The subject of the environment is constantly in the news. Whether it’s climate change protests, international agreements or extreme weather patterns we are all hearing about global warming on a daily basis. Yet also on a daily basis people are continuing to work as if nothing has happened. They get in their polluting vehicles and generate carbon dioxide sitting in traffic jams in order to get to work. They get on aircraft and fly half way round the world to have a meeting face to face with colleagues.

Digital technology has provided us with the means to reduce travel, whether commuting to work or travelling for business, but we still act as if it was’t there. We still expect people to travel to a central location in order to sit in an office and use a computer. They could be sending emails to the person at the next desk or on the other side of the world and they can do this from anywhere. We expect people to attend meetings in person to get the latest information or maybe to be involved in a discussion, despite the fact that this can now be done remotely with freely available technology like Skype or Zoom.

We issue employees with smartphones that allow them to work from anywhere and then insist they still travel in to the workplace. When will we realise we have turned a corner and are now in the digital age? This week is “G for Green” in the WiseWork A to Z series, so now is the time to wake up and take a fresh look at how we work.

The problem is that we have simply added the technology to the old way of working instead of designing work around the new capabilities. We define jobs as being static and insist that people are present to do them, because that’s the way it’s always been. Employment in the 19th and 20th centuries involved people having to be together and under the supervision of a strict boss. We are now in the 21st century where workers do not always have to be in the same place and trusting managers can allow people to choose their own time and place for work.

And, most importantly, we are now in an environmentally aware age. Young people are asking questions about all aspects of modern life and their impact on the planet and work is the one activity that occupies most of adults’ waking hours. Are you ready to answer questions from your employees about the environmental impact of your work patterns?