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 number of people commuting. 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, less noise, and lower traffic intensity. Working from home also reduces the number of square feet of office area needed and—if the organization also switches to introducing flexible workplace concepts—saves money.
But do these positive effects also apply to organizations where the majority of employees travel to the office by bike or public transport? After all, their daily commutes don’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, exercise the same positive effect on the environment?
When I work at home myself, I like to switch on the radio while I work. Instead of my home being at 60 degrees while I’m at the office, now the heating has to go up to 70. 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 see what’s happening in the world. In my situation, attention has also 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 the colleagues who are working there. And the office coffee machine is on every day. 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 travel to get there.