In our work in developing sustainability strategies for international corporations that have large portfolios of leased spaces, we’re finding some interesting behavioral links between three key areas: employee comfort and wellbeing, corporate social responsibility; and operational savings.
We know, of course, that improving the health and comfort of employees can help to boost productivity – which, in turn, tends to be good for the bottom line. Corporate social responsibility can also have a direct positive impact on the bottom line – for example, when employees are keen to conserve energy in their workplace and make thoughtful use of resources. Service to the community also reflects well on the organization’s reputation in the marketplace. But in addition to the marketing benefits, working together to “do good” is a catalyst for internal team-building, which is a great morale booster. This is good for productivity – and indirectly – the bottom line.
The flip side is that there can be negative feedback loops as well. For example, cutting costs by saving energy on heating, cooling and lighting or cramming employees into smaller spaces can have a negative impact on comfort and wellbeing – and hence on productivity. It can also erode morale and de-motivate employees so they don’t feel so much like engaging in corporate social responsibility activities.
The point to be made is that if a company introduces energy savings under the pretext of “being more sustainable”, and if employees are going to suffer for it, then they’ll see right through the so called “sustainability agenda”. But if they see that there are also efforts to support their wellbeing and the wellbeing of their community, then they will be willing to “do their bit” by putting up with a little less air conditioning or sharing an office with a colleague.