Working from Home Sustainably: 5 Tips for the Office inside Your Own 4 Walls

Working from Home Sustainably: 5 Tips for the Office inside Your Own 4 Walls

At first, many employees were forced to stay home during the pandemic. Today, many of them are allowed to work from home if they wish. When a temporary arrangement becomes an everyday routine, new challenges arise. This blog post gives you some useful tips on how to work sustainably in your office at home.

Working from home has taken root in everyday life, and many employees want to continue to do that at least a couple of days a week. Companies like SIX are embracing this trend and permanently allow their employees to work from home, usually for a set number of days per week or month, because a day spent working from home benefits one’s work-life balance, saves commuting time, and protects our environment.

Is Working from Home Good for Our Climate?

A dissertation written by Gottlieb Duttweiler Institute senior researcher Jan Bieser examined the question of how working from home affects the CO2 balance. As he explains in an interview with SIX, there is no simple answer. Reducing commuter traffic certainly has a big impact, he says. He therefore asserts that “if we are mindful of a few things, working from home is better for our climate than conditions were prior to the pandemic.” That mindfulness includes companies cutting back their office space to reduce energy consumption. But how can workers contribute to climate protection inside their own four walls?

New Work at SIX

Working from home is desired by SIX and will remain a fixture even after the pandemic. SIX employees can spend up to 60% of their working time at home. Meanwhile, the real estate management unit at SIX is trying to utilize offices spaces more efficiently wherever possible. For example, employees of the digital exchange SDX, who used to work in a separate building, are now stationed in the headquarters building of SIX. A pilot project with co-working spaces is currently underway in Biel, Switzerland. SIX is also constantly evaluating how offices spaces in locations outside Switzerland can be used more efficiently or downsized.

The design of working spaces is also being rethought, moving away from assigned cubicles and toward shared workspaces and the introduction of an activity-based work model. This means that working spaces in the future will be designed in accordance with each team’s specific needs. In the event that workers do come into the office onsite, SIX encourages commuting with ecological means of transportation and subsidizes public transit passes for its employees.

Working from Home: From a Temporary Arrangement to an Established Work Model

For many, the dawn of the work-from-home era was initially about getting the basics in place: a functioning laptop or PC, a headset, a small printer, a stable internet connection, and a place at home where a person can work with this equipment as undisturbed as possible. These makeshift beginnings have since turned into an established recognized work model. The matter at hand now is to optimize this work model from the point of view of sustainability.

How to Make Working from Home Sustainable

When your workspace at home ceases to be an interim solution and the first electrical, water, and heating bills land in your mailbox, by then at the latest it’s time to think about designing your office at home sustainably for ecological reasons, but also because it’s in your financial interests to do so – because electricity consumption at home racks up on your own meter and puts a dent in your wallet.

According to the Elektrizitätswerk des Kantons Zürich power company, private households in the canton of Zurich consumed 15% more electricity than usual during the lockdown in spring 2020. No wonder: the France-based non-profit organization The Shift Project calculates that information and communications technology around the world accounts for a total of 3.7% of all greenhouse gas emissions, exceeding the emissions footprint of the civil aviation industry.

Our five tips for a sustainable home office therefore help to save energy, but also go beyond that:

Tip 1: Put a Muzzle on Electricity Guzzlers

Your computer display is the home office appliance with the biggest appetite for electricity. And the bigger the screen, the more power it devours. If you turn down its brightness, it immediately consumes less electricity. When you leave your workspace, even just for a short time, put your computer in sleep mode. Don’t use a screen saver. They are unnecessary, but consume energy.

The foundation of an office at home is the internet, and the gateway to the web is your router, which is a real electricity guzzler. At a consumption rate of 8 watts per hour, a router in continuous operation draws 88 kilowatt hours per year. But very few office workers toil at night. So, you can confidently disconnect your router from the power supply. The easiest way to do that is with a plug strip with an on/off switch. That way you can also turn off your printer and all other devices in standby mode at the same time when you go to bed.

You’ll never be able to do entirely without electricity, so consider switching to green power.

Tip 2: Be Economical with Data

Much of our data these days gets stored in the cloud and no longer takes up space on our hard drives. In order for that to work, high-capacity servers are in operation somewhere, consuming enormous amounts of electricity. It helps if you reduce the volume of data you store, avoid duplicate storage, and save old data onto an external hard drive if need be.

The same goes for emails. They don’t cost any postage, but sending and receiving them costs electricity. It therefore makes sense to unsubscribe from superfluous mailing lists and to send large data packets via a download link. By the way, a videoconference causes CO2 emissions too – 4 grams per hour, as the Swiss Academy of Sciences has calculated.

In addition, when doing research on the internet, you can utilize “green” search engines. Ecosia is a well-known address here. Its operators are actively engaged in climate protection efforts, they run their servers on electricity from renewable energy sources, and use their profits to plant new trees.

Whoever would like to know the carbon footprint of his or her personal internet activity can use the Carbonalyser browser add-on to calculate it.

Tip 3: Heat Intelligently

The days of entering a department store in winter and immediately breaking into a sweat underneath your heavy coat are probably over given this year’s natural gas and oil price trend. Companies, administrations, and the European Union are already contemplating limiting temperatures in offices and public buildings due to the natural gas crisis.

Turning down the thermostat in your home also pays off because each degree less reduces the average household’s energy consumption by around 6%. Heat consciously. Or move your workspace to a smaller room that warms up faster than your home’s large living/dining area, for example.

Tip 4: Use Sustainable Office Materials

An office at home usually cannot do entirely without a printer. When a signature is required, at the latest that’s when a document must be printed out, signed, scanned, and returned. Whoever upholds high sustainability standards here as well chooses printer paper with the Blue Angel ecolabel or FSC-certified paper. You can reuse the back side of printouts you no longer need as note paper.

And whoever wants to buy new writing instruments or other office tools can resort to products made of bamboo or other natural materials.

Tip 5: Don’t Waste Any Water

Whoever works from home and drinks the recommended two liters of fluid per day – and has to expel it eventually – knows how much that costs by reading the water meter. According to a survey conducted by the Swiss Gas and Water Industry Association, every resident of Switzerland flushes an average of 42 liters of water down the toilet every day.

Older toilets send 9 to 14 liters per flush into the sewer system even though 6 to 9 liters would suffice, according to calculations by the German Environment Agency, which also states that “the water amount can even be reduced to 3 liters depending on what’s being flushed.” So, whoever presses the smaller flush button on toilet models equipped with two, pushes the flush-stop button in time, or lowers the water setting in the toilet tank consumes much less of the stuff of life.