Hybrid working reduces carbon emissions

New research by IWG in partnership with Arup reveals working closer to home can significantly reduce carbon emissions in major cities across UK and US, with reductions of up to 70% in Manchester and 87% in Los Angeles recorded.

Daily commuting to city centre offices has the biggest carbon footprint of any way of working, while splitting time between a local workspace/office, working from home, and occasional trips to a city centre HQ offers the greatest carbon savings.

In addition, swopping the car for a bike and upgrading offices to higher environmental standards also substantially reduces carbon footprint.

The study measured the environmental impact of hybrid working, based on both building and transport emissions, on six cities across the US and UK with a deep dive into two major carbon contributors – London and LA. Others examined were New York City, Atlanta, Manchester and Glasgow.

Data from these cities showed the potential for huge carbon savings in other cities around the globe, such as South Africa, through the widespread adoption of hybrid working, which has rapidly expanded amongst white-collar workers, who are now using the available technology to work where is most convenient and they are most productive.

Cities in the US showed the largest potential carbon savings when also taking transport into consideration due to the prevalence of commuting by car, with Atlanta (90% reduction) just edging out Los Angeles (87%) and New York (82%).

The study compared different working scenarios for white-collar workers, including:

* Exclusively from city centre workspaces;

* From city centre workspaces and local workspaces;

* From city centre workspaces and home; and

* A combination of all three.

To understand the climate impact, the team looked at the total emissions per worker based on transport, heating, cooling, lighting, energy use and more.

The impact of the commute

A traditional five-day commute into a city centre has the biggest carbon footprint of all. In South Africa, the contribution of transport to national energy-related CO2 emissions is estimated to be approximately 14%. Road transport is responsible for approximately 90% of transport emissions and 90% of total fuel consumption in transport.

In South Africa, More than a third of households said they use a car to get to work, while 9% of children were transported by car to school. By comparison, 24% of households reported using a taxi to get to work, 4,5% used a bus, and 2.1% used a train.

Transport demand is expected to grow worldwide in the coming decades as the global population increases, incomes rise, and more people can afford cars, trains and flights. In its Energy Technology Perspectives report, the International Energy Agency (IEA) expects global transport (measured in passenger kilometres) to double, car ownership rates to increase by 60%, and demand for passenger and freight aviation to triple by 2070. Combined, these factors would result in a significant increase in transport emissions.

The study found that in London, carbon emissions were reduced by 49% for those mixing time between a city centre HQ and local workspace and 43% lower when splitting time between a local workspace and home compared to a traditional five-day commuting pattern. The key driver in emissions reductions was distance; when workers more frequently stay near home, their emissions are lessened.

Local buildings offer carbon savings

Compared with offices in the city centre, local workspaces had fewer emissions per square meter of floor area. Crucially, local workspaces have higher utilisation rates; therefore, each person is responsible for fewer emissions than a central office location.

Employees benefit from hybrid working

Hybrid working is proving to be especially attractive for employees, with 88 per cent of workers saying flexible working was necessary in a new role to save money and achieve a better work/life balance.

In a similar survey of HR professionals in the US, IWG found that the overwhelming majority (94%) use hybrid working to recruit new talent, with 93% saying it is a key tool for them. Not only does hybrid working provide health benefits, analysis by IWG also highlights the extent of the savings that working locally can offer hybrid workers. By living and working closer to home, hybrid working helps people be healthier and more productive.

Employees who have optimised their working habits like this are leading more localised lives, living and working closer to home, making them healthier and more productive. Analysis by IWG highlights the extent of the savings that working locally can offer hybrid workers.

Mark Dixon, CEO of IWG, comments: “This new research reveals we have an extraordinary opportunity to radically reduce humanity’s negative environmental impact by encouraging the adoption of hybrid working. Five-day commuting to city centre offices has the largest carbon footprint of any working model.

“Simply spending less time in or travelling to a city centre drives a drop in emissions from buildings and vehicles alike. Allowing people to work close to home, enabling them to split their time between home and a local workplace, has the potential to reduce a worker’s work-related carbon emissions by 70%.

“The single biggest change we can all make right now is to provide people with the choice to work closer to where they need to be and with lower impact on the environment – and that’s down to all of us,” he adds. “The results of our research with Arup show clearly that given the opportunity to go hybrid means that this is within our power – right now.”

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