Working from home good for environment, says study

And better productivity is a bonus!

23 May, 2007: Working from home helps minimise carbon emissions and also deal effectively with the problem of global warming in the process.

A study, commissioned by technology firms Giritech and BT Conferencing and carried out by researchers at Oxford University, has concluded that reducing the daily commute can cut the amount of carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere.

However, it was also found that, while more workers are willing to work from home, the opportunity to do so is not always available because of poor provision of relevant information technology (IT) equipment and services.

According to Aaron McCormack, chief executive of BT Conferencing, 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.

May 18 was observed as the National Work From Home Day in the United Kingdom. The observance of the day was a part of a campaign led by Work Wise UK to promote the benefits of flexible working practices.

Around eight million Britons, including creative freelancers, work from home.

Top officials of the BT Conferencing, which is said to have pioneered flexible work over a decade ago, say the practice of working from home may solve the four biggest challenges facing the economy: competitiveness, the environment, road congestion and quality of life.

The average ‘homeworker’ spends almost seven hours a day working, with 15% spending over 10 hours a day in gainful employment, according to the poll of 3,000 people carried out by Cornhill Direct.

The survey found that workers felt they got much more done in their home environment.

While one in five said this was because there were fewer distractions than in the office, two-thirds of those questioned said they put the extra effort in because they felt they had to prove they were not just taking it easy.

Half of those questioned also thought ‘homeworkers’ were perceived as skivers, but only a quarter thought the label was justified.

The survey found that 69% of workers would work from home if they had the choice, with one in five so keen to do so that they would even accept a pay cut.

Microsoft has reportedly allowed 90% of its staff in the United Kingdom to work flexibly, such as from home, by leveraging IT like smart phones, broadband and tablet PCs.

According to a think-tank commissioned by Microsoft, ‘at-home’ workers are more productive. This is in line with the finding of BT Conferencing that working from home boosts worker productivity by 20%.

However, there are those who doubt the long-term effects of working from home. They ask: Is it financially viable? Can it actually help protect the environment? Can working from home actually generate cash savings?

Leonard Tondel, chairman of the Home Business Alliance, the United Kingdom’s trade association for home-based business, says these doubts are baseless. As the majority of freelancers work from home, it is in the home where the greatest savings can be made, he says.

The latest figures under the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme show that the United Kingdom emitted over 251million tonnes of carbon dioxide in 2006 – a 3.6% increase from the previous year.

However, while employees are keen to work from home office, the survey also shows that they distrust their colleagues – 60% are concerned their co-workers would do less at home, while a quarter think they will do nothing.




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