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Can work from home reduce your carbon footprint?

As I write this blog, I’m sitting at a desk in a sunroom inside my home where I spend 40 hours of my week. As soon as the sun shines in, the lights are turned off and only my laptop is plugged into the outlet. Before COVID-19, Atos prioritized work from home for many employees, but I know that this hasn’t always been the case for other companies. Work from home skyrocketed during the COVID-19 pandemic, as employees were sent home with laptops, monitors and more. But now, post-pandemic, businesses continue to grapple to find a balance with work from home or hybrid working environments.

Especially in the last few years, sustainability and carbon footprint have become bigger priorities and buzzwords for all types of businesses. It’s not just something important to business leaders, but to employees. Employee engagement — broadly defined as the degree to which someone engages their cognitive, creative and behavioral energies to realize a positive outcome — is pivotal to business growth.

Employee expectations are changing, and workers are looking to find fulfillment and choose employers that are making a difference. The link between sustainable company goals and employee engagement is becoming stronger every day. Work from home or hybrid working environments can help companies reach their sustainability and employee engagement goals, but it isn’t necessarily a simple correlation. It takes strategic planning to ensure you are set up to reduce your carbon footprint.

Let’s take a look at some work from home statistics compiled by the US Census Bureau:

Hybrid and home work can improve sustainability, but making strides toward net zero requires assessing your digital workplace and reducing the carbon footprint of your devices.

  • Between 2019 and 2022, the number of people primarily working from home more than doubled from 5.7% (roughly 9 million people) to 15.2% (24.4 million people)
  • In 2022, about 69% of workers drove alone to work, compared to roughly 76% in 2019. This corresponded to nearly 9 million fewer people commuting alone by private vehicle — 119,153,349 in 2019 compared to 110,245,368 in 2021
  • Public transportation commuting fell from 5% of the workforce in 2019 to 3.1% in 2022
  • In 2022, the mean commute time was 29.6 minutes

Since the pandemic and rise in work from home, there numerous studies have been published on the potential impact to the environment. However, it isn’t just about mitigating the impact of commuting — it also corresponds to increased energy use at home, which may not have occurred for workers reporting to an office. According to studies conducted by the National Academy of Sciences:

  • Remote workers could have a 54% lower carbon footprint compared to onsite workers
  • Hybrid workers with two to four workdays at home can reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 11% to 29%
  • Office energy use is the main contributor to the carbon footprint of onsite and hybrid workers, while non-commuting travel becomes more significant as the number of remote workdays increases

However, the impact on the environment goes far beyond this. Workplaces have the largest impact on carbon emission within the information and communications technology (ICT) scope. In modern IT, 57% of enterprise IT’s carbon footprint is attributable to workplace devices. The area where workplaces can really make a difference comes down to what most of us use every day — our laptops.

The biggest source of carbon in digital workplace is the manufacturing of devices themselves. Most companies replace employee laptops every three to four years, and each new device accounts for more than 300 kg of CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalent) emissions. There are several things that can be done to help mitigate the impact:

  • Dynamic PC refresh. This tactic is used to try and extend the device lifecycle by allocating resources to those who use them the most. For example, people using shared machines for single-purpose, low-CPU, low-memory utilization can hold on to a machine much longer because they’re not in front of it all day long and it only needs to perform basic functions. Analyzing the telemetry of how devices are actually being used can be a big part of evaluating who can keep their machine longer.
  • Device lifecycle management offers lower-carbon laptop replacement options including performance-based refresh and extended use, refurbishing or remanufacturing.
  • Accurately measuring a computer’s usage and the carbon footprint of digital behaviors is key. Atos recently announced the Atos Tech 4 Good Assistant, an application that offers employees real-time feedback about their personal performance against environmental and social parameters. Tools like this can recommend actions such as removing unnecessary programs, turning off the laptop or changing settings on the device.
  • The final piece of the sustainable workplace puzzle is to provide consolidated data and recommended actions to IT and CSR leaders. These recommendations allow leaders to closely monitor and manage the organization’s workplace carbon footprint and improve the service’s impact in social value and accessibility. They must be designed to support CSR reporting, which is becoming an increasingly challenging task for organizations across the world. for organizations across the world.
  • GenAI now enables us to accelerate how we convert data and analytics from various sources into insights, modeling different scenarios to optimize resource usage in our infrastructure and supply chain and ultimately supporting the sustainability governance to achieve our goals.

Overall, work from home or hybrid work environments can have an impact on the environment and sustainability, but you can make strides toward net zero by assessing your digital workplace and taking steps toward reducing the carbon footprint of your devices.

Atos specializes in sustainability, with stringent goals both for our company and for our clients. If you want to learn how we can help your company reach its carbon footprint goals, I encourage you to learn more about our digital workplace offerings and how they can transform your business.

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About Javier Ponce Suarez
Atos Global Head of Digital Transformation, member of the Scientific Community and Distinguished Expert
As the Vice President Group Head of Digital Transformation at Atos, Javier is focused on transforming global corporations to the digital era by bringing in different set of innovations that can drive the employee and the customer experience. For more than 15 years, Javier Ponce Suarez has served in various roles at Atos spanning technical and managerial positions in Europe and North America, growing his experience in client innovation and mapping digital capabilities to strategic priorities for customers. Ultimately, his goal in any role is to advance the organization to live, learn tell and inspire digital transformation. In addition, Javier is a member of the Atos Scientific Community, a global network comprised of over 160 of the top scientists, engineers and forward thinkers from across the Group. As a member, he focuses on researching how organizations can transform to be adaptable to the current, fast pace business technology environment on areas such as artificial intelligence (AI), digital ethics and the unpredictability of AI systems future behaviors and its impact on society. As a team player, Javier Ponce Suarez practices balance between teamwork, talent, collaboration, diversity and an employee empowered culture, believing these core values are the base of a successful organization.

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About Courtney Terlecki
External Communications Manager
Courtney is the external communications manager for Atos North America, where she oversees content production including blogs, press releases and social media. Before this, Courtney spent eight years working in TV news where she reported, anchored, produced and managed a staff of 30. During that time, Courtney became an expert on being able to break down complex topics in easier to understand ways.

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