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.
Hugh Jones, Managing Director of Advisory at the Carbon Trust, said: “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.”
Ian Foddering, Chief Technology Officer & Technical Director at Cisco UK & Ireland, said: “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.”