Business as usual is a thing of the past. Instead, innovative approaches to thinking business have progressed. Recent social and environmental events, like COVID, record-breaking climate behaviours, or the urge to restart the economy are sending signals of the necessary transformation in the business landscape. The circular economy concept has turned into a real-world strategic approach. In this case, circularity might sound like a sudden “trend” or a newsworthy urgency topic. The truth is that the limit to raw materials, to create the products and services everyone consumes, is reaching an unsustainable capacity. The World Economic Forum refers to these maximum values as the limits of linear consumption. Besides, the energy cost of such “new” products adds a much more complex issue. Every industry and organisation will experience the impact in diverse phases. The facilities industry is already experiencing the pressure to shift the paradigm and move towards a circular office.
Figure 1. From a linear to circular economy model (Source: Ellen MacArthur Foundation)
Facility management actions have the potential to actively contribute to the creation of circular offices. An approach is to rethink ways to integrate what is considered “waste” back into a valuable cycle in the workplace. Furniture, technology equipment, and other tangible elements inside the office have a productive expiration date. Most likely, there is a huge opportunity to see the value in what seems not worthy. In this blog, we offer some perspectives on how to start a circular office by tracking asset inventory at the workplace.
The office of the future is circular
The future workplace requires technologies and a design adapted to the needs of the users. When picturing an office ready for the future, circularity is a reasonable strategy to integrate. Not only is it a future-proof decision, making the office circular offers great benefits in cost and carbon footprint savings. The new generations of customers, consumers, and employees are opting for businesses taking initiative to make a positive impact. As well, an increasing number of organisations are discovering ways to add to their business value creation while decreasing their negative input to society and the environment. This situation is expected to grow exponentially, and the decision for companies will rather be to support it now or be forced to adapt it later.
Recycling is good, going beyond is better!
Among the principles of circular workplace design, recycling is the most recognised, and most obvious step towards responsible disposal of waste. But, when we think about circularity other practices such as rethinking, reducing, reusing, and repairing are also fundamental. In a circular office recycling is great, but going beyond it is even greater. Why? Because this action extends the useful life of assets and reduces the need to add “new” resources to the workplace.
Figure 2. Circularity is more than recycling (Source)
For example, when applying a circular approach, the tables, screens, or laptops which are old or reach the end of their productive life, could be refurbished. After being repaired, these renewed assets will have a different use in the office to extend (repurpose) their life cycle.
Advantages of a circular office
In a circular office, an organisation can do more with the assets already existing. Some of the advantages include higher adaptability to future changes in the workplace and more efficient care management of office assets. Also, it is easier to identify how often the furniture is exchanged, or the exact location of the assets. Another benefit is the possibility to implement the use of “modularity” in the workplace. With modularity, we mean replace only a part or component of the asset instead of the entire asset itself. The office costs decrease and the value of renovated office assets increases in terms of the time in which an element can be used.
To extend the life of assets or recycling the components that are not usable anymore. A detailed list of elements with the specific life cycle of each asset is necessary. A practical example when reusing, repairing, or refurbishing office assets is to identify the elements at the locations, buildings, or departments that are more often renovated. Then, when the time comes to replace them. It might be a good initiative to think of more durable and modular options. In this way, future office elements can have adapted life durability to the needs of the user for a longer period of time.
The role of a workplace asset inventory
There are so many approaches an organisation can implement when deciding to create a circular office. The first step is to know the actual status of the assets and create a clear overview of the value. A basis is necessary to define the productive life, specific characteristics related to refurbishing or where are the assets located? This way you identify the “waste”, select a circular approach and finally assign a “new” value to the office assets.
With the Asset Inventory, you will create an overview in a database with the list of the assets that you hold in the building(s). Which is useful when moving stuff within the building or from building A to building B. Also, there is the possibility that the furniture can be refurbished and can be valuable in another format, room, or department. For example, an individual desk that is not necessary for a working station area can be repurposed into a small meeting area for collaborative projects. With an available asset inventory, the possibilities are endless and your assets can keep prolonging their value.
Change mindset create value
Creating a circular office requires a new way of thinking to change the mindset in the organisation. In return, a circular office approach in your organisation will turn waste into resources and add more value to the office. A workplace inventory makes the process of sharing, repairing, refurbishing, exchanging, and extending the value creation of assets easier.