Can The Nocturnal Office Adapt to Heat AND Boost Profit?
Pre-Covid offices often stood empty for around 72% of the year. Could this one climate adaptation take this down to Zero?
Covid-19 has triggered global disruptions in the way we work. Doing away with the concept of ‘9–5 work’ could open new ways to entice workers back to our cities in more flexible ways, and avoid the heat-risk of climate change at the same time.
Moving to a 168 hour working week and nocturnal working may deliver a raft of productivity, energy and resource benefits whilst also adapting our workforce to a hotter climate.
Some fun facts:
- 72% How much of the year our traditional pre-Covid, 9–5, 5-day work week offices sat idle, leaving only 28% of the year when workers were on shift
- 55% of the total energy use is consumed during that time. Minimum ventilation, base building lighting and equipment and stand-by modes all tick the meter over even when the building is empty
- 20% of those workers (during the 28% of the year) weren’t in the office. They’re on the road, mobile, working from home, or simply away from work due to illness or mental health days
- 60%-70% of the total office floor space is actually used (during the 28% of the year when 20% of the workforce isn’t even there), with the balance of floor space being taken up by circulation corridors, storage areas, plant rooms and the like
- 30% The built environment’s contribution to total global carbon emissions.
Covid-19 has given us time and space to reconfigure the way we work. There is a battle raging between the organisations who want their workers back at the desk Vs those who just want to keep their workers no matter where they work. Check out Luke Beseda’s post on what the ‘new normal’ might look like. It’s a fascinating synopsis that amongst other things highlights how the physical office pre-Covid may simply no longer be suitable for how we move forward.
When will business return to normal — and what will ‘normal’ look like?
The days of wall-to-wall Zoom meetings may soon be coming to a close.
If we overlay this with a climate that continues to get hotter, where cities begin to experience 50 degrees C (122 Fahrenheit) during the day, those traditional 9–5 workers will be expected to run the gauntlet of roads, public transport and un-shaded open space that is sweltering under un-safe temperatures. Not only uncomfortable and un-productive but risky for any employer as well.
A work week of 168 hours gives a lot of options to tailor work around our lives, particularly away from the heat. Workers could ‘do their hours’ when it suits them, their teams and their customers. Employers could increase the productive hours of their tenancy by more than 4 times, and the ‘embodied carbon per work hour’ is reduced by 75%.
A developed night-time economy would stimulate other night-time economies in retail, social and entertainment. It’s a diagram of course and requires a lot of change around labour hire policy and the like, but what worked for us before climate change and Covid-19 won’t take us into the future.
A climate adaptation that relies on a shift in policy and culture, rather than a deployment of physical infrastructure, and in some respects also puts the brakes on un-sustainable growth.