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Should working from home be the new norm for businesses?

Gone are the days when ‘working from home’ meant that Dave was spending his day on the golf course. The coronavirus (COVID-19) lockdown and subsequent new restrictions have meant that many office workers have been doing their job remotely. Not only have companies found their staff working efficiently and professionally away from the workplace, but they have also discovered environmental benefits.

Here at Zero Waste Scotland, where we aim to minimise the country’s demand on primary resources, we are leading by example with chief executive Iain Gulland giving us the opportunity to continue working from home. In fact, he is positively encouraging it.

His announcement follows a survey earlier this year for Earth Day that indicated 77% of workers believe working from home is one of the best ways to help our environment. So, what are the environmental benefits to letting your staff work away from the office?

A carbon-free daily commute

The obvious one is emissions from travelling. Mr Gulland says it is estimated remote working will result in around a 50% cut in the organisation’s emissions simply by reducing commuting.

The majority of us have to rely on our own car or public transport to get us to work. And every journey is damaging to the environment with all that outpouring of carbon. Did you know the CO2 emissions from your car are around 2.4kg per litre of fuel? Obviously that figure will vary depending on the vehicle you drive and whether it is petrol or diesel.

Staying at home will have an immediate impact on those emissions entering the environment.

Make an impact with clients – without impacting the environment

It isn’t just the daily commute that can be stopped. During lockdown, more of us have become adept at using video-conferencing software to conduct meetings, either with clients or colleagues from other offices.

That time spent driving from Glasgow to Inverness for a two-hour meeting could be a thing of the past when you can sit in your home office and join your colleagues remotely. It’s a win-win situation – no carbon emissions and you have several extra hours to be productive when you’re not in your car.

And there is a potentially significant knock-on benefit to home-working. Two-car households may be able to dispense with one of their vehicles leading to a further reduction in carbon release.

Your employees will enjoy the benefits of less time spent commuting, more time with their families, plus they will be saving money on travel costs, leading to a healthier work-life balance and a happier workforce.

Of course, your staff may face an increase in their home energy bills, but our energy efficiency experts have put together a list of ways to save here. And any increase will be offset by the savings made from not commuting.

Time for a smaller office?

Fewer staff in the office can present you with decisions to make. Should you move to a smaller office, or could you rent out space in your existing premises to other companies?

If you choose to stay where you are, take a good look at how your heating and lighting systems are set up. Nothing will be gained by keeping an office warm and well-lit if there is no-one there to appreciate it. You may as well just burn a handful of tenners.

Moving to a new energy efficient office will also have a marked effect on your bills if you do your homework and find premises that are already geared up for a greener future.


It won’t be for every company, but if you choose to offer staff the option of working from home and would like some advice on implementing energy savings in the office, remember that Zero Waste Scotland’s team of Energy Efficiency Business Advisors is here to help. We provide free support to Scottish small and medium-sized businesses and access to interest-free loans to fund the implementation of energy saving projects.

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Our free support to business is funded by the Scottish Government and by the European Regional Development Fund through the £73 million Resource Efficiency Circular Economy Accelerator Programme.