How to Bring More Sustainability to Your Teams

With COP26 taking place this month and a greater need for businesses to consider their impact on the planet, it’s a good time to look at the benefits of bringing more sustainability to your teams for both the environment and their work lives. In this blog, we’ll look at the benefits of bringing sustainability to your teams and what you can do to nudge behaviours.


To be sustainable is to “be maintained at a certain rate of level”. Of course, in today’s climate, it usually refers to the actions we take to make our impact on the world around us sustainable. Interestingly, the same mindset and behaviours needed for these environmental actions are also the same you need to have sustainable behaviours at work that create better innovation.

When you consider what you need to put in place to prevent mental health issues, stress and burnout at work, much of this is creating a sustainable workload.

For many businesses, being under-resourced is an issue. So implementing sustainable behaviours has two implications. Firstly, for staff to reduce their risk of stress and sick days. Secondly, to help them be more productive with the time they have.

So How Do You Implement More Sustainable Working?

It starts with the middle managers. Research shows that how middle managers work is modelled by those who they manage.

“Middle managers provide space for new behaviours that are key for sustainable teams,” explains Sandie Bakowski, Organisational Psychologist.

“Many organisations are looking at how to achieve that end. Middle managers are the ones who can normalise new ways of working. And if organisations focus efforts on helping them think differently about their role, a wider culture change will follow.”

Therefore, if your managers are the kind who work late, answer emails on the evenings and weekends or expect that long hours equal hard work and dedication – then this is what your staff will model.

However, if your managers and leaders set the blueprint for what work looks like, then everyone else will follow this behaviour.

Holidays and Sick

One of the ways to gauge how sustainable your working habits are is to look at the culture around holidays and sickness. Simply because we can now work from anywhere, does not necessarily follow that we should work everywhere.

Do your staff use an out of office when they have annual leave? Or do they check in with their emails – just to make sure nothing has gone wrong?

When staff are ill – do you find they take the time to recover or simply work from home?

When we go to work, we adapt to the unwritten rules of the workplace. We are social, so we want to fit in with the rest of the group. On a basic level, it is how we feel safe. Even if by doing so we may cause ourselves to burn out, become stressed, or overwork.

By mirroring what everyone else does, it means we don’t risk being the odd-one-out. If staff check their emails while away, everyone feels they should also – even if they need that complete break from work.

Culture Change

Influencing a culture change is something that happens slowly and over time. No one really likes change so it needs to happen in incremental steps. Think back five or 10 years ago. Plastic straws and toothbrushes were normal, vegan food was a single supermarket shelf and you’d rarely see an electric car.

Incremental change over time makes a difference. Changes to how we work also happen slowly and over time. The new behaviours become embedded until they become natural.

The same process to get someone to work in their most productive way is the same as getting a person to put their cup in the recycling bin rather than the waste bin. Or to use a reusable cup.

Benefits of a Sustainable Workforce

Let’s go back to the environmental aspect of a sustainable team. Besides the financial benefits that sustainability practices like energy conservation provide, studies have found that employee retention, productivity, and overall engagement all go up.

The benefits of a sustainable team are powerful. Besides, meaningful action on sustainability is attractive to both staff and customers of a business. Having the actions of the company aligned with what they say is crucial for buy-in.

If a manager is passing down messaging about what needs to be done to create a sustainable business but is then seen to be being wasteful, it undermines the change of others in the team.

Healthy Working for a Healthy Business

Having a healthy workalike balance is better for business, innovation and productivity. It is also better for creating sustainability throughout the organisation both from an environmental and work perspective. Businesses can support incremental change and impact a wider cultural change. As a result, will have engaged, loyal and productive teams.

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