- By Bill Lydon
- May 02, 2023
- The Final Say
Employees working primarily at home can have an important impact on improving the environment and contributing to increased sustainability. A fundamental energy conservation concept I was taught years ago is that the best unit of energy is the one you don’t use. Since work from home obviously saves energy and lowers carbon emissions, it follows that sensible work-from-home policies should be part of company commitments to the environment and to sustainability. However, I have been surprised at the number of companies promoting their Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) commitments while at the same time requiring employee time in the office.
Many public companies have positioned themselves as ESG-investable and diligently report their commitments to a variety of ESG targets. ESG investing refers to a set of standards for a company’s behavior used by socially conscious investors to screen potential investments.
Environmental criteria, for example, considers how a company safeguards the environment or addresses climate change. It also encompasses efficient water and energy use, carbon accounting, and environmental management systems. Social criteria examine how a company manages relationships with employees, suppliers, customers, and the communities in which it operates. Governance deals with a company’s values and behavior regarding leadership, executive pay, audits, internal controls, and shareholder rights.
The value of virtual meetings The COVID pandemic has proven the effectiveness of leveraging technology for virtual meetings and online collaboration. In my experience overall, virtual meetings have enhanced knowledge and creativity while allowing participants to interact with a much broader audience, often throughout the world, in small and large online group meetings. These types of interactions in most cases would not be practical just five years ago; now we have a wide range of significantly effective collaboration and communications technologies.
In the United States, passenger cars account for more than 40% of greenhouse gas emissions, followed by air travel at 10%. In addition, nonresidential buildings contribute a significant amount of greenhouse gas emissions. The pandemic derailed commuting and gave Americans back 60 million hours that had been spent in standstill traffic or a jampacked train car, according to new research from the New York Fed.
In my experience, work from home provides a significantly better work environment, particularly for knowledge workers who have access to quiet space and more natural light. Certainly, there is the need for occasional face-to-face meetings, but these often can be accomplished using hybrid approaches coupled with only going to an office occasionally. The idea that people need to be in the office “with the bosses watching” to be productive is a management issue too deep to discuss in this short article.
Of course, there are jobs that require people to be on-site. During the pandemic, however, when the number of people on-site was limited, numerous reports and articles documented how productivity increased using remote/virtual technologies. In industry, for example, subject matter experts located anywhere could collaborate with operations people on-site to solve problems. This approach maximizes the effectiveness and productivity of the limited number of subject matter experts. Automation professionals are important for making remote/virtual collaboration happen effectively.
Sensible and balanced work-from-home policies are consistent with socially responsible companies to achieve environmental and sustainability goals and commitments. This should be part of company commitments to be environmentally and sustainably responsible.
We want to hear from you! Please send us your comments and questions about this topic to InTechmagazine@isa.org.