How Working Remotely Reduces Carbon Footprints at Major Corporations
Job seekers looking to telecommute have long recognized the many great benefits of working remotely. Not only do at-home workers eliminate the costs associated with commuting, both time-wise and money-wise, they also have much greater leeway to make career and personal choices that promote healthy work-life balance.
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Increasingly, major corporations also are embracing remote work for a litany of reasons, including greater employee retention, high worker job satisfaction, and improved productivity. Major corporations are turning to telecommuting to reduce their carbon footprints, as evidence mounts (according to a report by Global Workplace Analytics) that working remotely is good not only for companies and employees, but for the environment.

Major global employers like Aetna, Dell and Xerox have initiatives that aim to benefit workers and the environment alike. Their collective efforts to reduce energy consumption mean that thousands of their employees are working remotely, immediately reducing their own carbon footprints–and by extension the carbon footprints of their employers.

Here are some of the ways that Aetna, Dell, and Xerox are working to reduce their carbon footprints.

Lowering Carbon Emissions

Some 8,000 Xerox employees work remotely via the company’s Virtual Workforce Program, performing a wide range of functions such as software programming, administrative support, data entry, and quality control. The success of the Virtual Workforce Program spurred Xerox’s plans in 2014 to expand the number of employees working remotely by about 1,000. Xerox cites a number of upsides to working remotely, such as employees’ saving mileage and wear-and-tear on their personal vehicles by working from their home offices, thereby using 4.6 million fewer gallons of gas. In turn, those and other measures have enabled Xerox to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by nearly 41,000 metric tons.

Shrinking Traditional Office “Real Estate”

Companies that have a substantial number of work-from-home workers often require less traditional office space, since most employees are working remotely. Major corporations such as IBM and Sun Microsystems have saved tens of millions of dollars by reducing real estate and overhead costs, according to the Global Analytics Workplace report. Virtual companies stand to benefit most of all, since they often have no “office headquarters.” Many companies are approaching the shift to working remotely in stages. Dell’s 2020 Legacy of Good Plan, launched in 2012, is part of a strategy that calls for a workforce in which 50 percent of employees are working remotely by 2020. So far, about 20,000 Dell employees, some 20 percent of the company’s labor force, are working remotely.

Demonstrating a Commitment to the Environment

Aetna has been a workplace leader in telecommuting for more than 20 years, about the length of time the company has offered a work-from-home option. In fact, Aetna touts “easy commutes” as one of its major Reasons to Work at Aetna. Today about 43 percent of Aetna’s workforce enjoy working remotely in virtual work arrangements.  Aetna and other big corporations can save on office equipment use and maintenance, since the high-volume, high-use office equipment used by companies usually consumes much more energy than at-home office equipment, the Global Workplace Analytics found. Working remotely can also reduce consumption of other resources such as paper products, particularly if both at-home and in-office workers optimize use of technology that allows digital sharing of documents and data.

Collectively, when organizations of all sizes promote working remotely as a choice for their employees, there are benefits to be had all around — happier, more productive workers; more robust bottom lines for businesses;  and a reduction in the global carbon footprint, thanks to telecommute-friendly companies worldwide.

By Adrianne Bibby | July 22, 2015

Jane Gonzalez
Associate Editor