The human factor – unpredictable but powerful

Karen Fletcher

Staff can make or break your energy strategy.

Another message coming from speakers at the Energy Event this year was the all-important issue of staff buy-in for long-term energy savings.

Studies by BRE have already shown that employees can make or break an organisation’s energy strategy; and the best building controls and building services in the world won’t help if occupants find a way around them. Who hasn’t seen heaters sneaked under desks? Or socks stuffed into ventilation grilles?

In my last blog, I harkened back to the days of the time-and-motion man monitoring staff with his stop-watch and clipboard. We treat staff very differently these days. The nature of work has changed, as has the relationship between employer and employee which is (or should be) one based on cooperation and communication.

The main points made by speakers, such as Rob Scoudling regional energy and environment manager for the Cooperative Group, is that staff need to be engaged, educated and then empowered to act. In large organisations, the staff on the front-line are often the ones to spot areas of energy waste first, so it makes sense to harness their input at an early stage.

Sainsbury’s head of engineering, sustainability and energy, Paul Crewe commented: “Our most important tools in being energy efficient are our staff. They need to understand the impact they have on energy use.” He also commented that 3% of the company’s energy reduction was down to staff actions alone.

With building controls technology now capable of delivering information to mobile devices, putting knowledge in the hands of staff is easier than ever. But creating understanding of why energy efficiency is important is more challenging. 

Karen Fletcher is Director of Keystone Communications.

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