Remote work and sustainability: is it really so simple? – Legal Futures

The Link AppBy Legal Futures Associate The Link App

The idea of incorporating remote-based working for the future suggests that there are many benefits for the environment. This approach would be directly due to the removal of commuting, without vast office buildings operating and constantly straining the energy demand. On the surface this sounds great, all unnecessary business travel eliminated. However, taking a closer look into the actual numbers a more complicated picture appears. If we are not careful in creating the “new working routine”, then we risk the damage and harm to the climate being equal.

As firms are adapting to a hybrid of office and home working settings, across rural and urban areas, the risk of spreading their carbon footprint increases. This would lead to a more difficult situation in understanding the impact of the climate. The ability to assess the impact creates a dark area within the statistics. There are many factors to consider here when attempting to counter this complicated problem; the main three including seasonality, transport, and location.

A 2021 study by Carbon Trust, found that the average remote worker in Germany who was previously commuting by train would in fact reduce their carbon emissions by coming into the office in winter. On the other hand, in summer they would be saving emissions by working from home regardless of how they were travelling to work previously. Maintaining twenty employees heated in an office is far more efficient than all employees retaining heated homes throughout the working day. Another factor to consider is who else is in those properties. If one member of a household is working from home and another is in the office, that house is maintaining high energy usage every working day. If this becomes common practice in every company then the benefits are instantly reduced by any saving achieved. Diminishing the value of limiting the commutes, especially in winter as the climate requires more fossil fuels to generate power.

Now shifting attention towards transport, the Carbon Trust study compared results for pairs of remote workers in Germany and Spain. The first commuter started the journey from a rural area, commuting approximately 25 miles via motor vehicle (car). The second commuter is located in the inner-city region, and commuted approximately 12 miles via public transport (train). The rural commuter saves Co2 emissions by working from home no matter the season, compared to the inner-city worker who only saves emissions working from home in the summer.

Location plays a key role in saving emissions for maximum efficiency. The urban Spanish commuter saves Co2 emissions by working in the office during the summer, because of the issue raised due to air-conditioning. In contrast, to the German commuter who benefits from the heated working environment provided by the office in winter.

This may appear academic, although if the Spanish company neglects to act the consequences are real. Directly being responsible for emitting an extra 2 kilograms of Co2 emissions per worker per day. This being equal to a two-litre bottle of water when condensed into a solid block. Then, multiply that by 20 employees (commuters) and that becomes approximately six bowling balls of Co2 emissions every day.

Finally, companies will have to decide how to use their offices when not at capacity and perhaps even empty. If 50% of the employees are now remote and home-based, leaving 50% that still commute to the office. A counter productive strategy has been created indirectly, as 50% of employees still require heating for the office building. There is cause for concern if the office building has poor insulation, this recklessly places high demands on the energy supply. Favourable coordination is essential for companies to understand the rotation of employees between remote and office working routines. This has the potential for a real savings in regard to both Co2 emissions and lease charges. The study outlines two scenarios for office usage:

The first scenario, UK companies having their offices at approximately 68% capacity on any given day. The second scenario, companies have reduced capacity to approximately 90%. This creates a potential saving of 124kg of Co2 emissions per remote commuter per year. (Taking the 20 employees regarding Co2 emissions, that equals approximately as two and a half baby humpback whales off your hands.)

This can quickly become complicated, and is one of the many factors you will need to consider regarding your company’s impact on the climate. Also, the future strategy of operating long-term. The path that you and your firm choose can be supported by The Link App. We create a logical and hassle-free approach for modern challenges. Companies are 34% more productive with our complete suite of digital onboarding and communication tools. We enable you to improve your firm’s client service, while making life easier for you and your team. This is by all of your messages and documents stored in one simple, secure platform accessible from any device. Lawyers can work with clients and each other regardless of location.

The Link App was created to transform the client experience provided by law firms; traditional profession, modern approach. We drive the profession forward through a full-service, white-labelled platform including convenient and secure communications, digital onboarding, case tracking and document sharing between legal professionals and their clients, anywhere, any time, on any device. Book a short demo today, and see why 75% of lawyers who do begin transforming how their firm operates in just 30 days.

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