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Working from home can reduce energy use by up to 80%

Today, 15 May, is National Work from Home Day, when up to five million workers are expected to work from home across the UK. According to the RAC Foundation, working from home can reduce energy usage up to 80%.

Two thirds of an office worker’s energy consumption is spent on transport. With each worker’s carbon footprint being between 1.5 to 4 tonnes per person, working from home makes great sense, not only for the environment, but also for the wallet and congestion on UK roads.

The RAC Foundation fact file on office space and energy use finds that:

  • Office space is only used 22% of the time when a building is occupied 5 days a week between 8am and 6pm.
  • 8% of the time is spent on holiday
  • 30% accounts for non working days
  • 40% goes down to non working hours
  • Desk utilisation audits show desks rarely occupied for more than 45% of the normal 9-5pm working day
  • Unless offices are optimised for flexible working, they are built to be empty for 70% of time and half empty for the remaining 30%.

A company and an individual’s footprint can be made significantly smaller if formal working from home structures are put in place and commuting and office space is reduced.

Sheila Rainger, Deputy Director for the RAC Foundation says “National Working from Home Day is a great opportunity for employers and their employees to try out something new. The energy and cost savings of working from home are very impressive. If everyone who is able to worked from home just one day a week, we would notice a big difference on our roads and our other already overloaded infrastructure”.

According to research by the TUC more people than ever are working from home. Nearly 3.5 million people already work from home in the UK – 12.2 per cent or one-in-eight of the population – an increase of 600,000 since 1997.

The highest proportion of home workers is in the South West with 15.7 per cent, followed by Eastern England with 14.4 per cent. The lowest is in the North East with 9.3 per cent, followed by Scotland with 9.4 per cent.

Using figures for employed people only (excluding self-employed), the highest growth in the past decade has been seen in Northern Ireland with 83 per cent, followed by London with 55 per cent and Eastern England with 45 per cent.

“The benefits of working from home, even occasionally, are now widely accepted,” said Phil Flaxton, chief executive of Work Wise UK, the not-for-profit organisation behind the initiative. “Not only does it reduce the amount of commuting people have to do, enhancing their work-life balance, but many are actually more productive.

“Although many organisations practise the age-old philosophy of ‘presenteeism’, they should open their eyes to the new work ethic spreading across the UK and try out home working: they may well be surprised.”

Home working is one of the smarter working practises being promoted through the Work Wise UK campaign, which is entering its third year.