When the pandemic forced employees to work remotely, there was little time to think about sustainability. But as businesses emerge from lockdowns and restrictions, many now see working from home as the sustainable future of working.

From an environmental viewpoint, this commute-free style of working certainly seems sensible. After all, the transport sector accounts for the most greenhouse gases of any UK sector. But is remote working really a silver bullet for sustainability?

This blog highlights how remote working and technology can be incorporated into your operations and working practices to make your business more sustainable — regardless of your location.

Striking a balance

As we emerge from a year of disruption, hybrid working seems a logical solution for employers trying to control Covid cases in the office. However, from a sustainability perspective, the effects of working across locations are more complex than they might seem.

Studies have revealed that splitting work between locations could actually use more energy, causing more emissions. This is due to the environmental impact of running an office in combination with remote workers consuming energy to work from home. During the lockdown, offices were using far less energy when completely closed and energy consumption was de-centralised to employees’ homes. With a hybrid approach, offices and many employees’ homes must be powered simultaneously. However, this doesn’t mean that the traditional workplace and home office can’t co-exist successfully!

Video conferencing and sustainability

In 2020, workers suddenly found themselves using software such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams to communicate with colleagues and clients. For employees with reliable broadband, this development showed there was no need to travel to have a productive meeting.

However, businesses and employees should be aware that video conferencing has its own carbon footprint. It’s easy to overlook this, along with that of other online activities, such as streaming. There’s a carbon output to consider for the technology powering video meetings (including computers, monitors, and transferring data). That said, it’s important to view this in relation to ‘the bigger picture’.

A recent study calculated the total emissions of a large Zoom meeting relative to a traditional conference. When considering both types of conferences holistically, traditional conferences were expected to generate 66 times more carbon than their virtual counterparts!

Remote working with cloud telephony

In the era of video conferencing, we can easily neglect traditional calls. However, Cloud telephony is an option that businesses can use to support remote working and enhance sustainability.

Through its use of VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol), Cloud telephony allows employees to access their business’ phone system remotely. As it works on laptops and mobile phones, remote workers can use Cloud telephony without additional hardware at home. Phone systems that were traditionally confined to the office can now be accessed anywhere, facilitating remote working.

A further environmental benefit of Cloud telephony is that phone systems do not need servers and other carbon-intensive hardware. On top of this, Cloud-based systems use far less energy, cutting emissions and costs for businesses, too!

Going paperless

By using remote working and digital communications, businesses can cut down on their paper usage. Taking paper out of the workplace allows businesses to reduce their carbon footprint further. Producing one tonne of paper takes 11,134 kWh of energy, which is equal to the electricity used in the average household over 10 months. During the lockdowns, businesses coped without excessive printing — so why keep using paper when there are suitable digital alternatives?

However, it’s important not to assume that remote working is inherently better for the environment and be mindful of how going digital in a wider sense can help. Video conferencing, Cloud telephony, and going paperless are all viable options to make workplaces of all types more sustainable.

If you want to learn more about technology to boost your sustainability credentials, we can help! Speak to our friendly team today about our wide range of services for businesses.