Is working from home reducing your company’s carbon footprint?
When employees are working from home, they’re all using different amounts and sources of energy. Some will be signed up with a cleaner energy supplier than others, everyone will use different amounts of heating or cooling, and the size of their homes will be different too. This is what makes it so difficult to calculate the home vs office carbon footprint.
In some cases, it’s more sustainable for a workforce to work from an office. Office buildings are generally designed more efficiently for heating and cooling, and having everyone in a central location will reduce unnecessary energy use in rooms that aren’t being used. Even when the commute is factored in, centralising the workforce on cold days is better than everyone cranking the heater at home.
In other cases (like a day with the perfect temperature) it’s more sustainable to work from home as you’re cutting out the commute and not using temperature controls.
So really, whether working from home or the office is better for the environment really falls on the shoulders of individual employees.
Businesses had only just started focusing on their carbon footprints when COVID-19 forced many people into working from home. The global pandemic has changed the way we work, and many businesses will allow their teams to work from home in some capacity indefinitely.
This begs the question, how do companies with remote workforces manage their carbon footprint? Businesses will need to take a two fold approach - one for at home and one for in the office.
In the office
There are lots of small and quick wins to be made in the office. Introducing recycling bins, dedicated food waste bins, and setting up carpooling and bike to work programs are a great place to start.
Use eco friendly rewards, such as desk plants which also boost productivity - a win-win! We started doing this at Perkbox, using Little Succers (which is also one of the rewards on our Recognition platform), and it’s been a huge hit with the team.
Making the switch to cloud computing is a large project, but it’s more sustainable than running your own servers in the office. AWS has a goal to be completely carbon neutral by 2030, and Google’s cloud service has already achieved neutrality!
Since you can’t police your team’s home lives, the best thing you can do is to educate them on how to be more sustainable at home. Run some lunch ‘n’ learn sessions on sustainability focused on the home, and allow employees who are already making changes to share their learnings and tips.
Revise your work from home policy to optimise the days you allow employees to stay home. Increasing the days-at-home allowance during temperate months and reducing it in the peak of winter and summer mean you can take advantage of your office building having more efficient temperature control. Alternatively, organise set days for work from home so that you have either everyone together or no one at all in the office to optimise your energy use.
Carbon offsetting with Trace
To give our team the option to offset their personal carbon emissions, we teamed up with Trace. Trace allows you to purchase carbon offsets, plant trees, and fund sustainability projects across the world. The Aussie-born company also offers a business package so your employees can contribute as a team, and is available on our Perks platform.
We spoke to Cat Long, co-founder and CEO of Trace, about why carbon offsetting should be on companies’ radars. “Reducing a company's carbon footprint is not just the right thing to do, it's essential”, says Cat, citing the UN’s conclusion that global warming must be limited to 1.5°C to prevent ‘catastrophic and irreversible damage to our planet’.
“One of the major challenges that organisations face in their sustainability plans (current or future) is that employees are disconnected from the process - they are often unaware of the amazing initiatives underway or don't feel like they are part of the solution,” says Cat. This was the catalyst for starting Trace, so that employees could take action at home and feel like they’re part of the company-wide plan.
When an organisation signs up to Trace, employees are able to see their individual and collective impact through an online portal.
Cat also suggested additional ways to reduce your carbon footprint if you’re working from home;
- Switch to a renewable energy provider
- Only use heating or air conditioning in the room you’re in, and close doors to maintain the temperature
- Switch to energy efficient light bulbs
- If you can, install solar panels on your roof
- Always put your computer to sleep when you’re not at your desk