Updated 23 April 2013

The flexible office

It’s Green Office Week: a good time to revisit the concept of flexitime, or the "alternative work arrangement".

Alternative or flexible work arrangements can take various forms: staggering the start and end of the work day to avoid rush hour, telecommuting from home, the compressed week (fewer, but longer work days), sharing work space.

All of these significantly help to reduce traffic congestion in the world's increasingly clogged cities, and thus reduce emissions and air pollution too.

Further, having more options about when to clock in can improve job satisfaction, giving people an enhanced sense of control over their work lives. This, together with spending less time and money on frustrating commutes, helps lower workers' stress levels.

It can also save companies on overheads. For example, a fairly new trend is for workers to share desks/computer terminals: different people use the same work station at different times, which means a company can rent a smaller, and cheaper, office space. There's an environmental advantage potentially here too, as smaller offices require less energy to keep lit and air conditioned, as well as taking up less prime urban property space.

Not everyone's job is suited to this kind of greening; there are many businesses and types of work that can't alter their schedule much and require employees to be in situ. This makes it that much more important for those of us who do have some wriggle-room, to tweak the traditional 9-5 arrangement, which, in many cases, has been rendered old-fashioned and unnecessary by the  internet.

The 9-5 work convention does die hard in some work circles though, with employers feeling they need staff physically present to keep an eye on them. A greater focus on output and productivity rather than simply having employees "doing time" may be an important aspect of moving towards a more flexible, greener, 21st century workplace. 

Go to the Green Office Week (22-26 April) website for more tips on greening your workplace.


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