Learning & Development

Want Workers to Return to the Office? Try Making It Greener

Amid a heightened war for talent among companies post-pandemic, U.S. employees have higher expectations for green office spaces and want their employers to make eco-friendly practices a priority, according to new research.

Hygiene and health company Essity recently conducted a survey of workers who have returned to the office at least part-time and found that the vast majority of employees (75%) say they want a more environmentally friendly office.

The research also found that those surveyed have become markedly “greener” than before the COVID-19 pandemic began. Just over half of employees working from an office (51%) say they became more eco-conscious while working from home during lockdown periods. Another 46% say they feel more aware of how green their workplace is than when they worked in the pre-pandemic office.

In fact, more than half (58%) feel their office is “shamefully eco-unfriendly,” with one-third (34%) believing the introduction of eco-friendly practices within their workplace is usually an afterthought.

“Working from home and in their personal spaces during the pandemic increased employees’ attention on what it takes to create environmentally friendly workplaces, and employers should take note—especially those looking to retain and attract talent in this market,” said Don Lewis, President of Essity’s Professional Hygiene business.

“Our research shows that as many as four in 10 employees prioritize companies based on their sustainability reputation and actions when looking for a new job,” Lewis continued. “Increasing eco-friendly priorities in the workplace and empowering employees can create a greener office while helping drive employee engagement.” 

The Essity survey found that a majority of employees working in the office (71%) feel it is essentially the employees themselves who are leading the charge to make sustainable changes in the workplace rather than management. Over half of employees (51%) believe their employers need to better communicate the ways they intend to address sustainability in the workplace. On top of that, 56% think their employees could be doing more to turn their office into an eco-friendly place. 

When asked who should be responsible, reactions were mixed. Roughly a third of survey respondents pointed to employers (32%), and nearly as many (28%) pointed to employees or a 50/50 shared responsibility between both employers and employees (27%), representing an opportunity for companies to get their employees involved. 

“As employers continue to struggle to attract and retain talent, they ought to consider how they can appeal to their workers,” said Amy Bellcourt, Vice President of Communications, Professional Hygiene, Essity North America. “Our survey found that sustainability is often overlooked. Amid the pressure to deliver workplace flexibility, competitive salaries and benefits, and in-office perks, employers often disregard the importance of sustainability in the workplace—and their employees are noticing. Creating a more sustainable workplace leads to better outcomes, for your employee base and our planet.”