Warning! Working differently can seriously improve the environment (and well-being)

In Cardiff and everywhere, there has been a lot of talk lately about clean air and reducing carbon emissions and indeed, in Wales, the Government has declared a climate emergency which suggests they are finally taking this seriously and we are going to see some critical action.

As ever with this conversation, the ideas and actions for tackling carbon emissions tend to be focused on getting people to switch their mode of travel from the car to cleaner, greener forms of transport such as electric cars, bike or train.

What I notice though is that those responsible for solving this problem rarely seem to ask themselves the very important question: ‘What if people didn’t need to travel?’

We are so entrenched in an industrial model that work is still seen as a place we go rather than something we do and so rarely given the consideration it deserves as one of the tools in the box when it comes to tackling climate change.

As someone with a long history of promoting flexible working, I can see a lot of opportunities not only for the environment but for individuals and employers too. So why are we not talking more about this and how working differently can reduce carbon emissions whilst also increasing community cohesion and overall well-being?

It’s a bold claim but I believe that it’s because so many managers are scared to let people get on with it and unable to tell if they are actually working if they can’t see someone at a desk in front of them. Too many organisations manage people on the basis of time and presence in the office. Just think what we could achieve if that switched to trust and outcomes instead?

Part of the issue is the number of limiting beliefs around different ways of working so here are some common myths and realities that will hopefully help to open up some new ways of thinking about how we can reduce the need to travel for work purposes, reduce carbon emissions and improve air quality.

Myth: When we talk about working differently, we mean people working from home on a permanent basis.

Reality: Working in an office and working from home are just two options in a broad spectrum and also not mutually exclusive. People could maybe work one day a week in their local community which could be at home or in a community hub or café or anywhere they feel inspired. This would reduce the need to travel and increase feelings of connections in the community.

Myth: If people are at home, they will have more distractions.

Reality: When people are working from home, they might put the washing out or get the dinner started and that is actually ok. When they are in work, they might be talking about what happened last night on Coronation Street or making everyone a cup of tea which is also ok. Regardless of whatever household tasks get done when at home, most people would say that working remotely is great for getting on with work projects because there are fewer distractions.

Myth: Working remotely has a negative impact on well-being.

Reality: If you work alone, at home, all day, every day, this can have a negative impact on well-being for some people. However, working from home sometimes can be beneficial because people can concentrate on a piece of work and save time travelling to the office which they can then spend getting jobs done or playing with their children. This can have a positive impact on well-being.

Myth: Supporting remote working requires expensive video conferencing platforms to allow people to remain connected.

Reality: We are better connected than ever before so utilisation of the wide range of free channels available to us means that teams can remain connected regardless of location.

Myth: Managers are automatically equipped to cope with any working arrangement.

Reality: Technology has transformed what is possible in the workplace, allowing people to work whenever and wherever is best to get the job done. Ensuring staff performance when managing remote workers is something that many feel less confident about so training should be built in to organisational development programmes to ensure managers have the necessary skills to cope with all situations.

 

Do you think working differently has the potential to help reduce carbon emissions? Do you have thoughts on how we can build confidence and skills to manage different ways of working? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

 

If you like this article, you might like to read this one too: Want greater staff retention, less sickness absence and increased productivity? Join the results based revolution and unleash the power within.

 

 

 

 

 

Want greater staff retention, less sickness absence and increased productivity? Join the results-based revolution and unleash the power within.

We’ve all been there, haven’t we? Racing around trying to get the dog organised, kids sorted and self looking presentable to arrive at the office for 9am like that’s all you’ve had to worry about.  We’ve also all most likely heard that tut when you’re two minutes late or had a poor attendance record because it keeps on happening.  And we’ve probably all had time off work to let in the heating engineer or be home for a sick child or get to the hospital for an appointment.

So what if it was possible to have a happier and more productive workforce by ripping up the policies and letting people decide for themselves when, where and how they work? Would you do it? You should definitely give it some thought.

This is on my mind right now because I’ve had a hectic start to the year. With a new dog, hospital visits for my mother in law, surgery for myself and the pooch, I’ve been dashing from one place to another trying to make sure everyone is ok and then arriving at work pretending everything is normal.  It’s made me miss my previous workstyle (not lifestyle) where the focus was on what I delivered and not whether I was there or how long I sat at my desk.

In my former role, my team had cast away the shackles of time and space and embraced a results-based approach.  This idea was developed after reading work on the Results Only Working Environment (ROWE) which has become prominent over the last few years. We didn’t follow it in its purest form but based our own model on the general premise of results not time.

How it worked in practice was to agree with each individual what they were expected to deliver and what ‘good’ would look like and we caught up on a regular basis to make sure everything was on track.  It meant that my team was empowered to get on with the job and trusted to get it right which in turn meant they were motivated to succeed and delivered above and beyond what was expected of them.

The first time I heard this idea, it was in the news that Virgin were letting employees have unlimited annual leave.  It sounds unrealistic but actually is manageable when individuals start being accountable for what they have done and not how long they were in the office.  It also means you can get all your tasks completed whether in the office or at home or elsewhere! Does someone need to finish early to go to the vet? No problem. Do they need to work from home to keep an eye on the sick dog? Sure thing. Do they want to work at the in-law’s so they can get to the hospital for visiting hours? Absolutely. People can manage their time however they see fit, providing they deliver the agreed results.

You might still be thinking ‘but if they are not in the office, how do I know they are working?’ You know because they will do the things they agreed and if they don’t then it’s a performance issue. How do you know they are working when they are sat at their desk? You don’t generally, you just feel better because you can see them in front of you. Maybe you are also thinking that if you let people just do what they need to then they will do as little as possible. My experience of managing a team in this way taught me that providing you have empowered and motivated them in the right way, when they run out of things to do, they will find more.

Many employers think that allowing employees to work flexibly is a nice perk but actually, it can remove stress, reduce sickness absence and increase productivity which means that employers get more for their money.   My experience with results-based working found that it encourages people to work smarter and think more about what they are doing and how they can invest their time on things that will deliver the best results.  What’s not to like?

Get your own copy of ‘Why work sucks and how to fix it’or hear how it works at GAP by watching this video.
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