How to Work from Home Sustainably

Working from home has become a common practice for many people around the world, 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 1 day a week and an astonishing 35% who can do it full time.  

But what does working from home mean for the environment and can it help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and combat climate change? The answer is generally yes but it’s not always straightforward.  

Less Commuting 

One of the main benefits of working from home is that it can reduce the need for commuting, which is a major source of emissions, dependent on how far you travel and the mode of transport. Transport accounts for 16% of global emissions emitting 6 billion tonnes of carbon ever year.  

Longer commutes, by car, are the most polluting and yet this is the most common form of commuting in wealthy countries such as the US and UK, so cutting back on commuting accounts for a large part of working from home savings. The IEA found that people who commute by car further than 6 km (4 miles) are likely to see a cut in carbon from working from home. 

Increased energy usage 

However, working from home increases energy use at home for heating and cooling. There is also additional electricity use for office equipment, but this has been shown to have a very small effect on savings.  

Larger, less well insulated, homes will use more energy but developing energy saving practices will reduce some of the impact from the higher home energy use.  

Hybrid working 

Given that most people reduce emissions by working from home, then more home working should mean greater carbon savings. 

If everyone who could work from home did, for just 1 day a week, this would save 24 million tonnes of carbon emissions every year. However, with many people working from home more than 1 day a week, the actual saving would likely be much higher. 

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

Saving money 

As well as environmental benefits you could also save money. Working from home saves on commuting costs, offset to some degree by higher energy bills, but typically leading to overall savings especially for those with longer commutes. 

Improved well-being 

Working from home can save time, reduce stress, improve well-being and enhance work-life balance. It can also increase productivity and performance, as there are fewer distractions and interruptions, with more flexibility and autonomy. However, it’s also important to note that face-to-face still matters and it’s about finding the right balance. 

Company sustainability targets 

Companies are increasingly setting Net Zero targets and making sustainability commitments. In certain sectors, employees working from home may be a material contributor to the company carbon emissions reductions and so finding ways to cut back will be key to hitting those goals. 

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

Steps to take 

Despite the fact that working from home will help reduce emissions for most of us, there are still many ways to make it even more environmentally friendly and ensure that it has a positive impact on the planet.  

We all have a role to play and working from home at work is an area where many people can make a quick difference. Here are some ideas to get started: 

Get the facts about how to work from home sustainably.  

Read more about working from home to understand why we need to make sure that working from home is sustainable and the many different ways you can do it. This blog is a good place to start. 

Calculate your working from home savings. Home working offers opportunities to save carbon, but it all depends on how you commute and how you heat and light your home. By calculating your working from home savings you can measure your environmental impact and find ways to reduce it even more. You can use online tools to help you such as Giki’s home working carbon calculator found here.  

Help your company get better data.

Complete a working from home survey if your company has one. A survey will help your company understand how it can support home workers and promote sustainable practices. With more information better solutions can be found.  

Complete a work from home checklist.

Working from home can save on carbon emissions from commuting as well as time and money. However, to make sure it’s saving energy, use our working from home checklist for ideas, and go for progress not perfection. Start by ticking off what you already do on the list and what you’re ready to start now. Save the rest for the future. Some of the main ways to save energy at home include:

  • Turn your thermostat down a little. Make the change and turn your thermostat down by 1 or even 2 degrees to save energy, carbon and money. Leave it down throughout the winter to really help reduce your carbon footprint. 
  • Switch to renewable electricity so that you’re office equipment is 100% green powered. This will help reduce your personal carbon footprint too. 
  • Only heat the rooms you need. This will save emissions and cost. 

Share ideas with colleagues.

Find ways to share ideas with colleagues about what you are doing so everyone follows best practice. Ideas to do this include: 

  • Run a start, stop, continue session. This is a feedback tool that helps you and your team improve your performance and collaboration by generating three lists: What to start doing, what to stop doing, and what to continue doing. Organise a session to get a wealth of ideas about new things to start, current things to stop which can save carbon and costs and remind your team of the great things you’re doing already which you should keep doing.  
  • Host a (virtual) lunch and learn. This is a session where you and your colleagues share your knowledge and insights on a topic of interest during your lunch break. By hosting a lunch and learn about a climate topic you are passionate about, you can raise awareness and educate others about the causes, effects, and solutions of climate change. You can also inspire them to take action and reduce their environmental and carbon impact at work and at home. 

Don’t forget the commute.

If you’re not working from home 5 days a week then don’t forget to look at steps you can take to reduce you commuting emissions including: 

  • Try a walk or cycle to work. Walking or cycling is good for health, cuts carbon emissions and can save money too. Try it out once to see how it feels and hopefully it’ll start you off with a new way to travel that will cut carbon and costs. 
  • Complete the sustainable commuting checklist. To reduce emissions there are lots of things you can do including more cycling and walking to work, using public transport more or driving more efficiently and car-pooling for necessary car journeys. Every commute offers an opportunity for saving.  
  • Taking public transport for commuting is a simple and effective way to reduce your environmental impact and carbon emissions. By choosing to ride a bus, train, or subway instead of driving your own car, you can help save energy, lower emissions, and improve air quality.  

Whilst individuals and companies are different, we all share the same climate goals. Don’t let the fact that you cannot do everything stop you from doing something and we hope this article has provided you with new ideas to do something new today! 

If you have been inspired to take some steps to work more sustainably at home, then you can sign up to Giki Zero to find more steps and discover your carbon footprint. Or get in touch to talk about how we can help engage your colleagues on working from home sustainably.