With the majority of the Australian workforce working from home for the past few months, there’s no doubt that going back to the office is going to feel different.
The impact of COVID-19 means that many workplaces may never look the same again.
Businesses have learned to adapt and adopt remote working practices, with employers and employees creating new processes and ways of working. For many, this has undoubtedly shown that remote working can be extremely beneficial, both to employers and employees.
There will be many things for businesses to consider when staff do start going back to work. The future of work is likely to change significantly.
But what does this mean for business energy usage?
Since COVID-19, many businesses have realised that working from home has proved very successful, with increases in productivity, reduction of travel time for employees and a significant reduction in the running costs of the office.
These realisations may lead to many Australian businesses looking to implement flexible working arrangements more readily and downsize their office space. This could involve allowing some employees to continue working from home full-time in the future, and others coming into the office only part-time.
If businesses offer more flexible working arrangements, with fewer people in the office full-time, a smaller office space might be the way to go.
Downsizing may allow businesses to significantly reduce energy consumption and overall costs. It takes less energy to heat, cool, light and power a smaller area, allowing businesses to scale back and look at solutions that are more energy-efficient for smaller offices.
Re-design the workspace
In order to comply with the COVID-19 rules and regulations that will be in place following a return to the office, many businesses will need to re-design the office space to adhere to social distancing and limiting the spread of germs.
This could involve everything from the layout of desks and open plan areas, as well as common areas that previously received high volumes of traffic and congestion, such as the kitchen, bathrooms and lifts.
This is also a good opportunity to consider implementing more energy-efficient solutions.
Airflow and temperature will become more important within office spaces to reduce the chance of employees becoming unwell or being more susceptible to spreading germs. Heating and cooling systems that offer better temperature control, switching off when the desired temperature is reached, and only turning back on when it drops or rises, will become more commonplace within offices. These systems provide the added benefit of maximising energy efficiency.
To improve airflow, more windows may need to be installed. This will also increase natural light and, along with the need for fewer work stations, will reduce the need for artificial lighting.
Reduce shared office equipment
If businesses choose to downsize their office space, hot-desking could become more commonplace in offices, with employees placed on rotating rosters to limit the number of people within the office at a time.
In this case, more employees may work from laptops rather than desktops, both due to convenience and to reduce the use of shared computers. Laptops use significantly less power than desktops, so this will provide businesses with a reduction in their energy costs.
Eliminating the need for complex equipment setup where possible, including desktops, printers and desk phones, can help businesses drastically cut down on energy usage.
A new way of working
It’s important that businesses seriously consider what their workplace will look like when employees start returning to the office.
Once changes have been decided, whether that’s to downsize to a smaller office space or re-design the one you have, businesses may need to talk with their energy providers to ensure they have a plan that suits their change in business needs and consumption. This could involve adjusting an existing plan, but for some might mean finding a new provider entirely.
There is a great opportunity for businesses to reduce energy usage and costs by rethinking their way of working and considering what their workplace might look like in the future.
For more on improving business energy usage, read our blog on how COVID impacted businesses can improve energy efficiency.