Oracle is a global organisation specialising in the development and marketing of computer hardware systems and enterprise software products. It has more than 390,000 customers, and works across a wide variety of industries in more than 145 countries.
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Employee empowerment and trust
Home working in general is not an adopted practice in the UK. However, with the level of employee empowerment and trust within Oracle, it was recognised that a large number of our UK staff could perform equally well at remote locations. This presented an opportunity to dramatically reduce the amount of travel to and from offices, as well as supporting the corporate policy of reducing business travel.
We developed the ‘21st century homeworker’ initiative which was sponsored at VP level with investment from the organisation. This included allowing staff time out of their working day to promote it.
We began by designating a large number of parking spaces closest to main buildings for car-share only, encouraging employees to car-share when they do have to travel to an office. We also signed up to the ‘bike to work’ scheme, enabling employees who are close to offices to purchase bicycles tax free.
We looked at the role of technology and piloted the desktop version of Teleprescence – which allows users to have the full experience of face to-face meetings from remote locations. We also introduced a number of other tools including social networking sites, web conferencing, document sharing, collaboration and repository tool (Beehive) to allow groups to work together on projects remotely.
To assist with embedding new ways of working with the organisation, we invested in qualifying five employees as trainers and consultants in IT sustainability by the British Computing Society. The qualified staff are now embarking on a programme to train other employees in IT sustainability and awareness. We are also holding ongoing internal sessions on the advantages of working from home under the banner ‘more people working from home more often’.
We produced a booklet called Sustainable Living and Working which was developed in conjunction with The Transition Movement Publisher, Green Books. This was launched at a home working showcase event at our UK head offices. It was also distributed to all 5,000 UK employees. The booklet is based on a published Green Living tips book, prefaced with 27 pages of Oracle sustainable working/wellbeing guidance. By giving a copy of the book to every employee we wanted to instil a low-energy, sustainable approach to home working and to try to get them to apply the wider messages in their home lives.
The Oracle sections were written and edited by employees working outside of their regular roles, and paid for entirely by Oracle.
Cost savings and lifestyle improvements
Both permanent and home worker employees have benefited from the reduction in travel to and from offices, as well as business travel. Less travel time, cost and stress, as well as a better work/life balance, have all made home working more attractive. For us, there has also been a reduction in office space requirements, as well as to the environmental impacts associated with running that space.
Oracle commissioned Econcierge to review the impact of the ‘21st century homeworker initiative’ and, taking into consideration average commute time and distance, it estimated that flexi and home working on average save one tonne of carbon output per employee per annum in the UK. If office space can be retired, it estimated that this would result in a further saving of £863 per employee per year.
The project has demonstrated that sustainability can reduce both environmental impact and save costs, both for an organisation and its staff. We also hope that by influencing our employees’ working practices and attitudes, they will carry a sustainable approach into their daily home life – which will in turn improve their wellbeing and effectiveness as an employee.
‘Sustainability and green IT should be embedded into an organisation’s DNA and made core to its strategy, processes and products, and not at all considered as a ‘silo’ function,’ said Barry Goodwin, VP at Oracle Corporation and Sustainability Leader at Oracle UK. ‘We should view sustainability as a business opportunity, a way to reduce costs, increase personal productivity, drive value and facilitate competitive advantage.’