The sustainability trend coming to an office near you
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The sustainability trend coming to an office near you

It lends a whole new meaning to the concept of hot desking

By Robyn Willis
Fri, Feb 24, 2023 2:12pmGrey Clock 3 min

Everyone is talking about environmental sustainability these days. From growing our own food to opting for less plastic packaging, there is an increasing desire to embrace practices that have as little impact on the environment as possible.

One of the last sectors to seriously consider the way their behaviours are contributing to waste is the office. 

Prior to COVID, most offices were refurbished every five to seven years, in line with leasing arrangements. However, quality office furniture can come with warranties of 10 or more years. What to do with used – but still useful – furniture at the end of a lease has been a challenge.

The result is 35,000 tons of furniture from Australian offices ends up in landfill every year.

The Cosm chair from Living Edge has been built to last considerably longer than the standard office lease

Designer furniture retailer Living Edge is calling on businesses to end the waste with a shift from one of purchase to leasing. This would result in the furniture supplier taking responsibility for the product over a lifetime. 

Sustainability strategist at Living Edge, Guy Walsh, said while it has been a slow burn convincing businesses, interest has gained pace in a post-COVID, hybrid-working environment.

“We have been talking to the market about the life cycle model since 2016,” Mr Walsh said. “But in the last 12 months, we have seen an increase in interest, how it works and the sustainability benefits.”

He puts this down in part to the number of businesses committing to sustainability targets, sometimes without a plan for how to achieve them.

“The big organisations are all making their sustainability pledges and they are working out how to deliver them later,” he said. “You can’t just make claims anymore – you have to provide evidence. We can pull a report out and demonstrate the outcomes, which can be useful for external and internal communications.”

With many workers reluctant to return to the office full time, Mr Walsh said the need for a floor full of office furniture has also changed. A leasing model offers flexibility.  

“One of the things COVID created was uncertainty, which requires more agility (from businesses),” he said. “We have promoted that concept around the life cycle model, which has a lot more agility than a traditional model. 

“If the world changes, as it has in recent years, you need a strategy for what to do with those assets. One top of that, through a sustainability lens, change can often result in waste.”

Living Edge is the main distributor for Herman Miller, which has built its reputation on the high quality, ergonomic task chairs favoured by big business.

Mr Walsh said the chairs, such as the Aeron, come with a 12-year warranty. Under a leasing arrangement, businesses could return their chairs to Living Edge where they will be triaged according to useability under their LivingOn scheme. 

“The top outcome is it gets refurbished and reused by the original purchaser,” he said. “The next option is we refurbish it and we resell it as a ‘second life’ chair. The next option is to recycle the parts. The last, and least attractive option is that it goes to landfill.”

It’s good news for commercial landlords, as well as tenants but it does require a different approach from the standard office fit out. One concern is how to ensure furniture is identifiable by the supplier as theirs. The other is a structural change in how budgets are created and managed.  

“One of the big barriers traditionally is that furniture falls under capital expenditure but a lease model would put it under operational expenditure,” he said. “You are moving the cost from a one-off figure to ongoing. It is purely the legacy of how furniture has been bought for office spaces.”

While the model is still in its infancy both here and in Europe, Mr Walsh said there are already signs that it is the way of the future.

“We have heard examples of it happening in Europe but to my knowledge, we haven’t seen that ‘lift off’ moment,” he said.


This stylish family home combines a classic palette and finishes with a flexible floorplan

35 North Street Windsor

Just 55 minutes from Sydney, make this your creative getaway located in the majestic Hawkesbury region.

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Whether you call it charisma, charm or magnetism, some people seem like naturals. Good news: It can be learned.

By Rachel Feintzeig
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Great leaders have it. Gen Z has a new word for it. Can the rest of us learn it?

Charisma—or rizz , as current teenage slang has anointed it—can feel like an ephemeral gift some are just born with. The chosen among us network and chitchat, exuding warmth as they effortlessly hold court. Then there’s everyone else, agonising over exclamation points in email drafts and internally replaying that joke they made in the meeting, wondering if it hit.

“Well, this is awkward,” Mike Rizzo, the head of a community for marketing operations professionals, says of rizz being crowned 2023 word of the year by the publisher of the Oxford English Dictionary. It’s so close to his last name, but so far from how he sees himself. He sometimes gets sweaty palms before hosting webinars.

Who could blame us for obsessing over charisma, or lack thereof? It can lubricate social interactions, win us friends, and score promotions . It’s also possible to cultivate, assures Charles Duhigg, the author of a book about people he dubs super communicators.

At its heart, charisma isn’t about some grand performance. It’s a state we elicit in other people, Duhigg says. It’s about fostering connection and making our conversation partners feel they’re the charming—or interesting or funny—ones.

The key is to ask deeper, though not prying, questions that invite meaningful and revealing responses, Duhigg says. And match the other person’s vibes. Maybe they want to talk about emotions, the joy they felt watching their kid graduate from high school last weekend. Or maybe they’re just after straight-up logistics and want you to quickly tell them exactly how the team is going to turn around that presentation by tomorrow.

You might be hired into a company for your skill set, Duhigg says, but your ability to communicate and earn people’s trust propels you up the ladder: “That is leadership.”

Approachable and relatable

In reporting this column, I was surprised to hear many executives and professionals I find breezily confident and pleasantly chatty confess it wasn’t something that came naturally. They had to work on it.

Dave MacLennan , who served as chief executive of agricultural giant Cargill for nearly a decade, started by leaning into a nickname: DMac, first bestowed upon him in a C-suite meeting where half the executives were named Dave.

He liked the informality of it. The further he ascended up the corporate hierarchy, the more he strove to be approachable and relatable.

Employees “need a reason to follow you,” he says. “One of the reasons they’re going to follow you is that they feel they know you.”

He makes a point to remember the details and dates of people’s lives, such as colleagues’ birthdays. After making his acquaintance, in a meeting years ago at The Wall Street Journal’s offices, I was shocked to receive an email from his address months later. Subject line: You , a heading so compelling I still recall it. He went on to say he remembered I was due with my first child any day now and just wanted to say good luck.

“So many people say, ‘Oh, I don’t have a good memory for that,’” he says. Prioritise remembering, making notes on your phone if you need, he says.

Now a board member and an executive coach, MacLennan sent hundreds of handwritten notes during his tenure. He’d reach out to midlevel managers who’d just gotten a promotion, or engineers who showed him around meat-processing plants. He’d pen words of thanks or congratulations. And he’d address the envelopes himself.

“Your handwriting is a very personal thing about you,” he says. “Think about it. Twenty seconds. It makes such an impact.”

Everyone’s important

Doling out your charm selectively will backfire, says Carla Harris , a Morgan Stanley executive. She chats up the woman cleaning the office, the receptionist at her doctor’s, the guy waiting alongside her for the elevator.

“Don’t be confused,” she tells young bankers. Executive assistants are often the most powerful people in the building, and you never know how someone can help—or hurt—you down the line.

Harris once spent a year mentoring a junior worker in another department, not expecting anything in return. One day, Harris randomly mentioned she faced an uphill battle in meeting with a new client. Oh!, the 24-year-old said. Turns out, the client was her friend. She made the call right there, setting up Harris for a work win.

In the office, stop staring at your phone, Harris advises, and notice the people around you. Ask for their names. Push yourself to start a conversation with three random people every day.

Charisma for introverts

You can’t will yourself to be a bubbly extrovert, but you can find your own brand of charisma, says Vanessa Van Edwards, a communications trainer and author of a book about charismatic communication.

For introverted clients, she recommends using nonverbal cues. A slow triple nod shows people you’re listening. Placing your hands in the steeple position, together and facing up, denotes that you’re calm and present.

Try coming up with one question you’re known for. Not a canned, hokey ice-breaker, but something casual and simple that reflects your actual interests. One of her clients, a bookish executive struggling with uncomfortable, halting starts to his meetings, began kicking things off by asking “Reading anything good?”

Embracing your stumbles

Charisma starts with confidence. It’s not that captivating people don’t occasionally mispronounce a word or spill their coffee, says Henna Pryor, who wrote a book about embracing awkwardness at work. They just have a faster comeback rate than the rest of us. They call out the stumble instead of trying to hide it, make a small joke, and move on.

Being perfectly polished all the time is not only exhausting, it’s impossible. We know this, which is why appearing flawless can come off as fake. We like people who seem human, Pryor says.

Our most admired colleagues are often the ones who are good at their jobs and can laugh at themselves too, who occasionally trip or flub just like us.

“It creates this little moment of warmth,” she says, “that we actually find almost like a relief.”


This stylish family home combines a classic palette and finishes with a flexible floorplan

35 North Street Windsor

Just 55 minutes from Sydney, make this your creative getaway located in the majestic Hawkesbury region.

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