It might not be the primary focus for people looking to establish themselves in working from home jobs, but research seems to indicate that the environment benefits when people adopt their home as their office. What impact will you working from home have on the environment? What’s the picture like for the UK as a whole? And is it working for the big companies who’ve taken remote working onboard?
Reducing your carbon footprint
Effectively, working from home reduces your personal carbon footprint – meaning your individual environmental impact on the world is lessened. If you’re working for a larger company, they’re likely to have targets that relate to their wider carbon footprint – there are a lot of factors involved in a company doing so – but managing individual employee impact can really add up toward those goals.
What is your carbon footprint?
The official definition of a ‘carbon footprint’ is ‘the total amount of greenhouse gases produced, directly and indirectly, to support human activity’.
So, in real terms, that’s the fuel you use to drive your car, take public transport, rely on public services, throw your rubbish away, heat your house, make a cup of coffee… and so on. The list is incredibly long, but for most of us, going to work drives this figure up an incredible amount.
Getting places by car is generally one person’s biggest contribution to their carbon footprint and damage to the environment as a whole. You might be surprised to hear quite how much carbon dioxide your car emits – every litre that your engine burns creates 2.3 kilograms of CO2. At average 2017 fuel prices, that means £1.20 spent at the fuel pumps produces the equivalent to around 2 and half bags of sugar’s worth of CO2.
Those numbers scale up to massive figures if your car takes you to and from work each day – and 75% of all UK workers do. The most recently figures show the average commute in the UK is 10 miles – for a car offering 40mpg in fuel economy that means around 5kgs of CO2 produced every day.
Working from home means you’re negating that impact altogether. What’s more, you’re reducing the strain on the country’s road infrastructure, reducing traveling times and upping other road users fuel economy and output. Your personal contribution to this might be minimal – but don’t forget, you’re one of thousands of people each year who’s switching to working from home.
Of course, working from home isn’t the only option here, many people are moving toward cycling to work with government subsidised schemes – and lots of people use public transport. Even though public transport might appear popular, outside of London it accounts for a very small amount of all commuting – with just 7% of people choosing it over their own car.
To continue the driving theme – millions of UK office workers add to their commute by taking their car to get lunch each day. By doing so, you’re adding to the higher carbon footprint that’s already associated with the individually packaged products you’re most likely to buy. Home workers are far more likely to make lunch from ingredients they have at home – meaning a double-win for the environment versus someone who’s taking their car to get a meal deal…
Heating your house
So, you’re sitting at home burning through carbon as your computer happily consumes electricity from the grid – surely this is going to have a negative impact compared to the 9-5 workers who leave their house empty for the day? Well, you might be right, but don’t forget, they’re still going to an office where there’s a huge draw on electric, so even if they could teleport there without using transport, they’re not far behind your household carbon output.
Your energy consumption at home is going to be up as a result of working from home – but the numbers pale into insignificance compared to those associated with the commute you no longer make.
If you can’t be handed a piece of paper, you’ve saved a piece of paper. Moving toward entirely electronic communication means the ‘hard copies’ that are in filing cabinets and folders around the office are continually reducing year on year. Huge numbers of companies have made commitments to be entirely paper-free in the not-so-distant future – and cloud-based computing technology makes this more and more feasible by the day.
It’s likely that there’s always going to a need for paper – but as technology develops, the number of trees that are felled will undoubtedly reduce. If there’s one solid ally when it comes to reprocessing all that CO2 we’re churning out of our cars – it’s trees. We could do with keeping as many standing as possible.
Conference or video call meetings
Another benefit of ever-improving technology is the connectivity is offers us as employees. Where national meetings have previously meant long car journeys, flights or time on trains, the enhanced performance of video calls can mean something close to a traditional meeting can be had on a shared screen. Not only does this have a positive impact on the environment – it frees up vast numbers of hours for all concerned.
Is it working?
In 2012 computer giant Dell put a plan into place that would see 50% of all their employees working remotely by 2020. Although even now it is some way off, the environmental impact is significant – last year, with 20% of their workforce working remotely, around 6.1 million kilos of carbon was saved. That’s around 16 million miles of car journeys. They’re not the only company making big promises either – Amazon, Xerox, Google and many others are all increasingly offering work from home positions.
So, the short answer is yes. The most significant improvements are being made by taking cars off the road – but everything adds up. If you’re an employer looking at the possibility of introducing working from home jobs, or an employee looking to make your work time home based – you’re likely to be doing a great deal for your carbon footprint and the environment as a whole.