Small Business Energy Savings | September 30, 2016

5 Employee Engagement Ideas for the Office

If you’re looking for employee engagement ideas and also want to find a way to save energy in the workplace, combining the two can be a win-win for small business owners and employees alike. Workers are increasingly drawn to companies that share their values. Building a company that values sustainability and reducing its carbon footprint can be one way to recruit and retain employees for whom this is important. When employees value creating an energy efficient workplace, it may help increase your bottom line because they will be motivated to save energy, which can also save money by lowering your energy bill in the office.

Why is having an energy efficient workplace a financial win for a small business owner? The Environmental Protection Agency says that many small business owners believe that energy efficiency is the fastest, least expensive, and largest single solution for simultaneously saving energy and money, as well as preventing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. A recent U.S. Small Business Administration poll shows that 82% of small businesses surveyed have taken one or more steps to reduce energy use.

Small business expert Anita Campbell shares employee engagement ideas for the office

Small business expert Anita Campbell, founder of Small Business Trends, agrees that savvy small business owners use a company’s culture as one way to attract and retain employees. “It’s one of those factors they will take into account, a secondary factor,” she says. “Does the company have the same values? Will the workplace be the kind of place where they will feel comfortable? If you’re into recycling [and the company isn’t], you’re going to feel out of place and you’re going to know it. For those who care about it, it can be a significant factor.”

Losing employees can be costly, which makes employee retention particularly critical for small businesses, Campbell says. “The numbers tell the story,” she says. “If you only have 10 employees and you lose one, you’ve lost 10% of your workforce.”

On the recruiting side, the right working conditions and company culture can be a small business’s biggest selling tool, Campbell says. “If you’re a small business, you can’t compete with large companies with extensive health plans, but you may be able to sell your business to prospective employees based on working conditions — how good it feels to work there, that everyone there feels like they’re part of something bigger and share values,” she says. One of those shared values can be environmentally and/or energy-focused.

So, how do you motivate employees to improve energy efficiency in the workplace? Campbell offers these five tips to engage your employees with ways to lower your energy bill in the office:

5 employee engagement ideas to help create an energy efficient workplace

  1. Adopt a slogan about saving energy in the workplace. Campbell tells a story to illustrate the potential effectiveness of a slogan and a few simple posters. In a former corporate job, her company had some issues with punctuality. “We got some posters that read ‘We can’t be great if we’re late’ and put them near the coffee machines and water coolers and other places around the office,” she says. “It was amazing the impact just having that slogan posted around had. It really drove home that promptness is important.” Campbell suggests creating similar posters and slogans about key energy savings tips for the workplace. “Make it your own,” she says. “Try to get everyone caught up in the sense that it’s important.”
  2. Energy savings tips for the workplace can be fun. People love games, Campbell says. Employees also love taking a break from the daily routine. She suggests taking time out of the work day periodically — perhaps once a quarter — to create a game around how employees can save energy at work. “Have a scavenger hunt every so often,” she suggests. “Everyone takes an hour to search for something where the business is leaking energy — a leaking faucet, computers that stay on too long, a leaking toilet. Give prizes. The idea is to make it fun. Maybe order in a pizza.”
  3. Ask for solutions for how employees can save energy at work. “Have a brainstorm session. Ask, what are your suggestions for how to save for energy, reduce our carbon footprint?” Campbell says. “You’d be surprised. Everybody thinks differently. I guarantee someone has thought of something no one else has thought of.” Doing a brainstorming session openly rather than through a suggestion box makes it clear this is a company priority and offers an opportunity, Campbell says, to publicly praise someone with a good idea. “Then that person is a hero,” she says. “Give him an attaboy.”
  4. Make employees responsible for coming up with ways to improve energy efficiency in the workplace. Someone, for instance, could be put in charge of monitoring utility bills and then offering suggestions for ways to reduce them, Campbell offers as an example. The person in charge of ordering office supplies could be told to add sustainability as one of the considerations in ordering office supplies. “Instead of ordering Styrofoam coffee cups, everyone might bring in his own mug,” she says. “[The point is to] make it part of their job.” The concept is a variation, Campbell says, on that tried-and-true business adage: inspect what you expect. “As a small business owner, you want to inspect what you expect from your people. What you’re telling them [by adding energy savings tips in the workplace to their job description] is this is important to us and the company. We’d like you to be the watchdog of this, the steward for the company.”
  5. Give awards for saving energy in the workplace. Add being a good workplace environmental steward as a criteria to existing employee of month awards, Campbell says, or create a new award to celebrate employees who help create a more energy efficient workplace. “It’s a signal to the company that this is important,” she says.

Using these and other employee engagement ideas in the office can help save energy in the workplace while retaining great team members. Who knew you could lower your small business energy bill while also engaging employees with fun, sustainable business practices that align with your company’s values? Want to learn more? ENERGY STAR has a number of programs to help small business owners get started making their companies more energy efficient, including a downloadable booklet that outlines how to make energy savings a part of everyday business and several employee engagement ideas to raise awareness for your action plan.

Also, check out our energy savings tips for small businesses post and our small business checklist for energy savings for other pointers on saving energy in the workplace.

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