Is Workshifting The Greenest Thing We Can Do?

I received a short e-book yesterday from Greensense where they’d calculated that typical office buildings sit unoccupied for 72% of their time, based purely on typical work days and hours per year. Yet during this time these buildings consume 55% of their energy.

It goes without saying that we need to get a grip on this wasted energy and either stop using it or put it to use… but to date we’re still focussing on ‘energy efficiency’ (i.e. eating less) and tinkering around the edges of Activity Based Working, ‘hotelling’ of facilities and ‘work shifting’.

I read around a year ago about this concept of ‘workshifting’ and even in the past 12 months it seems that the original origin of the word has morphed – it’s now taking over the language of ‘remote working’ and so forth [some good background here]. But I recall the original idea of work-shifting was to literally shift entire working hours into non-standard hours. night-shift for offices.

night shift

flickr share by Mario Gutierrez, London UK.

Whilst the energy efficiency drive is good and has value and is easy, perhaps the real payoff is in doing away with our traditions of the 9am-5pm work life, and using our buildings 24/7. I’m not saying make people work longer hours – it’s nothing more complicated than making more work hours available. One work day becomes 3 x 8 hour shifts, and people can choose which shifts they want to work.

Employers are paying the same rent, and yes most likely some extra energy, but they’re getting more than four times the productivity out of their tenancy (one week would have 21 shifts instead of 5). We’re also then getting 4 times the value out of materials and all of the embodied energy.

Seems to me like the cheapest way to grow a work force without growing in real estate. Think of how much of that 72% could be expanded into! It’s only a matter of time before this becomes our warmed-climate reality.


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