“When things return to normal” is a phrase often heard when referring to a post-pandemic world. But when it comes to how we work, many of us are unlikely to ever return to a pre-2020 normal.
Over the past 15 months, working from home – or WFH in widely-used shorthand – has become the norm for the majority of white-collar employees.
This compares to only 6% of the UK workforce prior to the start of 2020, according to figures compiled by the Office of National Statistics.
Downsizing corporate workspace
Going forward, many businesses have announced plans to shift to permanent home working, or at least to offer it as an option for some of the working week.
This obviously has huge implications for managing corporate workspace (and energy – of which more below), with offices being shut down or dramatically downsized.
Certainly, within npower Business Solutions (nBS), we’ve been making use of agile working for more than a decade, after trials showed that it saved energy, helped us consolidate office space – and importantly, proved very popular with staff.
Over the years, I’ve heard colleagues cite these more flexible ways of working as a key factor for staying loyal to the business.
Researchers have also found it beneficial for business too, with studies showing it can increase productivity by 13%, reduce attrition by half and cut sick days by 52%.
Personally, I’ve found working from home over the past 15 years really helpful to maintaining a healthy work/life balance.
But it appears not everyone wants to work from home, or at least not all the time.
Not universally popular
In a recent survey by Microsoft, two thirds of home workers said they “craved” more person-to-person time with their colleagues. And more than a third (37%) believed their employers were “asking too much of them”.
Goldman Sachs boss David Solomon goes as far as to describe WFH as an “aberration that we’re going to correct as soon as possible”.
Alongside Goldman Sachs, Amazon has said it’s planning to return to an “office-centric culture as our baseline”.
The ideal for many workers is a hybrid option – working from home and spending time with colleagues in the office.
Energy management challenges
But for those of us involved in managing business energy, this creates challenges. How can we ensure the most efficient use of resources when it’s hard to plan for capacity?
This is where technology can provide solutions. More sophisticated Building Energy Management Systems linked to real-time sub metering can monitor and adapt energy use to occupancy, so reducing unnecessary use of light, heat, ventilation and equipment power.
It’s also possible to have your buildings managed remotely with energy use optimised on your behalf. For example, the team at our Energy Management Centre has helped to save a major high street retailer more than 35% across all their sites.
As the UK’s energy mix changes in favour of more low-carbon and diverse generation, there are also opportunities to participate in power network balancing services, either via on-site generation or demand side response initiatives.
And last – but not least – with a growing number of workers now off site, have you considered that staff home energy use may fall within your business’s Scope 3 emissions? This creates a business case to start sharing effective energy management practices among all your employees.
If you need help or support with any of these considerations, our team is here to help. So please do get in touch – either via your Client Lead (existing customers) or by emailing us at nBS@npower.com.