How employees working remotely can reduce greenhouse gas emissions

Working from home has become a common practice, especially since the global pandemic. Nowhere has this been truer than in the US, where 58% of workers have the opportunity to work from home at least one day a week, and 35% who can do it full time. But, can working remotely reduce greenhouse gas emissions and combat climate change? The answer is generally yes but it’s not always straightforward.  

One of the main carbon benefits of working from home, is that it can reduce the need for commuting, which is a major source of emissions. However, working from home increases energy use at home for heating and cooling, plus electricity use for office equipment.  

People who work remotely all the time, produce less than half the greenhouse gas emissions of office workers

Managing office space is also important. As more people work from home, managing space in the office becomes harder, especially with hybrid working. Ensuring that facilities are right sized for the number of office workers and that heating, lighting and cooling are not used in empty spaces ensures that increasing home energy use is countered by a reduction in office emissions. 

Overall, the IEA found that if everyone who could work from home did, for just one day a week, this would save 24 million tonnes of carbon emissions every year. However, with more home working, and many people working from home more than one day a week, this appears to be a conservative estimate despite already being material. 

75% of company emissions come from suppliers, customers, work travel and waste.

Working from home can help reduce a company’s scope 3 emissions but is an area where employees need to be involved to support any company sustainability targets. To support this, we recently undertook a research project to find out what companies are doing to bridge the gap between sustainability strategies and employee action and the current best practices used by market leaders to close the gap.  

Here are some real-world examples of actions being taken to help with home working emissions: 

Start with data 

Collect data on working from home. This will improve understanding of the most material changes that can be made, as well as the shifts that employees are interested in doing.  

Support home working 

Allow working from home when it fits with working practices and saves carbon. Flexible working arrangements, such as office arrival times to avoid rush hour, can also help.  

Educate your employees 

Explain the benefits and best practices and reasons that working remotely can reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Here are some ideas to help:  

  • Create a green policy or guide for your remote workers providing tips and resources on how to work from home in an eco-friendly way. 
  • Share success stories, challenges, and feedback from your team, to inspire others to go green.  
  • Explaining the “why” to employees and showing them ways to contribute is a straightforward step. 
  • Awareness campaigns about the benefits of working from home more sustainably, such as reducing emissions and cutting costs. Helping employees understand why you’re taking these actions will lead to their support and ideas for further improvements.  
  • Offer incentives or rewards for taking steps to be more sustainable at home such as subsidies, vouchers, discounts, prizes and recognition.  

Providing support for employees 

Providing support for employees to buy sustainable furniture for home working, helps remote workers choose furniture made from eco-friendly materials with a long lifespan, that can be recycled or reused after use.  

Support green electrification at home 

Heating and lighting are the main contributors to working from home emissions. Incentives to support heat pumps, solar panels, EV chargers and the switch to renewables can all make a big difference. As well as helping company sustainability commitments, it will also cut the personal carbon footprint for staff and provide long-term savings. Offer loans, or other incentives to help employees transition. 

If globally everyone worked from home for just 1 day a week, the impact on global CO2 emissions would be a decline of 
24 million tonnes  annually
Equivalent to the bulk of Greater London’s annual CO2 emissions

What are the next steps?

Employees need to be involved for companies to hit their sustainability targets, but it can sometimes be challenging to shift mindsets and effectively engage them. To address this challenge we have created a guide that looks at how to engage employees around working from home, as well as business travel, sustainable commuting, energy usage at work and waste at work. It includes: 

  • Why employees are key to meeting Net Zero targets
  • Areas of sustainability you can focus on
  • Practical suggestions and steps you can implement today
  • How to raise awareness and engage employees to get involved

If you’re ready to start raising awareness about sustainability at work, inspiring employees, and bringing teams together to support your sustainability goals then get in touch.

How to align your team with your sustainability goals guide

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