For any business, preparing for the future means addressing climate change. If we want to build a sustainable communications sector, none of us can afford to ignore our carbon footprints – and remote working can be at the heart of carbon reduction.
Transport emissions account for 21% of the UK’s carbon footprint, and every day, employees spend 4.6 million hours commuting. One study found that 98% of a person’s carbon emissions incurred at work were down to their commute; what’s more, because of the rigidity of standard working hours, commuters are often stuck in traffic jams accounting for millions of tons of wasted greenhouse gases.
If the Government is to meet its target of cutting a fifth of greenhouse gases from transport by 2020, many more people will have to start working from home. While the TUC reports that more people work remotely than ever before, it’s only scratching the surface of what could be possible if more employers loosened the reins on their workers.
Large companies including Dell and Xerox have reaped the benefits of remote working – by allowing 8,000 employees to do their jobs from home full time through its Virtual Workforce Programme, Xerox saved 40,894 metric tons of greenhouse gases, amounting to around 5.1 tons per person.
There are other environmental benefits to home working besides losing the polluting commute. When a person works from home, they’re much less likely to consume plastic-packaged convenience food and drink, and they’re free to make their working environment greener – by using energy saving lightbulbs and recycled paper for example. They’ll also use half the energy running their home computer than similar equipment would eat up in the office.
But saving the planet isn’t the only reason to encourage remote working. People are more satisfied with their jobs when they work remotely as it allows greater work-life balance and removes the stress involved with commuting.
Happy employees tend to stick around and be more productive, as BT has found out – the company has enjoyed a 20% rise in productivity thanks to 16% of its employees working remotely. Further benefits to companies include increased staff retention, fewer absences, access to a greater talent pool and reduced overheads – so businesses can grow and build a happy workforce while doing their bit for the environment too.
So why aren’t more companies employing people remotely despite the obvious benefits? A staggering 4 million UK employees would like to work from home but aren’t given the chance, and the TUC believes that reluctance on the part of managers to trust their employees to get the job done may be part of the reason.
However, the environment isn’t going to wait for managers to feel comfortable. Half of all jobs in the US would allow for at least partial home working, and figures must be similar for other developed countries – given that, there’s no excuse for organisations who could allow home working not to.
The PR sector is perfectly suited to remote working, and at Campaign Collective, all of our Members work mainly from home, occasionally using a shared office space and regularly keeping in touch with Skype, conference calls and instant messenger. Using industry averages, we can estimate that as a result of our remote working practices, we have cut the greenhouse gas emissions of delivering this work by 71.4 metric tons. This is the equivalent of taking 15 cars off the road for a whole year.
The benefits of remote working for the environment, the employee and the organisation make it an all-round winning strategy for any company wishing to address one of the most pressing issues of our time. It’s time for comms employers to trust our employees, loosen our grips and ensure a sustainable future for our industry and the planet as a whole.