Sustainable life

How to create an eco-friendly, sustainable workplace (part 2)

In the first part of this blog post, I’ve listed a series of tips that might be useful in order to create a more sustainable, eco-friendly workplace.

In this second part, I’d like to focus on another aspect that can make our workplace a more liveable environment – the dimension that is more related to our relationships and feelings.

The sustainability of human relationships in the workspace

Well, let’s keep in mind the wide-reaching concept of intersectional sustainability, shall we? We’re aware that according to this approach, sustainability should intersect different dimensions of our life. As a result, it goes without saying that creating an eco-friendly, more sustainable workspace should also go hand in hand with enhancing positive relationships with colleagues or clients, aka other human beings besides ourselves. Depending on your case, I would suggest three main solutions:

Empathy and active listening

Are you really paying attention to what your interlocutor is saying? I mean, not in terms of terribly wishing for them to stop so that you can talk. Or nodding while you’re daydreaming. Really listening. I presume we all hate it when the other person’s mind is wandering anywhere else but here and now. And I agree it might be difficult to keep focused sometimes.

Yet, listening is fundamental if we want to establish fruitful relationships and cooperation. Let’s try and listen more sensitively by emotionally identifying with the other person, paying real attention, asking questions, paraphrasing what they’re saying, and keeping silent.

Here’s a wonderfully useful TedTalk about active listening.

Team building activities

Facilitating bonding among team members is key for a healthy workspace. It gives employees the chance of getting to know one another on a different, somehow deeper level, outside the office, which may also reduce their stress and positively impact the whole company. One thing I would always consider when managing team building activities is developing activities that may involve everyone in the team.

And by everyone, I mean both extroverts and introverts. I know the world seems like it only exists for extroverts, but hey, if you’re aware that 5 people out of 10 do not enjoy karaoke as a team-building activity, why force and/or judge them? Choose a board game tournament instead, or an office trivia, or… I don’t know, team volunteering?

Personal growth and mental health

If you’re the boss, have you ever considered nurturing and retaining talent by providing your employees with personal development opportunities? Books, professional training, seminars, or even meditation sessions (goodness, this would be so avant-garde – if you’re doing it, you’ve got my support).

They can encompass anything from building a new hard or soft skill to pursuing a given passion even out of the workplace, which may positively impact their lives. Because yes, passions and mental health are utterly important for every human being despite the average “production’s intoxication”; and no, just adding a table tennis room and occasionally throwing parties won’t make your organisation the dream company to work for.

Speaking of mental health… are you aware if there is anything toxic in your professional environment? Any weird dynamic taking a toll on employees? Toxic relationships, toxic clients, toxic co-workers, useless overtime work just because “everybody does so and I feel ashamed to leave even though my contract says I should after 8 hours”. You know, that’s not normal. It may happen, no problem. But it should be an exception. Something extraordinary.

So, well, let’s normalise that toxic grind is toxic and must be avoided and let’s give more importance to employees’ mental health. Otherwise, well, I do get the reason behind the Great Resignation.

Purpose cuts both ways

Another area that would make our workplace more bearable and sustainable is our purpose. We all crave meaning in our job. We all want to make a difference and contribute to the greater good. And this is great, because finding a purpose allows us to do our best, be creative and be fuelled by genuine motivation.

It’s a condition that would certainly help our workplace be more liveable. It would make it easier to face and overcome difficulties, because we’re driven by something bigger. Indeed, we picture the destination in our mind and we’re aware that what matters is getting there. Easy peasy.

However, it’s important to understand that we sometimes mistake absolute stress for lack of purpose. We like our job, our workplace, we know our reason why, but we’re so overwhelmed by overworking and toxic dynamics that we just aren’t capable of dealing with that environment anymore.

Therefore, we should first understand the root causes of our feeling of meaninglessness and discomfort and then act accordingly.

Is it stress and toxic dynamics? Or is it that I just got really tired of doing what I’ve been doing so far?

Either way, remember that it may happen. It’s perfectly normal. There’s nothing wrong with you. And we must normalize this.

Understanding this nuance is fundamental in order to work on such causes and rediscover the pleasantness behind our job. Start by making time for rest and self-care. If the problem is within your organisation, look for a figure inside your workplace who could help you solve it. Look for new opportunities if you can. Then, if it’s somehow deeper, look for a therapist, a life coach, or both. There are many steps that may help you shift your perspective.

Most importantly, don’t let the search for a purpose burn you out. Take small steps and let the healing process do its job. Remember, it’s perfectly normal and you may not hear others worry about the same stuff just because they’re too afraid to say it out loud. ???? If you start normalising it, then they may open up, too!

So all in all, here’s my list. That was quite a journey, wasn’t it? I didn’t want to just stop at material stuff. There’s more than that in any work environment and even though we, as human beings, are all imperfect and probably will always be – such as our workspaces after all –, our nature is also perfectible. So let’s make the most of such perfectibility.

Do you have any other interesting ideas? If so, please, feel free to mention it in the comments!


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