By John Arenas | April 10, 2012

The Green Office Is Closer Than You Think

Large companies around the globe are now busy tracking, reporting and managing their carbon emissions per employee, in order to meet current regulations or due to corporate responsibility initiatives. According to Census data, US workers now commute over an hour a day on average. With an average 20 mile commute each way, this is about 11,000 miles of commuting per year. And with 86% of Americans driving to work, that’s a ton of driving. Actually, in green-speak, it equates to about 5.5 tons of CO2 emissions per worker per year. This is 50% more than the 3 ton total CO2 footprint most companies ascribe to supporting an office worker.

What if more companies deployed flexible work strategies that allowed employees to work right around the corner instead of commuting long distances? By commuting less, say working 3 days a week near or- at home and 2 days in the main office, CO2 per employee can be reduced by over 2.2 tons annually. To put this 2.2 tons in perspective….This is equivalent to the CO2 impact of washing 3 loads of laundry a week for 25 years, or leaving the living room lights on all night, every night for 25 years.

Curiously, CO2 emissions from employees who are required to commute to a central office facility are not counted in a company’s CO2 footprint, just the workspace and business travel related impacts. According to a recent BT report on Sustainability Practices, the average incremental CO2 emitted in support of a full time office worker in the UK is about 3 tons of CO2 per year. UK mobile workers were shown to have 15% lower C02 emissions. Remote workers, (those working away from the headquarters 3 or more days a week) were shown to have 52% lower C02 footprints. That’s a 1.5 tons savings per employee per year.

Companies that genuinely wish to work toward goals of CO2 footprint reduction could make major progress when implementing flexible and remote work strategies for their knowledge workers. These work place strategies can include use of suburban Office Business Centers, Coworking Facilities, and allowing work from home offices. Flexible work policies which are supported by a continuum of appropriate workplaces made available to employees close to home can make the green office right around the corner, literally.

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