Increasing the numbers of UK employees working from home can cut costs by £3 billion a year for UK employers and employees and save over 3 million tonnes of carbon a year, according to a new report released today by the Carbon Trust.
Advances in technologies such as broadband internet, smart phones and cloud computing mean that many jobs can now be done effectively outside of traditional workplaces. This has resulted in a significant increase in the number of UK employees who work from home, with the total now standing at over 4 million out of a workforce of 30 million.
Investigating the potential environmental benefits of a further shift to homeworking, the new research concluded that, if adopted and encouraged by employers across the country, homeworking could result in annual savings of over 3 million tonnes of carbon and cut costs by £3 billion.
Over 40 per cent of UK jobs are compatible with working from home, but recent research by the Carbon Trust has found that only 35 per cent of companies have a policy allowing their employees to work from home. And where homeworking is offered by companies, between one-third and one-half choose not to accept it.
Homeworking reduces employee commuting, resulting in carbon, money and time savings. If office space is properly rationalised to reflect this, homeworking can also significantly reduce office energy consumption and rental costs.
However, the research has revealed a critical finding: carbon savings are sometimes not achieved because of potential rebound effects, particularly the increased carbon emissions from employees now working in homes that are often energy inefficient. Business must therefore take care to factor in their individual circumstances when considering homeworking policies, to ensure that these will actually cut carbon emissions and not increase them.
Workplaces that can realise the greatest immediate environmental benefits from a shift to homeworking tend to be those with long average employee commutes, especially by car, and where employers are contemplating a move to new premises.
Homeworking is on the rise, with numbers increasing by over half a million since 2007. This new research shows that in the right circumstances, it has the potential to be expanded significantly and be a win-win for business and the environment. Significant financial and carbon savings can be achieved from the roll out of homeworking. But companies must be careful to ensure that they get the balance right, for if employers do not take account of their individual circumstances, a rebound effect, from employees heating inefficient homes, may actually lead to an increase in carbon emissions.
- Hugh Jones, Managing Director of Advisory at the Carbon Trust
By 2018, there will be over 10 billion mobile-connected devices globally, as such, telecommuting will not only become commonplace but is already in the progress of fast becoming the most natural way for people to work and collaborate globally. Cisco has aggressive targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from our operations and suppliers worldwide, and telecommuting is helping us to achieve these goals. The average Cisco employee telecommutes 2 days a week, and those using our Cisco Virtual Office technology typically work from home 3 days each week. In total, this amounts to avoiding 35 million miles of commuting per year. Not only is this great for the environment, reducing Cisco’s CO2 emissions by 17,000 tonnes annually, but it’s also great for business, with an estimated $333 million per year made in productivity savings. Although some organisations may experience cultural barriers in adopting telecommuting, we believe our experience at Cisco demonstrates the real benefits to the environment, the business and the individual employee.
- Ian Foddering, Chief Technology Officer & Technical Director at Cisco UK & Ireland
For further information please contact the Carbon Trust press office on 020 7170 7050 or email email@example.com.
About the Carbon Trust
The Carbon Trust is an independent company with a mission to accelerate the move to a sustainable, low-carbon economy. The Carbon Trust:
- advises businesses, governments and the public sector on opportunities in a sustainable, low-carbon world;
- measures and certifies the environmental footprint of organisations, products and services;
- helps develop and deploy low-carbon technologies and solutions, from energy efficiency to renewable power
Notes to Editors
Indicators that homeworking can work for an employer
- Desire to rationalise office space: The office lease is coming up for renewal, offering the possibility of moving to a smaller office as a cost-cutting measure; alternatively, the current office is overcrowded and there is pressure to move to a larger, more expensive office.
- Paperless office: The IT department has completed, or is in the process of rolling out, a programme to store documents on the cloud and implement facilities such as soft phones, teleconferencing and instant messenger.
- Receptive senior management: The culture of senior management is not against homeworking, and is likely to be influenced by a strong business case.
- Long employee commutes: The longer the average commute time, the greater the potential cost, time and environmental benefits for employees. This is of greater significance from an environmental perspective if the majority of commuting journeys are by car rather than by public transport.
- Suitable working environment at home: It is important that the home environment provides somewhere conducive to work such that employees are productive, and somewhere that can be heated at minimal marginal cost.
- Reported carbon footprint: Your organisation reports on its carbon footprint.
Building a business case and getting the most out of homeworking
- Office space costs: Gather information from your office manager or estates manager on the current rent and energy costs.
- Occupancy survey: Carry out an occupancy survey to determine the number of unoccupied desks at different times during an average work-day.
- IT infrastructure: Discuss with the IT department whether the current security and file-sharing approaches would support homeworking.
- Staff survey: Gather data from employees on their current commute times and mode of travel, and investigate whether this is a concern in terms of cost and time. If possible, gather home energy and commute data from employees before and after they begin homeworking.
- Policy review: Review which policies relate to homeworking and to what extent they would need to be updated.