. Well – we’re a product of our environment, right? What’s more, in the process of upgrading my own home office, a few good habits have rubbed off in our leisure and dining spaces, too. How’s that for a win-win?
Quick side note – readying your office for a little green update needn’t be a faff – or cost a fortune. COVID’s got us all thinking a bit more frugally and even budget ‘throwaway’ furniture has become a purchase many are now reconsidering. Case in point: IKEA announced in October 2020 that it will be buying back customers’ furniture, in a bid to clean up its act a bit.
As far as eco-conscious alternatives go, there are some great recycled furniture apps out there. (There’s an app for everything these days, right?!) Take Preloved – an app for people who want to give their unwanted household items a new home. Considering how much furniture goes into landfill each year, it’ll save you pennies that you’d spend on new furniture and do the planet a favour. All you need to do is download the app, get your address geo-located and see who’s having a clear-out in your area.
Another easy eco hack for the home office is to actively reduce your tech’s energy output. That means switching your laptop or desktop onto power-saving mode when you’re not using it or conserving printer paper for must-have documents only. You might also consider switching all paper bills to electronic. Hell yes to less filing!
Perhaps a less obvious way to reduce carbon emissions while working from home is to think about how to reduce meat consumption. Cattle and livestock raised for consumption play a significant role in greenhouse gas emissions, so it’s a great moment to consider how reducing meat-based meals while working from home can help you (and your business) contribute towards the UK hitting its collective carbon reduction goals by 2025. Yep – every burger counts folks!
Motivated by this target, we’ve made a commitment in our house to try and eat more plant-based meals. Given the huge amount of plant proteins and plant-powered meal ideas out there, we haven’t looked back. And it feels healthier to have a broader range of veg in our diets.
Other smart energy-saving hacks for your home office include understanding how much energy is leaked from spatial heating. Windows, fireplaces, doors and attics are all places where heat can escape and draughts may occur. Check to see if you’ve any draughts and seal windows, doors and floorboards to ensure your home isn’t losing heat. Energy.gov has a good checker tool for your home’s thermal efficiency. It’s also smart to close certain doors in the house during winter to create ‘heating zones’.
As far as smart lighting goes, I’m a big fan of keeping it as natural as possible. This is partly due to the growing evidence about the disruptive impact of too much blue light and LED on our bodies’ circadian rhythms. So, I try and keep my home office hours on the same schedule as the sun, to optimise natural daylight and keep our reliance on artificial light to a minimum. When daylight fades, we’ve gone a bit Scandinavian in our home with low, warm LED energy-saving bulbs and even the odd candle. At night, you can even go one step further and switch lights off at the mains. It has been shown in studies to support a deeper night’s sleep and make energy bills noticeably lower. Result!
Last but not least, can we give a shout-out to the humble house plant?
A European study has shown that the quality of our home’s indoor air quality can be just as detrimental to health as outside pollution, thanks to toxic varnishes, fabrics, paints and potential moulds or spores.
Cue potted house plants, which are proven to remove harmful compounds from the air we breathe. Who knew that a pretty yucca plant or peace lily could also help to improve the air quality in your home? NASA actually did a study on the top house plant heroes to improve your home’s air quality. Amazingly, just three potted plants in an average-sized office will reduce airborne compounds. Environmental psychologists have long suggested that plants improve our performance and reduce negative mood states, but it’s great to know they also keep our air clean. Time for a trip to your local gardening centre, perhaps?
Here’s to your clean, green home office.