FES View: Making Smart Energy Easy

Daniel Gold
By Daniel Gold on July 14, 2020

How to Motivate Employees to Save Energy

Energy costs are often the largest variable in a small business’s budget. While making a simple swap, like switching to LED lighting, is a quick fix to reduce energy costs, company culture is also a large factor in saving energy. If you’re wondering how to motivate employees to save energy along with you, here are some simple steps to take to begin taking control of your energy costs, together.

Why Energy Costs Matter So Much

According to ENERGY STAR estimates, America’s small and medium businesses (SMBs) spend more than $60 billion a year just on energy. Traditional energy costs are extremely variable. This makes it hard to plan for and budget for them year over year, let alone month over month. In addition to being more environmentally responsible, switching to sustainable energy solutions helps businesses budget for their energy costs and save money.

One of the most basic and essential things to any small or medium business - lighting - is also one of the most inefficient and costly. Light bulbs are one of the biggest energy expenses for a business. Making the switch to LED lighting is quick and efficient, and the energy savings are immediate. Many smarter energy choices are like this, and when you motivate employees to save energy through smarter power practices, it’s a win-win.

How Employees Impact Energy Use

As more SMBs realize the importance of saving money through smarter energy choices, the role employees play in saving energy is being better understood. There are many factors that employees do not have control over, such as the physical infrastructure of the buildings they work in. This includes things like outdated and inefficient HVAC systems, low-energy rating windows, redundant equipment (be it large-scale manufacturing machines or personal-use technology) and more. Employees also cannot influence the cost of power from the grid.  

However, employees can save energy through smarter energy practices every day. Some of the largest sources for wasted energy, by employees, comes from failure to use power strips and energy-efficient light bulbs and setting excessively warm or cool temperatures in the workplace. When employees are motivated to save energy, these are some of the easiest ways to immediately reduce costs and save energy.

For the average workstation that includes multiple devices like a computer, monitor, printer, lamp and phone charger, switching to a smart power strip typically pays for itself in a year. By motivating employees to use these power strips instead of relying on inefficient wall plugs, SMBs can immediately reduce their annual energy costs.  

7 Ways to Motivate Employees to Save Energy

SMBs typically have tight budgets, and employee compensation is one of the largest line items for any SMB. These employees are essential to business productivity, but their inattention to energy costs could also be costing you. When employees are motivated to save energy, their quality of work can improve, their workplace satisfaction can increase, and SMBs can better control and plan for energy expenses throughout the year. Here are X ways to motivate employees to save energy.

1. Make it official.

Creating an office policy on energy use is the first step in motivating employees to save energy. Examine your energy costs and identify areas of opportunity for reducing use and increasing savings. Consider both the big picture items that employees don’t directly affect, such as HVAC systems and vehicle fleets, and then consider the everyday tasks and practices that employees do have control over.

2. Set clear goals and share them.

Once you have an understanding of your energy costs and where potential savings lie, create specific and clear goals around each energy saving opportunity. Share these goals with your employees, either through an email communication or a company-wide meeting that:

  • - Explains the importance of sustainable energy practices, both for your company and the environment
  • - Clearly identifies where your company can do better
  • - Takes accountability for making significant changes across the company
  • - Shares specific information about how much energy is being used by different activities or areas of the company
  • - Sets actionable goals and next steps to save energy

3. Create a compelling company-wide campaign.

Take your communication a step further and create a year-long campaign focused on smarter energy practices. This can be as simple as a tagline for the program and a simple poster design, or it could include social media assets, weekly communications, multi-team challenges and more. It’s fine for these campaigns to be simple. The best way to motivate employees to save energy is to create clear goals and communicate those frequently.

4. Launch a “green team.”

Often, the best way to motivate employees to do something is to involve them in the process. No one knows the daily actions of your team better than the team members themselves. Create a Green Team and invite employees interested in leading the change to be involved. Ensure you have representation from each department as well as a range of seniority levels. These team members are responsible for assessing their department’s energy practices and proposing specific ways their teams can save energy.

5. Think big.

Don’t forget that energy savings are not just about your bottom line. When you motivate employees to save energy and begin reducing your overall energy expenses, you can return this money to the community to make a bigger impact. In addition to being a good global citizen and doing your part to protect the environment and reduce your carbon footprint, you can also use your savings to support a local charitable organization. Be transparent about this and clearly share how much your company has been able to save and as a result, how much you’ve been able to donate.

6. Educate your employees.

It’s important to not only motivate but also educate your employees on why saving energy matters and how to do it. You can do this by sharing facts and trivia like the fact that a cell phone charger still draws energy when it’s plugged in, even if it’s not charging a phone. So unplugging this charger when not in use is a quick and easy way to save energy. The same logic applies to other common office energy-bandits like printers and coffee makers.

7. Create a challenge or recognition program.  

Employees are more motivated to change their behavior when there is a reward. Consider creating a friendly competition between departments or buildings to see who can save the most energy. Although you may not be able to directly track the energy saved by each team’s best practices, you can perform spot checks of different areas to identify energy “infractions” or best practices. Award teams points for each energy-saving activity you spot. An energy-saving champion can be awarded each month or quarter. Prizes can be as simple as a coffee gift card, a year’s supply of LED lights for their home, or even a bonus day off.

Make Saving Energy Easy

More than anything, make saving energy easy for your employees. After developing your goals and sharing them with your teams, continue to talk about energy goals and best practices throughout the year. Make it easy for employees to save energy by:

  • - Updating the lighting in your buildings and in employee workspaces with LED light bulbs
  • - Reducing the number of individual printers by switching to wireless-enabled printers that multiple employees or teams can use
  • - Upgrading power strips to smart power strips
  • - Installing motion-activated light switches in all areas to avoid lighting a space when no one is present
  • - Create an energy saving checklist for different areas (conference rooms, break rooms, common workspaces) with actions to perform before leaving the space like turning off lights, turning off overhead projectors and unplugging the coffee maker.
  • - Displaying energy use facts and best practices on monitors in common areas

Become an Energy Saving Leader

Take your energy goals one step further, and share your tips and best practices publicly. Use your social media platforms to share what you’re doing to reduce energy expenses and support sustainable energy practices. Doing so not only provides a great impression for your customers and clients, it also positions you as an industry-leader in sustainable energy and can attract top talent who values these types of commitments to the community and environment to your organization.

Motivating employees to save energy starts from the top. By taking a look at how your business is using energy and where you can begin saving, you can set some clear goals for your employees and how they use energy.

Take clear and obvious steps toward supporting your commitment to saving energy, like updating outdated and expensive light fixtures to commercial LED lighting. This is a great first step in showing your team you are committed to saving energy and creating a better, safer workplace for them. Each step you take will motivate your employees to join with you to save energy.

Published by Daniel Gold July 14, 2020
Daniel Gold