WFH, Potential for Carbon Neutrality, and How UC Fits into All of That

Jim Machi
VP of Marketing, Sangoma

One direct impact of all this social distancing, not traveling, and working from home that is stark is the reduction in carbon emissions in the environment. It’s noticeable, dramatic in cases (such as people in Punjab being able to see the Himalayas for the first time in decades) and global.

Obviously, knowledge worker type employees not going to a building to work and working from home instead, and not traveling to see customers in trains, planes, or automobiles, is having a large impact on the environment. Companies that would have never embraced WFH before are starting to understand that WFH is possible, may not negatively impact the business, and may even have a positive long-term impact. For them. 

For instance, employees may be happier since they don’t have to commute and spend time in traffic. And companies utilizing current technology available, such as video, to help customers remotely, or have team collaboration meetings, obviates at least some of the need for truck rolls or plane trips to go see them, thus saving the company money. Suddenly, work from home is more interesting since there may also be a financial benefit to the company.

These companies responded to a crisis by utilizing Unified Communications (UC), which gives the ability for employees to work from home as if they are in the office, or gives employees more tools such as video to help customers remotely or do team collaboration. They did it and utilized UC because they had to. There wasn’t some altruistic reasons behind these decisions. It was just figuring out how to move forward.

However, these work from home scenarios created less carbon emissions, something surely positive for the world. And therein lies an opportunity. Now that these companies are doing it, and in many cases, doing it successfully, will some of them embrace it and go on the path towards carbon neutrality? It’s a leap for sure, but when things “get back to normal,” could companies put policies in place to adopt WFH as a part of their company culture? That is highly probable. And if they do that, could they then take more steps and go for carbon neutrality?

Let’s examine first how could a company cut their carbon emissions? There are indirect ways of positively impacting the environment, such as recycling everything in your office (such as paper and aluminum), so reuse can occur. And using coffee cups instead of Styrofoam cups. Those are but a couple, but there are numerous examples I’m sure you can think of. 

But there are also direct ways, such as changing air conditioning and heating even one degree as an example.  

And there are companies exploring other ways, such as having smaller physical buildings to work in. We are already seeing trends where employees don’t each have an office or even their own cubicle. There are simply large work space areas where you go sit. Some of this is designed to try and foster better teamwork, while some is more practical given the need to try and cut monthly lease costs, or because more and more people were working from home anyway so there isn’t a need anymore for every single person to have their own space.  

Whatever the original reason, the office square footage per employee has been decreasing, even before this crisis. This also has an impact on less heating and air conditioning required. In other words, for example, if work teams rotated when they came in an office, thus requiring less overall square footage the company would need to use, there would be multiple benefits to the environment. Less carbon emissions due to less employee travel and less heating/air conditioning. That’s a step, but not all the way to carbon neutrality.

So let’s say your company wants to embrace this. What does being carbon neutral even mean? It means having a net zero carbon dioxide emissions. How can a company become carbon neutral? Companies can start with the ideas like above, but also then support a myriad of carbon offset projects or initiatives that offsets what your company is putting into the environment. Companies are also taking it upon themselves to go further, driving to purchase clean energy, such as from wind or solar. A company can even strive to become carbon neutral certified.  

All big ideas, but ideas that could turn into reality. And Unified Communications is an important pillar that can enable this to happen, because without UC, the FH from WFH isn’t really possible.

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