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How Hybrid Working is Affecting Energy Usage in Office Buildings

How Hybrid Working is Affecting Energy Usage in Office Buildings
12 October 2022

The energy bill crisis is being further fuelled by employees returning to their office desks in droves – but when many people are embracing hybrid working, are they taking responsibility for their energy use while at work?

Chris Dagenais, General Manager at BRITA Vivreau UK, identifies ways in which facilities managers can reduce energy use and save money.

Chris Dagenais initially pursued a career in hospitality as a front-of-house manager and sommelier for top luxury hotel and alpine resort brands before shifting gears into marketing. Chris spent 20 years in the marketing discipline for consumer retail, advertising agency, not-for-profit, and B2B enterprises before joining the BRITA Vivreau group in 2016 as VP of Marketing. He seized a career-redefining relocation opportunity in June of 2022 and is now the GM of BRITA Vivreau UK dispensers.



Picture: a photograph of Chris Dagenais. Image Credit: BRITA Vivreau UK


Hybrid Working Brings Unpredictable Budgeting


Energy bills are now dominating the UK consciousness en masse. Whether it’s individuals anticipating choosing between “heating and eating” at home this winter, or companies warily eyeing up their utility budgets for the remaining financial year, energy use is as hot a topic as climate change. In fact, new research from BRITA VIVREAU  shows that energy costs are concerning 92 per cent of decision-makers in the corporate world – there’s no escaping the issue.

Office buildings around the UK have experienced more fluctuations in their daily populations in the past two years. The way we approach our work has changed irrevocably in the wake of the pandemic. There have never been so many remote roles advertised, but it’s the rise in flexible working and hybrid work patterns that have really had a marked effect on the way we use professional buildings.

Buildings that sat empty or underutilised for the best part of two years are now experiencing a mass return of workers. And though these individuals are bringing their expected energy consumption with them, increasing the base levels of energy use up across many organisations, it’s these varying levels of energy use throughout the week that make budgeting unpredictable, especially now that our daily habits in the office have changed.

It is now the norm to see job adverts specifying that workers need only attend the office two-to-three days out of five. While before there was a steady flow of energy use from essential power sources like computers, hot- and cold-water dispensers or drinks stations, air conditioners and AV/TV equipment, now, this equipment is liable to be left running needlessly. There may be more than one day every week where entire departments are left empty, with no one responsible for monitoring equipment use and the subsequent energy that is being unnecessarily used while unattended or not shut down properly.

“One of the major sources of invisible waste is equipment being left on needlessly overnight, which is something 45 per cent of decision-makers admit to, despite 65 per cent of them not knowing how much energy the equipment uses during this time.”


Invisible Energy Waste


It is this type of energy use that can add up, becoming a major source of invisible energy waste that can lead to energy bills creeping up incrementally across the financial year. Though the majority of decision-makers have carbon reduction targets in place (72 per cent of those we asked said they have goals in place to reduce energy use and overall environmental impact), there are many perceived barriers to achieving these – including time, cost, and team resource.

Energy use – and its associated effect on rising costs – is everyone’s responsibility to shoulder, whether at home or at work. An undesirable side effect of hybrid working may be that employees feel much less responsibility toward the office facilities and equipment that before they may have been using daily.

But once the major sources of invisible energy waste can be identified, then locations within buildings where energy is leaking needlessly can be addressed in a way that take minimal time, does not cost businesses any extra funds, and uses minimal team resource – it’s as simple as flicking a switch.

One of the major sources of invisible waste is equipment being left on needlessly overnight, which is something 45 per cent of decision-makers admit to, despite 65 per cent of them not knowing how much energy the equipment uses during this time. So, a good place to start is to evaluate what equipment is left on standby or has no one responsible for turning it off. It should become common practice within hybrid teams to get into a routine whereby offices are “closed down” to a state of minimal energy use at the end of every working day – the workforce cannot assume that someone else will take care of these things.

When purchasing equipment in the first place, it’s vital that facilities managers look for equipment that utilises emission-reducing technology and natural materials and opt for appliances that enter an energy-saving Night Mode when not in use. It’s also useful to prioritise equipment that uses replaceable components and recyclable parts, as well as ensure existing equipment is serviced regularly and used as efficiently as possible – take water dispensers, for example, which when fitted with professional water filters significantly reduce the amount of energy they use as limescale build-up is avoided.

When responsibility is shared, the load is lessened, and hopefully in time office buildings around the UK will have their unnecessary energy wastage cut due to employees working in collaboration with their facilities managers – no matter how often they frequent the workplace.

Picture: a photograph of an open plan office with several people working at computers. Image Credit: BRITA Vivreau UK

Article written by Chris Dagenais | Published 12 October 2022


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