Lift your gaze from the computer screen and have a look around. What do you see? A traditional office? The kind that you come to in the morning and leave in the evening. You might leave the building during your lunch hour. There are colleagues hurrying up and down hallways from one meeting to another, and the air is thick with the sounds of people talking, phones ringing and keyboards clicking. That’s today’s office.

Environmental friendliness and environmental measures have become routine for many offices. One indicator of this is that the WWF Green Office network in Finland already comprises 184 organisations, 523 offices and over 66,000 employees. What will an office look like in seven years? Or in 37 years, in 2050? I suspect things will be quite different.

Fresh herbs for lunch from the roof garden

Looking out of the window, you see a pleasant garden on a rooftop terrace. In addition to decorative flowers and trees, the garden also has plants that can be consumed by people who work in the building. The spread of rooftop gardens in urban environments where green areas are otherwise limited can help clean the air and provide habitats for many small species. It also provides a peaceful and comfortable setting for taking a relaxing break during the workday.

The highest roofs of buildings are covered with solar panels. Finland has favourable conditions for generating solar power. It doesn’t require high temperatures. On the contrary, in fact. The key is the amount of light, and Finland’s bright summers have plenty of it.

Solar power is used for the interior lighting of the office. LED lights in the ceiling dim and brighten according to the amount of light coming in from the outside and turn themselves off automatically if there is no motion underneath.

An office without walls – or even without physically present colleagues

Offices no longer have rooms or walls. Seated workstations are gone, replaced by standing desks. Employees also no longer have their own familiar regular workstation. Instead, they may choose a different spot every day. New innovation and insights are generated when employees from different teams exchange ideas throughout the workday.

Or perhaps you exchange ideas with an employee of an entirely different company, who just happens to be working at the neighbouring workstation in a virtual office close to your summar cottage? Virtual offices and working remotely are routine procedure.

Grasshopper or beetle for lunch?

What if, instead of meatballs or vegetarian lasagna, lunch at the office would consist of seasonal vegetables with roasted grasshoppers? A recent article in Suomen Kuvalehti magazine (22/2013) discussed ways to get people to eat insects. It turns out that they are excellent sources of nutrition, containing more protein by weight than beef, for example. They are also a more environmental choice, as growing insects requires less land and produces less methane.

Today, Green Offices conserve electricity and other resources, focus on responsible purchasing, encourage employees to commute by bicycle, carry out training remotely and perhaps increase the proportion of vegetables on their lunch menus. All of these things matter. However, our environment is changing and we must change with it.

Maiju Sirviö
Green Office Expert, WWF Finland