2020 has been without a doubt a challenging year for businesses and organizations. As we all adapt to drastic changes and uncertainties, we also foresee an inevitable transition into a post-pandemic era in the years ahead of us. Vaccines are introduced and disseminated in various countries such as Canada, and policy-makers are discussing strategies for economic recovery. This “return to normalcy” in the near future for many entities means returning to working in-person, in an office, or launching in-person services and products again. Most businesses and organizations are faced with several options: return to in-person work, continue remote work, or some combination of both. What impact do these modes of work have on sustainability?
In this article, we analyzed the impact of remote work on corporate sustainability with the triple bottom line (TBL) framework – People, Planet, Profit. Despite certain downsides, the analysis showed more benefits linked to deploying full or partial remote working, as explained by the triple bottom line results generated. There is no one-size-fits-all solution but our recommendation is a mix of remote and occasional in-person work, adapted to the specific job requirements. Furthermore, in order to reduce the overall carbon footprint related to video use, we suggest to turn off your webcam when not absolutely needed. Below is a list of detailed Pros and Cons from our TBL analysis!
- Spending less money and time in commuting to the office for your staff allows them to better manage and invest their time with themselves and their family.
- Your team gains incredible digital communications skills and familiarity with communications tools such as G Suite, videoconference softwares, collaborative documents and virtual task-management, while working remotely.
- Virtual work opens more opportunities for inclusion and diversity as every potential team member or partner is only a call away, and allowing small companies to now have the capacity for international collaborations.
- Working in a home environment may cause staff to lose a sense of work-life balance.
- The lack of human contact and physical movement at work creates “Zoom fatigue” which could negatively impact teamwork and individuals’ mental health.
However, there are ways to mitigate the negative impact of remote working on people. Virtual office parties and Zoom happy hours are popular choices to compensate for the lack of employee interactions in the out-of-work context. You can also explore tools to program interactive surveys to spice up these digital gatherings. For more info, check out this article by La Talenterie for FREE digital tools to help your employees connect better virtually.
- Carbon emissions are significantly reduced when conferences and meetings are held virtually, eliminating the need for long-distance travel. Remote work also reduces frequent car- commute, minimizing one’s carbon footprint at the rate of 650g of CO2/km for an average vehicle in north america.
- Remote work encourages paperless meetings, reducing paper document waste.
- Video conferencing still generates carbon emissions (from using internet, electricity use, device purchases). A company having 10 individual one hour HD video-meetings per day for a standard working year is equivalent to a car driving 90km. For companies that hold thousands of large group meetings, this calculation will show shocking results of carbon emissions we may never have considered. The accessibility of digital conferencing tools can also encourage wasteful behaviour such as overuse of video calls even when not necessary.
- Remote work saves significant operational and travel costs, saving more budget for investment and development.
- Digital work reveals that many in-person meetings can be replaced by emails instead, saving time and effort for staff to do other work.
- General higher productivity – a Hubspot survey showed 77% of remote workers reporting higher productivity levels when working from home.
- Lack of in-person interactions could mean missing out on opportunities like in-person sales and idea exchange at the break room. Furthermore, it can be more difficult for managers to observe project conflicts and operational issues that could lead to costly outcomes.
- With young children around at home, people’s work efficiency may suffer – around 50% of parents don’t think they are more productive working from home according to a recent survey.
In conclusion, we believe the pros outweigh the cons in regards to remote working, and we believe that the key to deciding the best post-pandemic strategy for your organization or business is to find the right balance between remote and in-person working, and to provide as much flexibility as possible. More importantly, we suggest that you find ways to quantify the triple bottom line results of People, Planet & Profits, like measuring your reduction in carbon emissions for example.
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