Many studies into The New World of Work suggest that working from home has a positive effect on reducing greenhouse gases. The most significant reason? Reducing the volume of commuters. But is working from home really as sustainable as we think?
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The sustainability effect of working from home certainly appears to be considerable. Depending on the percentage of employees using cars to commute, working from home yields a reduction in the use of fossil fuels, a reduction in the emission of harmful substances, producing less noise and lower traffic. Working from home also reduces the number of square metres of office area needed and – if the organisation also switches to introducing flexible workplace concepts – helps save money.
But do these positive effects also apply to organisations where the majority of employees travel to the office by bike or public transport? After all, their daily commute doesn’t produce any extra greenhouse gases. Buses and trains run as usual don’t they? And what exactly is the situation when it comes to all the electric vehicles now available on the market? Does an employee with such an energy-efficient vehicle reducing his or her commuting distances, have the same positive effect on the environment?
When I’m working from home myself I like to switch on the radio while I work. Instead of my home being at 16 degrees while I’m at the office, the heating has to go up to 21. In the dark winter months I switch on some extra lights. Certainly I will occasionally make myself a nice cup of coffee, and at lunchtime the TV goes on so I can watch the news and see what’s happening in the world. Naturally attention has been devoted to the sustainability of my house; I have double-glazing and solar panels, and I use borehole water to water the garden, but nevertheless... Is a day working from home really more sustainable than a day at the office? After all, my workplace in the office is still heated and lighted for my colleagues who are working there. The office coffee machine is on every day and the train also runs even if I don’t use it.
Perhaps we need to step back from The New World of Work and reconsider it as The Sustainable World of Work. In The Sustainable World of Work we start thinking not just about working independently of time and place, but also about considering just what the most sustainable way of working would be.
In any case, I’m heading back to the office to work tomorrow. And naturally I will be using public transport to get there.
Former Project Manager