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  • Writer's pictureCaterina Sullivan

Will Working from Home be the Next Big Sustainability Trend?

As businesses around the world close their offices in response to the outbreak of COVID-19, more and more employees are working in their home offices.

Over the past few weeks, companies encouraging employees to work from home have reported better productivity within their organisation, leading to some companies wondering if this will be the new norm at the end of this pandemic.

In terms of sustainability measurements, working from home comes with many positives. In this article, we will explore some of these and also discuss the drawbacks and how your organisation can address them.

Lower Emissions due to Travel

Employees will not be commuting to and from the workplace. For those who do not walk or cycle, this will mean that emissions are lowered, especially those who drive their own vehicles and are often stuck in peak-hour traffic. Furthermore, those who take in public transport will also contribute to a lack of emissions as it is highly likely that the number of transport services will be cut, especially during peak hours, should we see a major shift towards more employees across a number of organisations working from home.

Lower Utilities Costs

Many offices will find that they are not overly energy-, gas- or water-efficient. Oftentimes, lights in the building are left switched on, computers are not powered off at the wall and air conditioning is running around the clock. With a transition towards a 'working from home' economy, we may see many office buildings shut down and utility consumption decrease or halt. Our homes tend to be more energy, gas- and water-efficient than office buildings, so the increase in employees' home utility consumption bills should only be marginal. This is something your organisation should be ready and willing to contribute towards in the form of an allowance or a salary increase.

Increase in Affordable Housing

As more commercial spaces shut down and areas are rezoned to residential areas, we will see an increase in affordable housing in areas close to central hubs. This is important to ensuring the sustainability of our cities and communities and will also contribute to lower emissions as people will not need to travel as far to shops and service providers.

Improved Family- Friendly Workplace Practices

For many companies, ensuring a family-friendly workplace is a top priority when it comes to economic, social and environmental sustainability. Setting up your organisation for employees to work from home allows an unprecedented family flexibility policy. We may see a decrease in the waitlists of early childhood education centres and an increase in family bonding time, especially for work which can be done in flexible hours (ie. non-urgent paperwork completed later at night after children have gone to bed in order to free up family time during the day)

Mental Well-Being

Mental well-being is a tricky aspect of our professional lives to address in the 'work from home' debate as depending on how a 'work from home' program is delivered within an organisation, it can either have a positive or negative impact on the mental health of employees. Many employees have reported that they feel less stressed and more motivated working from home, which in turn has increased productivity. However, evidence suggests that working from home for an extended period of time can be detrimental to one's mental health as the workplace is a hotspot for social interaction for many people. In this regard, it is important for your 'work from home' program to centre around social interactions and to provide information around the importance of ensuring adequate socialisation of employees. It is also up to us as individuals to ensure we are taking charge of our own mental health and scheduling in time with friends and family to compensate for the lack of social interaction within work hours.

As mentioned before, these are only a handful of benefits a 'working from home' program can bring your organisation. To find out more about such a program or to have one drawn up for your organisation and reported on sustainably, contact us today.

This article was originally published on the Strategic Sustainability Consultants website.

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