• Kinetic Energy as Fuel for a Carbon-Neutral Workplace

    Kinetic Energy as Fuel for a Carbon-Neutral Workplace

    Written by: Michael Linehan


    Aside from my day job at Responsible Computing, I am a Personal Trainer. I recall in the early days of my professional career at OMG, I was excited about the opportunity ahead of me. Yet there was a deep-seated fear of what would become of my health from such a profession. Before the advent of team management technology on the smartphone, all my working hours required sitting at a desk.

    The same is true for most working professionals in pretty much any industry. We sit at a desk, drinking caffeine to stimulate energy release, but physically, moving nowhere. It is not natural to us as humans, which is why the industry is rife with metabolic diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease, in addition to postural issues leading to chronic pain. However, things are changing for the better!

    Digital transformation has long promised to take over many tasks that humans find mundane or that machines could efficiently complete. COVID-19 significantly accelerated digitization adoption across organizations, leading to better health outcomes for working professionals. An excellent example is how many organizations have switched to a remote or hybrid working model.

    For those who are efficient with their work, this has meant that deep thinking can be kept to the desk for a specific portion of the working day, with calls, emails, and other forms of correspondence taken with them on the smartphone while they walk and get some exercise. At least I know this is true for me. I handle correspondence better when I am moving. I can think more clearly, and my communication is more structured and direct. A big win for the people under Responsible Computing's four pillars of People, Prosperity, Planet, and Participation.

    Let's see if we can tie this in with the planet. The concept of carbon-neutral buildings is becoming more and more common, where greenhouse gas emissions are minimized at all stages, including the manufacturing process, during construction, and use. In most instances, this is achieved by clever engineering and design, including solar panels, wind turbines, plants, etc.

    But can you achieve this, at least in part, with kinetic energy, i.e., energy through movement? Andrew Huberman is a Neurobiologist and Ophthalmologist at Stanford University and runs a prominent podcast, Huberman Lab. He has done extensive work on the effects of dopamine on cognition, performance, and achievement. Essentially dopamine is the molecule that drives us to look at goals beyond ourselves—looking out for people around us, seeking social connections, and working towards career goals. He is a big proponent of optimizing dopamine through taking positive action, mainly through movement, rather than relying on external sources like caffeine, to stimulate a sustained dopamine release throughout the day.

    Is it possible that we could encourage more movement within the workforce, and use the resultant kinetic energy to power the building? At least in part. Bikes, treadmills, sensor mats in the floor, could all be used to harness this energy.

    While I am not advocating for organizations to force employees to run on treadmills, they could offer incentives to those who opt to move more within the workplace. The net results would be:

    • Improved employee performance and cognition.
    • A reduction in employees out of action due to chronic metabolic conditions.
    • Increased employee creativity and motivation.
    • Reduced energy costs and emissions.

    A win-win scenario for all involved. A more profitable, less costly organization to run. A more productive and healthier employee.