Now that we can finally see the end of the 'lockdown tunnel' it is likely we'll see a gradual return to normality and for many of us that might mean a return to our pre-covid working patterns.
Before the pandemic hit, office working was the norm and home based employment was considered a sacred situation reserved for the lucky few. How things have changed. Like it or loathe it, huge numbers of us have adapted to a new normal where the daily commute no longer exists and we logon from our kitchens, dinning rooms, kid's bedrooms or converted studies. This new approach has proved to be more efficient than expected and people's productivity and output has remained high whilst travelling costs and wasted commuting time has been minimised.
With this in mind, many businesses and organisations have decided that homeworking should be here to stay. So could homeworking also help to save the planet?
Here are a just ways the environment will benefit if we all stick with some element of working from home.
- Lower greenhouse gas emissions
Fewer people commuting means less transport, less car use, and less carbon in our atmosphere. Global Workforce Analytics estimates that if everyone who works in an office, would work from home just half of the week, this reduces the emissions by 54 million tons per year!
2. Reduced use of paper
Let’s be honest: How often do we print out documents in the office that we don’t really need as a printed version? If we worked at home and needed to use our own printer, we would probably be more economic about it.
Plus, when working remotely we are more or less forced to share files with team members online. And it works! There is no need to print everything, copy it or label it.
3. Less consumption of single use plastics and disposable coffee cups
Whilst it's true that you might use disposable plastic products even when you work from home, it is far less likely. You'll probably be making your tea or coffee in a mug and choose a glass water from the tap or juice from the fridge rather than a bottled drink from the vending machine. Similarly, you are more likely to make yourself a sandwich or pick an apple from the fruit bowl rather than visiting a shop to buy a pre-packed lunch.
It's also less likely that you will be tempted to pop to a coffee shop on your way to the station or visit a drive through on your way to work.
Although it's hard to put firm statistics on the amount of additional plastic waste generated when working in an office, it only makes sense that remote workers are more likely to use a reusable crockery and cutlery. This cuts down the volume of packaging contributing to the world’s plastic crisis.
4. Reduced Energy Consumption
Offices typically consume more energy than if their employees worked from home. Examples of this are printing stations or computers being on stand-by. Additionally some people tend to act less environmentally conscious when away from home. Switching off the light when you leave the bathroom is just less appealing when you don’t have to pay for the electricity bill.
5. More opportunity for eco-friendly diets
Worldwide, cattle and meat production produces between 14.5% and 18% of total greenhouse gas emissions, therefore eating a more eco-friendly diet can help reduce these emissions. Working from home perhaps offers more time and facilities to choose and prepare healthier lunches and dinners. People who wish to take a more conscious approach in this way can make an effort on their weekly shop to choose more organic, seasonal food and switch to meat alternatives. Switching to almond or coconut milk is perhaps much easier at home when you are making your own hot drinks rather than relying on office supplies or a vending machine.
All in all a mixture of home and office working seems to be much better for our life / work balance, our mental health, our pockets and the environment. Going forward a healthy mix of the two might be the perfect solution.