Yesterday, in the UK, it was National Work From Home Day. So it was with perfect timing that Giritech and the conferencing services division of BT, published the results of “The Costs of Transport on the Environment – The Role of Teleworking in Reducing Carbon Emissions" report which was undertaken by Oxford University.
The study, which pulls together research from around the world, demonstrates conclusively that the reduction in commuting time resulting from people working at home will mean less carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere - one of the gases that causes global warming. Not exactly earth shattering news to anyone with half a brain, let alone the combined brains of Oxford University boffins, it has to be said.
However, the research also shows that while more and more people want to work from home, the benefits of this trend are being undermined by poor co-operation by both Government and business over issues such as transport and the provision of IT.
“The research is clear: Working from home really can help reduce our carbon footprint as a country - if we manage it correctly,” Professor David Banister, one of the authors of the study, told DaniWeb. “Managing homeworking correctly will involve changes in behaviour. This would include providing secure and efficient technology to facilitate collaboration as well as properly managing heating at the employers end and the reduction of office space and heating costs at the employee’s end. If people work more than one day a week from home then significant environmental savings can be made” Banister continued.
The study makes it clear that there is a need for more coherent policies to take advantage of the environmental savings that could be made from more sensible working policies.
“Working from home has not featured very highly in Government policy and there has not been any clear statement or encouragement from central or local Government on this. There is an opportunity for teleworking to sit at the heart of a co-ordinated policy that could involve sustainable transport,” said Banister, who added that homeworking would only really take-off with either a carbon-tax or tax incentives by the Government.
Aaron McCormack, CEO BT Conferencing told us: “By enabling people to work at home some or all of the time through the provision of collaborative technology the impact on the environment can be significant. On average, one conference call to replace a face to face meeting can save up to 40kg of CO2.”
Aamir Butt, Giritech UK CEO, added: “This really is a wake-up call. Whilst there is a real desire by employees to work from home, this interest is not being met by employers. This shows a need for businesses to take steps to enable workers to work from home to reduce their carbon footprint. It also shows that the concerns of employers must also be met and a major concern for businesses in this age of data theft and internet crime is security.”
“Remote workers are prime targets and any computer being used remotely must be as secure as one in an office, clearly this needs to be addressed,” said Butt.
The study has pulled together all Government, and academic data on the subject added the latest research from technology and provides for the first time an a significant insight to the disputed question of whether remote working benefits the environment. The key findings of the report are:
- The number of commuting trips has fallen by 8% from 1995-2005.
- Journey to work trip lengths have increased from 8.2 to 8.7 miles (1995-2005), about 6%, and business journeys have increased as well, with the average trip now being 19.4 miles (an increase from 19.0 miles in 1995, although down from a peak of 21.1 miles in 2004).
- Trip times for journeys to work have also risen over the period 1995-2005 from 24 minutes to 27 minutes, an increase of 13%.
- Around 70% of all commuting journeys are undertaken by car, van, or minibus. In all commuting journeys between 6 and 45 minutes in length, car users make a greater proportion of trips than average.
- The 2001 Census gives a figure of 9.19% of the working population as working “mainly at or from home” in England and Wales, but this includes 809,713 who are small employers or own account workers – this group includes builders, electricians, and others who are self employed and work from home.
- The Labour Force Survey gives a more accurate figure of teleworking on an annual basis from 1997-2005. From their data (2005), about 11% are classified as homeworkers, 8% of whom are teleworkers, and 7% of whom use TC at home (telephone and computers).
- The number of homeworkers who are classed as working mainly in their own homes is likely to reach 800,000 by 2010
- Around 90% of teleworkers work in managerial, professional, associate professional and technical, and skilled trade occupations – the levels of teleworking in the latter is 17% of the workforce. In other less skilled occupations, the potential is substantially less. The proportion of workers who telework in their own home is highest in the banking finance and insurance industry.
- Around two-thirds of all teleworkers are male. A majority of those teleworking at home are female
- The frequency of homeworking amongst full-time employees is rising, but 83% still say that it is not possible to work at home. However, 65% of those in work in the UK are “very” or “somewhat” interested in at least one type of telework, while 33% regard their job as feasible for home teleworking at least one day per week
- The UK is sixth highest in the EU for those home teleworking for more than one day a week.