May 20, 2024

Office Sustainability Tip of the Week

With December and the holidays upon us, hopefully we’re all getting into the spirit of the season a little bit.  Even though this often proves to be a very stressful time of year, it’s also a time when people come together to help those in need.  Throughout the entire year, organizations on campus such as COAR organize charitable events that benefit the local community.  Most recently, the Staff Advisory Committee organized a Thanksgiving Food Drive, as did Kappa Delta Pi (KDP), the national Education honor society at UMW.  Hopefully we’re all doing a little something this month to help others and those in need.  While the “Office Sustainability Tip of the Week” usually focuses on environmental concerns, we’re taking the opportunity this week to think about how to go about sustaining social relationships in the workplace.

If you’re like me and many other people, you often feel as if you spend more time with your co-workers during the week than you do with your own family.  So it’s crucial to establish good relationships with everyone that you work with.  We’re often quick to shoot off the most minor of emails to co-workers to ask a question or pass along some information, but what about picking up the phone to speak to the individual or walking over to their area/office to discuss things in person?  Even doing this just once or twice a month might make that connection you have with individuals a little more personal.  Some organizations/institutions have “no email Fridays,” which encourages employees to pick up the phone or speak to individuals face-to-face as opposed to sending an email.  Is a policy like this always going to be practical?  Perhaps not, but it’s something to think about. Moreover, how often do we misinterpret tone or intent through email? How often is it hard to even comprehend what is trying to be communicated to you through email? The choice to speak with someone over the phone or in person may not only improve social relationships in the workplace, but it may also improve communication, problem-solving, and productivity.

What about other ways to improve interpersonal relationships in the workplace?  If you’re a supervisor, are you taking the time to praise employees for a job well done?  If there’s that one individual in your office who NEVER leaves their office except for lunch, are you reminding them to take a few minutes every now and then for a quick walk around campus, to grab a cup of coffee, or to even just get up and stretch a little bit?  (Yes, I did just propose that you encourage your employees to get up and stretch.  It’s an excellent way to maintain a healthy workplace. Read more about that by going to Maybe the answer for improving social relationships with your co-workers lies outside the office. Does your office have a weekly happy hour or get together for lunch or dinner? What about a Book Club or Movie Night among those you work with?  If not, maybe it’s time for you to initiate this idea among your co-workers.  The holiday season is also a great opportunity to have a Pot Luck Office Luncheon or a fun Cookie Exchange.

If you have any suggestions for things we can all do differently each day to create more sustainable office environments–whether ecological or social–please feel free to leave a comment or email Kevin Caffrey ( with ideas for other Sustainability Tip of the Week articles.

Kevin Caffrey is the Senior Associate Registrar at UMW and serves as Staff Co-Chair of the President’s Council on Sustainability.  Formed in the fall of 2009, the PCS consists of faculty, staff, and students and reports both to the Executive Vice President for Administration and Finance and the Provost, serving a critical role in shaping administrative goals and objectives relating to campus sustainability.  Their next meeting is Wednesday Dec. 5  at 4:30 p.m. in the University Center, 2nd Floor Jamba Juice/Qdoba dining area. Meetings generally last one hour and are open to employees, students, and the public.