How your IT policies can help save energy

When it comes to saving energy, the IT department holds a lot of power.

Large organizations across industries have the potential to save energy on a massive scale, but it requires a true team effort to do it. Through the right policies, the IT department can help.

Support flexible work

Working remotely just isn't possible without the support of IT. Better collaboration tools, like instant messaging apps, video conferencing or platforms that let teams work on the same documents at once, can dramatically cut down on how much time employees need to spend in the office, and on their computers, using up energy.
 
Many organizations are already on their way to making this the norm. In a global survey IWG released last year, 50 per cent of Canadians reported working from home at least 2.5 days per week. What's more, Canadian employers and employees alike see the benefits, from improved business growth and profits to lower real estate costs and better talent retention.
 
To support this trend, some organizations are also embracing "hoteling," a model where desks, cubicles and other workspaces aren't assigned to individual employees. In turn, these companies can cut their office footprint, and their energy use.
 
Think about all the tech that doesn't need to run when employees work from home, from laptops to phones. Even if working from home isn't possible for your organization, making a switch like having every employee use a mobile phone instead of having landlines plugged in can help you save. Keep in mind, though, that their energy use footprint doesn’t disappear entirely; it’s just not within your business.
 
By working with human resources and other management, the IT department can help craft a flexible work policy that can truly transform their organization for the better.

Clean things up

Uninstall unnecessary software on employee computers to keep them running more efficiently. Not every employee will require the same programs, and the fewer they have operating, the more efficiently their computers will run. In addition cloud-based programs can also help people work more productively and with less power.
 
While you're looking at your computers, make sure you're taking advantage of energy-saving power settings across the board. If you do prefer to let employees manage their own personalized settings, make sure you send reminders about power settings and other tips to reduce charging time, such as keeping their screen displays dimmer. Work with your operations team to set automated reminders for staff to unplug tech or switch off power bars before leaving the office, too. As a bonus, optimal settings may help increase the lifespan of your batteries. 
 
In boardrooms, set projectors to lower brightness and make sure any other AV equipment is optimized to save power (for example, use timers to ensure they shut off even when people forget).

Finally, if you do decide to get rid of any unnecessary electronics or batteries, look into environmentally responsible recycling and disposal methods. 

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Look at printing and purchasing

Cut back on printing by retiring individual or departmental printers in favour of office-wide shared network ones. With secure printing, employees have to use an ID card or code to print their documents at a shared printer. Forcing a moment's pause can help people reduce how much they print. As a sustainability bonus, you'll likely cut down on paper and toner use, too.
 
When buying new imaging equipment, remember to look for printers that can double as scanners, copiers and faxes so you can have fewer devices plugged in overall.
 
Work with your purchasing teams, too. If hardware purchases aren't centralized through IT, look into how you can better streamline what you're buying while ensuring every piece is energy efficient. For example, if employees can order and expense their own technology (even equipment they use at home), ensure your policy encourages them to buy ENERGY STAR-certified products.

Reconsider your backup policies

Data (and accessing it) is important for every type of organization, which means relying on server rooms and data centres to hold on to all of that information.
 
However, not all data is created equal. Mission critical data that needs to be restored quickly and easily if needed, isn't the same as storing archived materials. Some research suggests that servers are often idle or underutilized (with one study saying up to 30 per cent may be “comatose”)1 so you many have an opportunity to use less equipment. Consult with a professional about how many servers you really need, and take a look at your organization's policies for data backup and storage and see if you have opportunities to revamp it.
 
To take your organization's energy saving philosophy a step further, remind your employees of all the ways they can save energy while working at home, too. That, combined with some of the tips above, means any organization can have a real impact on Ontario's energy savings.