Is remote work more environmentally sustainable than traditional offices?
Working in the office or from home – which consumes more CO2? This is the very question answered by an American study that examined the emissions balance of in-person and remote work. The results continue to raise the question: How can greenhouse gas consumption be reduced in the long term?
Balancing electricity savings and travel
For the sustainability study, a research team from Cornell University collaborated with Microsoft, utilizing data sets from the corporate giant. The analysis revealed that those working exclusively from home save up to 54 % in greenhouse gases compared to their office counterparts. Hybrid work only offered a slight advantage, with a maximum savings rate of 29 % for two to four days of remote work per week.
Where does the high consumption in the office come from? According to the study, it is not the office IT or communication technology that’s responsible, but measures such as heating or cooling the premises with air conditioning. Commuting to the office is also included in the statistics.
However, Cornell and Microsoft highlight that remote work is not necessarily the key to a sustainable future. Because those who work exclusively remotely or from home tend to travel more or are often on airplanes, as the study shows. Additionally, devices like home printers, for example, tend to consume more electricity on average compared to larger office versions.
This emissions balance is also expected in the German-speaking region. While the data for the study comes from the United States, according to the researchers, the results can be applicable to Europe and Japan as well.
Reducing emissions with smart spaces
Cornell and Microsoft show that when it comes to long-term sustainability, the work arrangement is not the sole solution, as private and business-related CO2 consumption balances out. So, how can companies contribute to reducing greenhouse gas emissions?
The answer lies in the space: Companies and corporations need to assess how much CO2 they consume and which aspects of their daily operations are responsible for it. In the second step, the company’s or employees’ work arrangement is considered: Who works when in the office, who is in the home office? For office spaces structured around fixed workstations, this means that on home office days, not all rooms are fully occupied, creating free spaces.
At this point, software programs like ReCoTech provide valuable support: Through occupancy analyses, companies determine how spaces are used. With automated calculations, an optimal space structure can then be created, considering individual work processes. Simultaneously, the software uncovers potential savings in terms of space, allowing for downsizing or office space reduction. This not only reduces CO2 consumption but also lowers operational costs.
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