Friday, 13 June 2008

How Green is Home Working?

There's been an on-going debate about how Green it is to work from home, i.e. whether energy use/carbon emissions are lower when you swap commuting for using more energy at home. It's particularly relevant to the IT industry because of the nature of the job. It came up in a couple of discussions I had last week with BT and Logica. Both have plans to make a more accurate measure of the differences in energy use and emissions for their work forces to answer the question and assess any savings.

It's interesting, then, to get a press release from Sun with the results of some research it has already carried out. It's Open Work Energy Measurement Project studied more than 100 participants to see how much energy was consumed while working in a Sun office, working at home and during commuting. The company has a vested interest because its Open Work platform provides the tools and practices for flexible working. Apparently 56% of its workforce avail themselves of this flexibility. The survey results included the following:

- Employees saved $1,700 a year in gasoline and other vehicle costs from working half their time at home
- Office equipment energy consumption at Sun's office was twice that in home offices. (That's a bit of a surprise to me - my guess is it's mostly related to switching things off).
- Commuting was more than 98% of an employees carbon footprint for work (1.7% was used to power office equipment)
- Working from home half time saved an average of 2.5 weeks of commute time

Interesting. There seemed to be an assumption in the responses that commuting was by car, rather than public transport. There was also no mention of office heating, which must take very little energy for Sun, given the figures (maybe because Sun's HQ is in Santa Clara), but in the UK, for example, heating emissions could be more significant for home workers.

Clearly figures will vary significantly by country, location and even time of year (method of commuting, climate, etc.) so there's no easy answer. Companies really need to assess the figures by individual office locations.

© The Green IT Review

No comments:

Post a Comment