Sustainability guide for working at home

Female freelancer working from home.

Remote work surveys from PWC indicate that 70 percent of U.S. workers want to continue working from home after the COVID-19 pandemic. Other studies, like this one from HBR, have shown that working from home can increase how much people accomplish by allowing for greater focus, and generally increasing worker satisfaction. With employers and employees alike committing to new remote realities, it may be time to add sustainability to the list of reasons why remote work is a trend worth embracing.

Going natural and living more sustainably are public health concerns as trends in climate change continue to highlight the importance of both collective and individual actions. Quarantines, social distancing, and shifts toward remote work due to COVID-19 are showing positive environmental effects, which means that continuing to work from home may not only be a personal preference but also beneficial to the health of the planet.

Remote work can power sustainability efforts

Flexjobs notes that remote work has been linked to improved air quality and reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, fossil fuel usage, and water pollution. Other earth-friendly benefits of working from home include:

Of course, your specific working situation will affect what opportunities you have to go green. For example, you may be able to open windows or comfortably switch off your heater or A/C at home, without compromising the comfort of others. This can cut down on carbon emissions and save on energy use, which both have positive environmental effects. Alternatively, it may be easier for you to support local recycling programs, or compost your spent coffee grounds, when you don’t have to get an entire office breakroom to follow suit. The easiest and most impactful opportunity really depends on your personal work habits and environment.

Challenges of measuring the environmental impact of a remote workforce

It’s already challenging to measure total energy use, waste production, or other sustainability benchmarks related to remote work, since your home is functioning as both your residential space and your company’s working space. Because of this dual nature, determining whether your lunch waste, for example, is generated by your household or your workplace becomes complicated.

Additionally, remote offices may be spread across the country or even the world, with employees in states or cities that use varying power sources and have different access to green solutions. Because of this, working from home may be less sustainable in some places than others.

Despite these challenges, there are still plenty of ways remote work can support sustainability. The whole point of getting remote workers engaged and committed to going green is to increase the cumulative impact of many individual efforts. When teams of workers, and their organizational leaders, communicate, share strategies, and hold one another accountable in a constructive way, it becomes possible to measure the impact the whole group is having together, even when they are separated from each other.

Help remote workers adopt green habits from home

There are plenty of ways to encourage your remote employees to adopt sustainability habits and practices:

Encouraging employees and co-workers to adopt green behaviors is just one of the ways you can make your company more sustainable. Making room in your company’s budget for sustainability drives, campaigns, or other projects is another way to enact company-wide change. Creating annual sustainability goals based on your eco-footprint can also make sustainability a part of your company’s culture.

Blend green initiatives with company culture

Whether you’re an employee leading the charge on sustainability or a business owner who cares about their environmental impact, sustainable investments your organization can provide include:

These investments can benefit the company’s sustainability goals, as well as contribute to company culture.

Everyday ways to green-up your lifestyle

It can be especially beneficial to transfer sustainability habits from the workplace into home life. Going green at home can lower your energy bills, improve indoor air quality, and even increase the overall value of your home. Some everyday sustainability practices for your home are:

Get support from company leaders for your green ideas.

Advocating for policy change is both about ethical benefits and how sustainable policies can directly benefit the business. If you take sustainability seriously and want to make a convincing case to your company to adopt new practices, here are some points to mention when discussing sustainable policies with upper management:

Take sustainability further by collaborating

Remote work environments have offered workers more autonomy, but also new forms of accountability for how they are spending their time and what results they can produce. This same trend can be helpful when it comes to engaging in green best practices and starting grassroots sustainability groups. If this is something you’re interested in as an employee, here are a few tips to get started:

Go green by going digital with sustainable tech

The use of technology and the increasing rate of digital transformation has allowed remote workspaces to evolve and improve. More than 20 percent of the modern workforce is already capable of working remotely some or all the time. This is most prevalent in fields where workers are highly skilled, work closely with digital tools, and adopt solutions that augment human labor — like artificial intelligence or automation. Additionally, technology can also help remote workplaces by going paperless and encouraging further green living.

Going paperless with digital documents and electronic signatures

Switching from physical to digital documents can help companies cut down on paper and printer usage. Digital documents can be a more efficient way to transfer text and image files across long distances, and cybersecurity measures like encryption can make the digital transfer more secure. Electronic signatures can cover a variety of essential business documents including:

Apps that help encourage green living at work and beyond

The demand for remote-work technology and digital solutions has given birth to new software that can help businesses achieve a variety of goals. These apps can not only assist with sustainability, but also encourage employees to engage in sustainable efforts. Examples of apps that encourage everyday sustainability best practices include:

Additional resources for promoting sustainability at work

The following resources can help you connect and collaborate on sustainability with others businesses and employees, as well as keep you informed about current business sustainability trends. They can also be included as a part of your sustainability policies or employee-led education efforts.

Remote work has emphasized several unique avenues for embracing sustainability. Whether you’re interested in promoting green practices in your own home office or advocating for eco-conscious choices at the corporate level, sustainability in your work-life is worth fighting for.