Serviced offices are eco-friendly

PUBLISHED : Monday, 17 May, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 17 May, 2010, 12:00am

With World Environment Day two weeks away, it is worth considering the ecological benefits of serviced offices, which providers say are more environmentally friendly than regular offices.

Serviced offices encourage resource sharing, reducing duplication of equipment and facilities, and an efficient use of space. The carbon footprint for 30 businesses operating from a serviced office is much smaller than if they each rented a single office space, 'even down to there being one refrigerator instead of 30', according to one multinational serviced office provider.

One company has also started a project whereby it plants a tree for every virtual office it signs. Other providers are also embracing conservation practices, and there are scores of green-energy consultants based in Hong Kong offering services ranging from under-floor air conditioning to eco-friendly building materials.

Andy Chan, general manager of the International Business Centre, advocates using energy-saving bulbs and timers, or sensors, to control the amount of lighting needed in a space.

A cool, comfortable office environment is crucial for productivity in climates such as Hong Kong's. The government advises that temperatures be set at 25 degrees Celsius to avoid the icy gusts of excessive air conditioning, which has an effect on energy bills and the environment.

The more environmentally-conscious offices encourage the recycling of old envelopes, paper bags, paper used on just one side - for printing and faxes - in addition to having separate plastic, paper and metal refuse bins.

Virtual office technology also enables clients to greatly reduce their travel time and expenses. According to Marcus Moufarrige, Servcorp's chief information officer and general manager for Asia, more than 80 per cent of the serviced-office provider's clients operate their businesses 'not by driving into the city each day', but by running their businesses 'effectively from home and massively reducing their personal and commercial carbon footprint'.

He says the long-term aim is to dramatically reduce the amount of travel required for businesses operating 'in their own markets and to enter new markets' by deploying a 'tele-presence' across the Servcorp network.

As part of its global expansion, the company plans to source almost all of the materials for its fittings locally at its new locations, and hopes this will become standard industry practice.

Environmental concerns, better technology and higher fuel costs make working remotely with the use of serviced or virtual offices a more popular and less expensive choice, irrespective of company size.

Hong Kong still has room to catch up in terms of working remotely, largely because employers don't want to give up control of their staff. However, the latest survey from WorldatWork, a global human resources association in Washington DC, reports that since 2006, the number of United States employees who worked remotely at least one day per month increased 39 per cent to 17.2 million in 2008.

Firms open to such arrangements usually do so because they save money on rent, with smaller offices and on technology, by having fewer computers in offices. Staff also gain because they spend less time commuting and have lower travel expenses.