Does flexible working benefit the environment?
Flexible working and remote working is increasing globally as technology and attitudes shift towards a more efficient design of workforce. The Global Workspace Survey from 2019 not only found that that the 9-5 model of working was becoming “as relevant as a fax machine” but also that nearly half the companies surveyed reported that their employees work at least 2.5 days per week outside of the office headquarters.
Combine this with the 2015 findings that 79% of workers were already able to work from home at least once per week and the shift to flexible working practices is clearly on the rise. But do flexible working models also benefit the environment?
The shift to agility and productivity
The main driver for both large and small companies in allowing their workforce to operate outside of the office is dictated by the benefits to both efficiency and productivity. Smart office buildings already allow for significant overheads to be cut and less staff at any one time reduces these costs further. Each four-day week worker is potentially a 20% overhead saving for the 8.5 hours per week that they do at home.
Not only are companies saving by having a remote workforce, but the productivity increases too. Of the businesses questioned in 2019, 67% responded that agile working would likely result in an increase in productivity by 20%. In the business world this is an astonishing figure by any standard, especially when this is achieved by lowering the overhead cost of an office. With increased productivity and reduced overheads a popular reason for flexible working, an often overlooked benefit is that flexi-work can also be a positive for the environment.
Reducing carbon footprints through remote and flexible working
There is no doubt that reduced commuter travel, as well as increased energy conservation in offices, has an impact on the carbon footprint of both individuals and companies. On a corporate scale, teleworking schemes have proven that the carbon footprint of large companies is significantly reduced as a result. The ease at which smaller companies can adapt their working policies means that they are likely contributing to reducing carbon output to an even larger degree.
In 2013 Global Workplace Analytics looked at the environmental impact of four day working weeks and flexible working. Its studies at the time showed that the home-based workforce of the US had a comparable impact to planting around 16 million trees. This also generated approximately 11 billion USD in taxpayer savings over a wide number of variables including reduced traffic accidents and less environmental damage. In addition, recent evidence suggests that the optimum work schedule for the environment may be through a combination of home working in the summer and transferring to a shared office in winter months, to counter the environmental costs of individual heating at home.
The body of evidence supports the view that flexible working schemes can have a positive environmental impact. As global economies look to lower their carbon footprint, flexible working will continue to play an increasingly important role.