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Working from Home

No-one enjoys the commute to work but could remote working really save substantial emissions? Dr Alice Roberts investigates the true environmental cost of working from home.

In the UK we spend 22 million hours a day getting to and from work. Commuters who work in London spend the longest and the most amount of money and almost all workers know the pain of cancelled trains, traffic jams and overcrowded carriages. Unsurprisingly flexible working is now the most sought after job perk for city employees, often ahead of salary, but does working from home really save on carbon emissions?

Various studies have calculated the amount of carbon video-conferencing can save and it seems to stand to reason that doing away with daily commutes and overly air conditioned high rises would save CO2. The US is already well ahead with government directives to encourage remote working. However most of these studies have been commissioned by telecommunication and IT companies, a recent study by independent consultants WSP Environmental found that home workers typically produce almost a third more CO2 in a year than employees based in the office. Another study in the US suggests that at best the savings are insubstantial; telework in the US currently saves just 0.01 to 0.4%.

What is certain is that this revolution will rely heavily on technology and whether multiple servers and screens can be run without multiplying our energy use. Dr Alice Roberts takes some real life case studies to find a definitive answer to how green working in the office shed really is and to take a look at which innovative solutions in Green IT, social networking and even decarbonised transport might really revolutionise the way we work.

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30 minutes

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