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Could Load Shedding And Energy Uncertainty Herald The Workplace’s Next Big Shift?

Zuko Mdwaba, Area Vice President and Country Leader, Salesforce South Afric

Most South Africans are all too familiar with how disruptive load shedding can be to the average workday. While many have figured out how to work around one or two power outages a day, things get more complicated when there are multiple outages for prolonged periods of time. Some are fortunate enough to be able to return to the office, while others have to drive around looking for somewhere with power and internet connectivity. 

While such scenarios may have been unheard of in more developed markets, Europe in particular has faced its own energy crisis over the current winter. As much as countries in the region have avoided the nightmare scenarios that some were predicting in late 2022 (effectively their own version of load shedding), it’s still come at a significant cost. Millions in the UK, for example, are having to choose between heating their homes and eating. Less dramatically, many others have returned to the office in a bid to save on energy bills.      

It should be clear then that energy crises in various forms are having a massive effect on people around the globe. Organisations need to understand and adapt to that changing reality, providing their employees with the tools they need to get through the crisis. But they also need to ensure that they make positive contributions to easing the crisis in whatever geographies they operate in.

Beyond providing office space 

Some companies might believe that they’re doing enough if they simply provide office space in a building with backup power or its own sources of renewable energy. While that can be important, it’s also critical that they recognise the need to go beyond that.Power outages and escalating energy bills affect every aspect of an employee’s life, not just their ability to work. 

Making office space available isn’t always an option for organisations. These companies might look at paying for, or subsiding, backup power solutions for their employees. It might seem like a massive cost outlay initially, but the organisation could end up sacrificing a lot more in lost productivity if it doesn’t go that route. 

Even in an energy-rich environment, allowing for such an asynchronous approach to work could be important. It will, after all, be crucial for a working future where people are assessed according to their ability to complete tasks rather than occupy a desk for a set number of hours every day.   

Being part of the solution 

Beyond just helping their employees, organisations can also be part of the solution when it comes to improving energy efficiency. Of course, as much as they’d undoubtedly love to do so, installing a load of solar panels on the roof isn’t an option for many organisations. That said, even relatively small changes can have a big cumulative effect, especially when it comes to energy conservation. 

Opting for cloud computing, rather than on-premises IT infrastructure, can result in significant energy savings for example. In fact, research has shown that cloud computing is capable of improving energy efficiency by 93% while reducing greenhouse gas emissions by similar levels. While the data centres that cloud computing depends on obviously also require power, many have their own sources of energy thanks to organisational efforts to make them carbon neutral.   

Closing the sustainability talent gap

To reach a net zero future all roles should be sustainability roles. We’re going to need an army of qualified individuals working together – from carbon accountants to scientists to ecopreneurs. Yet despite both good intentions and pressure to meet ambitious climate goals, businesses are facing a severe shortage of sustainability talent available to help meet their commitments.

Leveraging a company’s existing workforce can be a powerful solution to solving the sustainability talent gap. According to new Salesforce research of 1,297 global workers, over 8 in 10 want to help their company operate more sustainably. While 3 in 5 are eager to incorporate sustainability into their current role, 88% said a lack of investment in training towards those qualifications is stopping companies from reaching their sustainability goals.

By upskilling existing workers who want to make the jump into sustainability careers, companies can source talent for hard-to-fill roles, while helping employees work towards something they’re passionate about.

Surviving the present, preparing for the future 

As sustainability continues to stay at the forefront of stakeholders’ minds, it’s imperative that business leaders combine short term solutions with long term changes to how they operate.

Ultimately, all organisations should be doing everything they can to ensure success now, especially where that includes making themselves more resilient to the kind of energy shocks the world is facing right now. Doing so won’t only help make the organisations and their employees more resilient to the current shocks, but it will also help prepare them for the future of business and work. And the better prepared and adaptable an organisation is, the more likely it is to thrive in the future.