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Sustainable Together: Can hybrid working ever be sustainable? Part 1

From changing user demands to government regulations, supply chain requirements to net zero targets, sustainability increasingly informs every tech decision we make. In our new, ‘Sustainable Together’ blog series, Simon Watson, Cloud & Video Services Lead at Kinly, takes us through the vital impact of sustainability in AV, exploring how the right approach can improve efficiency and boost worker wellbeing, while helping to reduce waste and make your business greener.

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Working from home has long been touted as a great move for sustainability. No more long business trips, packed commuter trains, or unnecessary flights to Zurich. Good news all round. But there’s a catch, and that catch is hybrid working.

With employees now working from home, the reality is often more energy consumption and less efficiency. Instead of having one centralised environment — which can be optimised — organisations have become dispersed throughout hundreds of home offices, all requiring heating, lighting, and their own technology.

Worse still, in a hybrid world, the trains are still running, the offices are still open, and the terminals, screens, and air-conditioning units are all still whirring away. The problem now is that half of those trains, buildings and desks are being left empty.

This is bad news for the planet, but also bad news for businesses which now must foot the bill to heat, cool and power half empty offices — all while struggling to fulfil their well-intentioned sustainability goals.

So what’s the solution? Shut down the offices? Force people to come in?

No. The world has changed, and people require flexibility to do their best work. What we need to do now, is find sustainable solutions that still provide people with the flexible lives they both want and need.

That’s where intelligent AV technology comes in.

The key to efficient, sustainable hybrid working

Today, AV is about so much more than just phones, screens, and headsets. It’s an essential part of how businesses retain employees, ensure staff wellbeing and — increasingly — meet their sustainability goals.

The environmental challenges of hybrid working are a great example of this in action. With intelligent at-desk sensors, face recognition and analytics software built into AV tech, businesses can increasingly work out which desks and terminals are in use, and which aren’t.

In the most basic instances, this means that when technology isn’t needed it can be automatically switched off. At a more advanced level, such analytics can help control temperature and lighting, ensuring that packed rooms aren’t unnecessarily heated, while people working in largely empty spaces don’t get left in the cold.

Over time, the value of these insights grows exponentially. By using this information to spot long-term trends, AV, HR and IT teams can generate an accurate view of how staff are using the office environment. They can see, for example, which spaces are proving most popular, as well as the days and times when employees prefer to work from home. This sort of insight is essential for building a hybrid working strategy, informing decisions about when the office is open or even which spaces should be available for use.

Take, for example, a large office building designed for hundreds of staff. If AV analytics can show that only a third of this workforce are in the office on a Monday, then action can be taken to automatically close the upper floors of the building. This way, employees are centralised on the lower levels, allowing the business to switch off heating, lighting, and technology on the upper floors. The result is not only more sustainable and better for the planet, it’s also more efficient and cost effective for the business. Win win.

Putting AV at the heart of sustainability

For too long now, the AV industry has put profits before purpose. This is rarely down to greed, but more often due to a genuine love of great communications tech. If an AV professional can install a system with every awesome, innovative, feature imaginable, they will — often with the justification that these features ‘might come in handy’ one day.

Today, that mindset is changing. Almost every business across every sector has sustainability targets, both for themselves and their suppliers. The right AV technology is not only essential for hitting these targets, it’s also a fundamental part in measuring and reporting their success via built-in analytics.

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With this reality in mind, the AV industry needs to adopt a less-is-more approach. It’s no longer enough to push for every feature and every optional extra. Instead, businesses want AV technologies that allow them to work better, smarter, and with greater efficiency — both for people and the planet.

At Kinly, we take that goal seriously, leading technology decisions based on sustainability and efficiency rather features alone. In real terms, that means we’re working directly with our clients to develop new workflows and technologies based on the latest environmental certifications, net zero targets, and their individual sustainability goals.

I have long believed that if AV businesses fail to adopt sustainable practices, they will cease to exist. Not just because of regulatory and investor pressures, but because customers and vendors are demanding change.

If it’s our job to build the best possible experiences for individual employees, then protecting the world that those employees live in has to sit at the heart of that goal.

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