WFH – what are the energy implications?

Staff want to work at home twice as much as they did before Covid, the majority opting to spend 63 per cent of their working week there, as opposed to 35 per cent they once did.   

But the company behind that research has highlighted a worrying consequence – the increase in household energy use and the way firms are reporting it.  

Of the 3,000 UK residents polled by the environmental charity Hubbub, 68 per cent said they’d noticed an increase in how much electricity their household had used compared to the same time last year and 54 per cent had  noticed an increase in gas use.   

But support from employers appears minimal with only 15 per cent of workers saying their employer has contributed money to help them pay their household energy bills. Three in five in aged 16-24 even expressed concern about the impact of working from home on their household bills. 

But there’s another concern. Many organisations had made progress in developing plans to achieve net-zero, but few had thought how this would impact them after Covid, even though six in ten homeworkers agreed they would like to help reduce the environmental impact of working from home.    

If businesses are to achieve the ambitious environmental targets they are setting, they need to adapt and update their environmental policies to reflect this new way of working

Only one in five agreed they are getting support from employers to live more sustainably at home and many are left in the dark about their boss’s approach to the environment. Just over a quarter said their employer has communicated the organisation’s sustainability strategy to them and how they can play a role.  

“If businesses are to achieve the ambitious environmental targets they are setting, they need to adapt and update their environmental policies to reflect this new way of working, including how they calculate their carbon emissions, said Natasha Gammell from Hubbub. 

“This may mean, for example, reporting on energy and water use of employees whilst working from home. This is information that 62 per cent of those surveyed agreed they’d be happy to share but only 16 per cent have been asked for.   

“Many businesses are saving energy and water in their offices so they’re not just under-reporting by not including the energy use of their workforce working from home, they may actually be reporting a false reduction. 

“Our polling suggests that younger participants have significantly higher expectations from employers with regard to environmental action than older workers. Businesses that want to attract the next generation of talent need to be on the front foot to meet their justifiable expectations when it comes to responsible environmental behaviour.” 

One employer already taking steps to adapt their approach is NatWest. Allan Wickham, Head of Climate and Data – Own Operations said: “In 2020, we had 50,000 colleagues working from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic.   

“In recognition of this exceptional year, we have calculated and offset all colleague home working and commuting emissions (37,596 tCO2e). These additional emissions offset in 2020 go beyond our current reporting boundary of emissions in our direct operational control.  

“To calculate these emissions, we collaborated with Eco Act, Lloyds Banking Group and other organisations to launch the first ever open-source home working emissions methodology.”  

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