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Remote Work Sustainability: Expectation vs Reality

remote work sustainability

When the Covid-19 pandemic hit in 2020, the world completely changed for a period of time. While it’s a time most of us would happily forget, many of the shifts that came about are becoming permanent staples in our society moving forward, particularly with work.

When Covid shut everything down, suddenly those who work in offices found themselves having to adjust to working from home. Some hated it and couldn’t wait to get back to the office, and others loved it, wanting it to become their normal, even post-pandemic. 

While remote work peaked in 2020, working from home and hybrid working are still at much higher rates than they were pre-pandemic, and there’s no sign that will change anytime soon.

This sudden increase in remote work has given us the opportunity to measure how remote work compares to onsite work in terms of environmental impact. In a time where the fate of the planet rests on this generation’s shoulders, we need to find as many ways as possible to reduce CO2 emissions.

However, despite popular belief, is working remotely actually better for the planet than working in an office?

In this article, I will attempt to answer that question. We will cover:

Environmental impacts of the workplace

I remember the news stories during lockdown in 2020 well. The canals of Venice became clear; New Delhi had the longest period of clean air ever recorded. Nature seemed to heal itself very quickly with the sudden absence of cars, planes, motorcycles, and just people in general.

So if most of the pollution we create is associated with going to and being at work, then switching to remote work must be far better for the environment, no?

Well, it’s difficult to say because it’s not that simple. But let’s take a look at the environmental impact commuting and workplaces have.

Commuting

Commuting is not necessarily one-size-fits-all. Americans reading this might associate commuting with driving, the Japanese might associate it with taking the train, and the Dutch might associate it with riding a bike. For our purposes, we will focus on commuting by car as it has the highest environmental impact.

Let’s look at the facts:

There’s no denying the massive environmental impact commuting has. Cars also emit a lot of nitrous oxide, more than they do CO2. This is a big problem because nitrous oxide is 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide.

It’s no wonder that when everyone started working from home, many of those who drive to work saw their personal emission drop by as much as 80%.

However, those who take public transportation or cycle to work did not see the same reduction in their emissions. In fact, some may have seen an increase in their total emissions, but we’ll get into the why of that later.

Energy used in the office

Was the reduction of cars on the road every day good for the environment? Yes, undoubtedly. Was the reduction of energy used in offices good for the environment? Not in every case.

Trigger warning: We’re about to do some math.

So, in California, an office space for a company with 90 employees generates roughly 234 tons of carbon dioxide per year. That works out to 2.6 tons per employee, not counting the additional emissions from commuting, which would, on average, add an additional 4.6 tons of CO2. This brings the total amount of emissions per employee to 7.2 tons per year.

That’s a staggering amount!

By comparison, the average three-resident household in California produces 4.17 tons of CO2 per year or 1.39 tons per resident. We can’t know exactly how much energy usage increases with people working from home, but it likely would not be as much as the 2.6 tons produced in an office setting. And with the reduction of emissions from commuting, in this example, working from home would be the more sustainable option.

However, as I said before, emissions are not always reduced when people transition into remote work.

CO2 emissions caused by commuting

How remote work changes things

Remote work certainly makes it easier for individuals to reduce their personal emissions. And companies as a whole can reduce their emissions by foregoing offices altogether. Of course, not every business can be fully remote, but most, if not all, of those who solely operate in the digital space, can. 

Moving to a fully remote model can save companies tons of money. McKesson, a medical supply company, found that by getting rid of their offices, they would save between $60 and $80 million per year.

The undeniable benefits

We’ve already confirmed the biggest environmental benefit of remote work sustainability: cutting out commutes. But let’s put the amount of energy this would save into a larger context.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) analyzed commuter trends and labor market data and found that if all employees were allowed to work from home one day a week, it would save 24 million tons of carbon emissions, equivalent to the amount emitted by Greater London.

That’s just one day a week!

Now I know what you’re thinking: Not everyone can work from home. That’s true, and I hear you.

Research suggests that 20% of all workers could work from home full-time without ever needing to be onsite. If that 20% of employees are allowed to work remotely, we could see the same environmental benefits as the IEA’s analysis suggests.

With the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, we would also see:

  • Less plastic pollution
  • Better air quality
  • Less strain on infrastructure

How do we know this? Because we already saw it during the Covid lockdowns!

Why remote work isn’t always a positive for the environment

Things are rarely black and white. I wish this piece could just be onsite work bad, remote work good. But it’s not that simple.

“Remote working has not delivered the environmental benefits that some people expected.” –

Steve Sorrell, professor of energy policy at the University of Sussex

For our hypothetical Californian company, transitioning to remote work was ultimately better for the environment. But what about in places where people take public transportation or cycle to work? What about people who live in cold climates?

Emissions would increase for these individuals. Instead of heating one office building, every employee would heat their individual home. Salesforce’s head of emissions reduction, Amanda von Almen, said that during the pandemic the company’s emissions didn’t go down; they were just moved around as people began working from home.  

And then there are the big tech companies like Meta and Google, who have invested billions into their sustainable campuses. It’s safe to say that most of their thousands of employees don’t have homes that only run on solar. For companies like that, the benefit of reduced commutes is all but negated by people working from home. 

Not to mention the emissions that have been caused by people setting up home offices. Between April and June 2020 alone, orders for office chairs increased by 300%, and orders for desks went up by 438%. The production and shipping of home office furniture and supplies do little to reduce carbon emissions.

Remote work has also increased the demand for larger houses to accommodate the additional office space. There has been an increase in people moving away from cities to more rural areas, increasing the amount they have to drive if they ever do have to go into the office. As people spend more time at home, they desire more space to make that time more comfortable. While it’s understandable, it’s not exactly environmentally friendly.

With remote work, people tend to travel recreationally a lot more. Chasing that digital nomad lifestyle and whatnot. And no shade to the digital nomads of the world, but we can’t lie to ourselves and think that it’s a sustainable way to live and work. 

Remote Work Sustainability: How COVID impacted global emissions

What about a hybrid model?

A hybrid working model seems like a great compromise for people seeking a better work-life balance. But how does it compare with onsite and remote work?

The shift to hybrid

Many companies have been wary of adopting a fully remote model. It could be that they don’t want to give up their offices or their employees don’t enjoy being fully remote. Or both, really.

A hybrid working model is great for employees who crave the increased flexibility it brings. Employees enjoy the freedom of being able to more or less choose the days they go into the office and the days they stay home. 

Hybrid work has been shown to improve employee retention and improve their mental health altogether. With benefits like that, it’s no wonder that more and more companies are shifting to a hybrid model instead of going fully remote. 

But is it better or worse for the environment?

Benefits and bottlenecks

The environmental benefits of a hybrid working model are few, I’m afraid. 

If people don’t move further away from where they work, then the one and only benefit we’ve seen so far is the reduction of commutes. However, with people moving further away from city centers and opting for larger houses, that benefit shrinks and shrinks.

Not to mention the extra energy it takes to power people’s homes when they’re there all day. With a hybrid model, people’s homes are consuming more energy and office buildings are consuming the same amount of energy as they were before. 

In 2021, Carbon Trust, a consultancy based out of the UK, wrote a report on remote work in which they stated:

“In a worst-case scenario, a hybrid working future could…create a world where buildings and homes are used inefficiently with a transport system that is unable to respond to changing demand and potentially more cars on roads.” 

Experts believe that an environmentally-friendly hybrid model could be possible, but that it’s still too early to know how to do it.

The problems with remote work sustainability

So what is the solution?

Often when it comes to environmental issues and challenges, we tend to oversimplify solutions. We might be tempted to say that remote work is the most environmentally-friendly way to work, but as we saw, that’s not the case for every company.

While it may be the best model for an all-remote, international company like Process Street, which has never had offices, the switch to remote isn’t the best option for others.

Hybrid working is really showing to be the worst for the environment overall, but again that’s a generalization. Some companies out there may be doing a great job of making hybrid work sustainable, and we just don’t know about it yet.

The point is, in order to decide what type of working model is the most sustainable for your company, there’s a calculator you can use to compare different working scenarios.

When the software company Buffer tested its own emissions and compared onsite vs. remote working for the company, they found that a remote model was the most sustainable option for them. You never know until you compare the numbers.

Ultimately, the climate crisis is by far the biggest thing affecting our future. Looking for more sustainable ways to live on the individual and small business levels is really great, but the reality is that it isn’t going to make a dent in the problem. We need sweeping and dramatic changes to combat the changing climate, as evidenced by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report in 2018.

Until homes and offices are all powered by renewable energy, the debate of which working model is best for the planet will keep going. For now, the best solution is to adopt the most sustainable option for your company. It may not be the perfect solution, but it’s the best we can do for now until the powers that be make the changes we really need. 

We would love to hear from you: which model your company uses, if you have changed it since the pandemic, and whether you feel your emissions have gone up or down. Feel free to comment below.

Automattic’s Remote Work Framework: How to Reach Autonomous & Asynchronous Nirvana

What if I told you that the organization powering 35% of the internet’s websites is fully remote?

Automattic has a remote workforce based in 75 countries. You might be asking how such a successful business can be fully remote. That’s where Automattic’s remote framework guide sheds some light.  

Many people underestimated the power of remote work – until the global pandemic forced everyone to stay indoors. Even then, many people still thought about the remote work model through the lens of “there’s a pandemic, so you need to work from home.”

Yet, it’s so much greater than that (if you set it up right). We should know – because at Process Street, we’ve been fully remote since 2014. In today’s article, we’re taking a look at Automattic’s remote work framework and how you can achieve autonomous and asynchronous nirvana with it. 

Let’s talk business! 

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How 4 Top Startups are Reinventing Organizational Structure

How 4 Top Startups are Reinventing Organizational Structure header As we’ll see, certain elements which we consider part of the normal workplace are being abandoned by experimenting companies in favor of new models.

But why are they being abandoned?

For some, it’s about reducing overhead. For others, it’s about finding new ways to combat the traditional problems a growing company faces. It could be about opening up a broader talent pool, increasing adaptability, or navigating uncertain economic environments.

The ultimate goal is to make the company more successful.

Here at Process Street, we have our own thoughts on that looming forebearer, hierarchical structure, so we thought we’d check out what the Jones’s are up to. This post will look at the organizational structure of four of the most successful startups out there and why they’ve opted to make the long-established hierarchical structure on its head.

Let’s get to it.
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The Impact of Data & Tech on the Future of Hybrid Work for Startups

The Impact of Data & Tech on the Future of Hybrid Work for StartupsJoanne Camarce is a digital marketer focused on growing and strategizing B2B marketing and PR efforts. She loves slaying outreach campaigns and connecting with brands like G2, Wordstream, Process Street, and more. When she’s not wearing her marketing hat, you’ll find Joanne lost in the world of Japanese music and art, or just being a dog mom.

From increased employee autonomy to the transformation of offices into meeting hubs, the world of work has experienced a fundamental shift in how things are done. As data and tech innovations continue to morph the future of hybrid work for startups, that change will keep moving.

And that’s a good thing.

None of us knew exactly how much change the pandemic would bring, and some of that change has been frustrating, difficult, and not exactly ideal. Some of it, though, has been very necessary. Some of that change has even been a bit brilliant and revolutionized workplace accessibility in ways many employees have only dreamt of.

We’re talking about change that has made the startup world more efficient, strategic, and, heck – more human.

So how exactly do data and tech continue to impact the future of hybrid work for startups? Let’s find out.

In this post for Process Street, I’ll cover the primary impact hybrid has had so far – and what companies can expect going forward:

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Ask Before You Hire: 12 Interview Questions for Web Developers

freelance web developer interview questionsWith 5+ years in digital marketing, Yulia Mamonova is driving Lemon.io’s growth with her spot-on writing and clear messages. A writer and a researcher at heart, Yuliia knows how to engage with the readership and build a story that’ll stand out. Yuliia has written over 1500+ pieces over the last few years reshaping the world of FinTech, startups, and content marketing with her skills.

If you are reading this article, you may have already considered outsourcing some of your work to a freelance professional or perhaps even had some experience hiring a freelancer for your project. Or you may have been on the other side of the fence and taken up gig jobs yourself.

Anyway, the post-COVID world has shown us that we need to reevaluate our approach to ‘normal’ work and that freelance workers or independent contractors have a lot to offer to modern businesses facing a lot of budget constraints in these interesting times.

By hiring skilled freelancers, companies can secure themselves the expertise that would otherwise be hard to afford. They can be more responsive to the ever-evolving customers’ demands and still save money by cutting down on benefits.

However, to bring these perks to life, one must choose a real hero of the business’ story, someone who will understand what your team is trying to achieve and consistently contribute to the company’s goals.

In this Process Street post, we’ll be covering:

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Best Remote-First Companies to Work For in a Post-Pandemic World

best remote companiesRemote work isn’t the future of work – it’s the present. Since 2020, video calls are happening twice as often, and almost 70% of full-time workers are working remotely compared to before the COVID-19 pandemic began.

Today, employees not only embrace remote work, they expect it, with one in two US workers stating that they would not be prepared to return to a job that didn’t accommodate for some kind of remote working.

For many reasons, the sentiment towards remote work from an employee perspective is largely positive, with a surprisingly large number of surveyed individuals stating that they have been able to maintain or even improve their productivity during the pandemic.

That’s why, in a post-pandemic world, so many of the remote-first companies who had already established effective fully-remote teams are thriving.

In this article, I’ll examine some of the best remote-first teams you could be working for, with a focus on what to look for when considering if a company is truly fully-remote, and how the company culture can reflect a remote-first mentality.

Here’s a breakdown of the article:

Let’s start with the current state of remote work; what can we learn from recent reports & statistics?

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How to Combat Zoom Fatigue: Synchronous vs. Asynchronous Communication

How to Combat Zoom Fatigue Synchronous vs Asynchronous CommunicationIt’s 4 p.m. and you’ve got a welcome call with your newest team member. Ideally, you’d feel full of life, ready to welcome her with enthusiasm and get her excited about the weeks to come.

Problem is, this is your 6th video call of the day and you’re overrun with Zoom fatigue.

You’ve been turned “on” (not in a good way) for the last 7 hours and are severely lacking in enthusiasm, let alone excitement.

The worst thing is, the majority of those meetings were unnecessary, everything covered in them could’ve been communicated asynchronously.

Simply put, asynchronous communication involves communicating remotely without expecting an immediate response. This can be done via iMessage, pre-recorded video/audio, making suggestions to an existing project (think: Google Docs/Sheets, Github, Jira).

The challenge is knowing, when and how to use synchronous vs. asynchronous communication methods. Fortunately, this post is here to teach you just that so you can avoid Zoom fatigue and stop being real-time, all the time. Feel free to skip to a specific section of the post using the links below.

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Reduce Employee Turnover by 63% Using Employee Acknowledgment

Employee Acknowledgment

This is a guest post by Katerina Mery, a marketing specialist at Fond. Fond is a rewards and recognition company dedicated to building places where employees love to work. Mery authors articles about how to leverage recognition programs to drive company success.

Think back to the last time a colleague acknowledged you for a job well done.

How did you feel?

Did the experience have an impact on your behavior moving forward? Did the exchange affect your relationship with the person thanking you? What about your relationship with the company in general?

63% of employees who are acknowledged for the work they do are unlikely to look for a new job. Expressing gratitude at work takes relatively little effort, but it can create an incredibly memorable professional experience. Knowing that you did a good job is one thing, having a colleague call out your great work takes the experience to another level.

Business objectives can sometimes feel at odds with an enjoyable employee experience. Employee acknowledgment, however, is a practice that effortlessly supports both.

From this Process Street article, you’ll learn how employee acknowledgment simultaneously caters to your organization’s business objectives. You’ll also learn how to meet the emotional needs of your employees using fantastic positive feedback loops that generate continual improvements across the board.

We say employee acknowledgment is a smart initiative a company can adopt – but before you take our word for it, allow us to explain why.

Click on the relevant subheader below to jump to your section of choice, alternatively scroll down to read all we have to say.

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Set Up a Home Workspace That Inspires Productivity

home workspaceNouman provides ghostwriting and copywriting services. His educational background in the technical field and business studies helps him in tackling topics ranging from career and business productivity to web development and digital marketing. He occasionally writes articles for carpet cleaning.

Working from home has become the new normal. However, it can be difficult to ensure productivity when you work at home.

Although the concept of a traditional office is no more, we all require a dedicated workspace to get things done.

If you are having trouble staying productive while working from home, then chances are that you need to set up a home workspace that inspires productivity. Not many people realize just how important it is to have a dedicated workspace.

According to data, workspace design plays a huge role in our productivity levels.

The question is: How can you design your workspace in such a way that boosts creativity, connection, and productivity? Fortunately, this Process Street blog post is here to help. There is no need to worry as this guide will provide you with all the information you need to feel motivated to work.

When you decide to work remotely, you need to understand that it comes with a fair share of complications. The main of which involves setting up your home workspace to ensure maximum productivity. Fortunately for you, this article is here to help you get started.

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Developer Onboarding Best Practices With 11 Top Tips for Remote Teams

developer onboarding

This is a guest post by Romi Catauta at Toptal. Catauta works in the marketing field and is passionate about writing on web design, business, interior design, and psychology.

Did you know that 53% of developers said working remotely was a priority when looking for a new job?

Finding the right developers to add to your team can be one of the most challenging hiring tasks for your HR department. It’s a cut-throat market, with smart companies steering top talent away from competitors.

And when you consider most developers are looking for remote-based work, this makes developer onboarding a whole different ballgame.

To help, we at Process Street give you our top tips, tricks, and best practices that’ll help you identify, hire, and retain talented remote developers.

Whether you’re wondering how to hire a CSS developer, a full stack developer, or anything in between, this guide will help you find the perfect candidate for the job.

We at Process Street know a thing or two about remote work. The below advice has is therefore tried, tested, and approved as best practice.

What are you waiting for?

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