Tag Archives: office

The writing’s on the desk!

Melin Homes’ white board desks have promoted positive behaviour change, saved money and resources, and also improved Data Protection practice! Ena Lloyd blogs below on the story behind the desks.

I recently popped up to see Trisha Hoddinot at Melin Homes after Mari Arthur from Cynnal Cymru said what good work they were doing on their Car Scheme. Not only saving money and achieving positive sustainability results, but also showing some early signs of positive behaviour change too.

When I got to their office, I noticed all the desks in the Sustainable team were white, and on closer inspection, there were lots of written messages on them too! So I had to ask what the story was. Turns out they were white board desks. I’ll share information on their car scheme in a later blog! Here’s Trisha’s story on the white board desks.

A photo of a Melin Homes whiteboard desk, with writing on it

A Melin Homes whiteboard desk

We are the Sustainability Team, formed in February 2016 to capture what Melin Homes was doing in terms of sustainability in order to get the best out of everything we do. We wanted to lead by example, show things are possible and demonstrate that as a team, we could be totally paperless. We had no excuse, we were a brand new team – an innovative, but realistic team. We didn’t expect teams to go paperless overnight (we have less restrictions than some teams in terms of external auditing and record keeping), but if every team did a bit of what we are doing, it would really make a difference.

What we’ve done differently

Here’s how we’re encouraging others:

  1. Every month we advertise the top three teams who have reduced their printing on our internal TV screens.
  2. We’ve changed what we buy. All future Melin Homes desks will be white board desks.
  3. We make people think. There are laptops and tablets in every meeting room so that people can log on to make notes, share meeting agendas on screen and access documents, instead of using pen and paper.
A photo of Melin Homes staff using their whiteboard desks

Staff at Melin Homes using their whiteboard desks

We decided to use A4 sized whiteboards instead of post it notes and paper for notes, and purely by accident, we discovered that our white desks were in fact whiteboard desks, which can be used for ‘to do’ lists or notes for when you’re on the phone. Our excitement was not initially shared by everyone, but within 2 or 3 days less enthusiastic colleagues were coming around to the idea and asking for whiteboard markers so that they could join our revolution! Our customer contact team also use whiteboards, which not only reduces paper usage but also helps Data Protection as notes taken on calls with residents can be noted while the call is being resolved, but wiped out immediately after.

How we did it

For us, the only way to do it was without exception, no excuses, no printing and no notepads. When we meet with others and are given papers, we scan and save them on our team system and destroy them. One challenge that we did have to overcome involved one of my colleagues, who was updating information from our contractors onto a database. Historically, they would print one document off while updating another one on screen. To resolve this, we connected a second monitor.

A photo of a Melin Homes staff member using two monitors to save paper

A Melin Homes staff member using two monitors to save paper

What are the benefits?

The benefits are much wider than the environmental benefits and the financial savings on paper and printing costs. Staplers, pens, scissors, etc. aren’t needed now and our desks are much less cluttered. The added benefit is the opportunity to remind people that we are paperless when they ask to borrow a pen.

What learning would you share with others?

My first piece of advice for others on becoming ‘paperless’ would be that you should not enforce a massive expectation for change on all staff. It will alienate people immediately. It’s better to set the challenge and lead by example.

You should also use every opportunity to reinforce what you want to achieve. Whenever a member of our team attends an internal meeting, there is always a member of staff who apologises for having a paper and pen with them as they feel guilty. We don’t have to mention anything, but we always welcome the opportunity to remind people that we are Melin Homes’ first paperless team.

You do need to be aware of external meetings. I always feel the need to explain to others why I am using a phone or tablet to make notes, so they don’t think I’m being rude and texting friends or checking social media.

If you are positive about making the change, you can work around it. Good luck!

Standing up for your health….literally

We spend a lot of time sitting at our desks at work. Could standing at our desks help us to be healthier at work? Sophie Knott of the Wales Audit Office gave it a go for a week.

How long do you spend sitting down per day? I sit down A LOT. On the average weekday, I reckon it works out at around 12 hours. Add that to the eight hours I spend lying down asleep, and it makes me feel pretty depressed!

What do I know? I’m not a doctor

Well, it turns out it’s been worrying a few members of the health profession too. A recent study of 50,000 people in Norway found a link between higher levels of sitting and premature death. Even Public Health England are getting involved, co-commissioning a study that recommended that office workers should spend a minimum of two hours on their feet at work, to try and reduce chronic diseases and ultimately live longer.

Blue Peter – eat your heart out

I decided to give standing up at work a go. I don’t have any real health concerns at the moment, but I’d quite like it to stay that way. Two hours a day seemed more than doable. Of course, I’m not the first person to want to stand up in the workplace and there are a plethora of desk options if you have a spare £300+. I wanted to spend £0. I gathered various cardboard boxes, box files and paper and placed them under my monitor, keyboard and mouse until I had everything at a comfortable height.

The transformation was surprisingly easy:

Sophie Knott's adapted deskThe standing up on the other hand was not so easy. After the first 30 minutes, my back hurt and my legs wanted to sit down. I persevered for an hour then gave myself a well-deserved rest. I did another hour later in the day, enduring a bit more physical resistance and a lot of amusement from colleagues.

The next day, I did two more hours, and the next day, two more. Five days in, I’d clocked up ten hours of standing, my back and legs were fine, my workmates hardly batted an eyelid, and I even had a few considering trying it out themselves.

Six weeks later…

I have to admit that three weeks of annual leave and a couple of days of jet lag put paid to the standing for a while. Also, this was very much an unofficial trial, and a few concerned colleagues have queried whether I’m standing correctly and have everything at the right height.

I agree that I don’t want to unwittingly make things worse for myself, and there is no real way of knowing if I am doing myself any significant good. But science tells us that being sedentary is bad, and I’m enjoying my experience to date. Ok, creating your own sit/stand desk might not be as easy for everyone as grabbing a few boxes, and I am now looking into some official equipment so I can do it properly. I’ve been pleasantly surprised at the reaction from some of the senior colleagues in my workplace, and I know it wouldn’t be the same everywhere. But I’d like to think that more of us can take our health into our own hands, and vote with our feet.