How Office Administrators Can Encourage Positive Change

From ordering supplies to choosing event vendors, your actions have an impact that goes far beyond your company’s walls. Use these ideas to set a strong example for your team.

As an administrative professional, you are in a uniquely strong position to make a difference. Your everyday picks for vendors, supplies and other resources can have a far-reaching impact.

The payoff may be felt across the whole company, and could even make it a more desirable place to work. In a recent PwC survey, more than two-thirds of people said that working for an organization with a “powerful social conscience” is important to them.

Help to fuel that conscience by reviewing the following areas where your efforts may have the most influence.

1. Office supplies

Switching just one or two supplies to more sustainable versions can add up to a big difference over time. Using recycled copy paper saves trees, for instance, and conserves water and energy as well. Look into what your supplier offers for sustainable office products. Along with recycled and sustainably sourced paper goods, these could include eco-friendly cleaning supplies and breakroom products, like compostable cups and lids. Explore remanufactured ink and toner cartridges, which are made from reused materials. These often work as well as original cartridges, and they can cost much less.

Also, encourage your colleagues to conserve supplies — for example, by printing documents on both sides and reusing folders and envelopes when possible. Small reminders may be enough to change some people’s habits.

2. Event planning

The next time you’re planning an offsite meeting or function, broaden your vendor selection criteria to include factors like use of sustainable practices or diversity in hiring. Information on this is often readily available online: Some catering companies and hotels describe practices on their websites, such as sourcing food ingredients locally or providing recycled conference materials.

Send event invitations and follow-up communications electronically, when possible. Make recycling bins easy to access at events — for instance, by placing paper recycling bins near meeting room exits so that people can easily discard unwanted materials. Consider donating excess food from events to a local organization. Food-rescue groups will often pick up food to deliver to people in need.

3. Team outings

Try switching up staff socials or lunches with a volunteer-focused event. It will likely be more rewarding: In a recent survey by Deloitte, 70 percent of employees said volunteer activities are better morale boosters than company-sponsored happy hours.

An easy way to find these opportunities can be to piggyback on your or a colleague’s current volunteer work. Ask around — maybe a co-worker could use more volunteers for an upcoming event. You could also explore services like VolunteerMatch, which connect people and companies with opportunities in their communities.

4. Company programs

Look to improve programs that may not be as effective as they could be. Perhaps you have a recycling program, for example, but not everyone uses it correctly. If that is the case, post guidelines around the office — chances are, some employees aren’t aware that items like disposable coffee cups and plastic bags generally aren’t recyclable. Look into color-coded bins if recyclables need to be separated (i.e., one for papers, another for plastic bottles). That can make it easier to stick to the rules.

If many employees drive to work, think about suggesting a program that provides incentives for carless commuting. These might include providing discounted subway or bus passes to staff, or allowing employees to pay for them using pre-tax dollars — which saves the company money as well. If your location isn’t convenient to public transportation, encourage carpooling by posting a sign-up sheet in a common area or on the company intranet.

5. Your example!

Your role likely gives you the chance to interact with many — or even most —of the company’s staff. Use your position to set a good example. Send out meeting agendas via email, rather than printing them out. Turn off lights when leaving rooms no one else is using. Bring a coffee mug to work, rather than using disposable cups. These seemingly small steps may be contagious — and the more people who follow your lead, the easier the good habits will be to maintain.