The Environmental impact of the Modern Workplace
The Environmental impact of the Modern Workplace
At Converge, we view ourselves as stewards of the environment and that factors into everything we do. From stringent waste management processes and IT product recycling initiatives to the packaging we use and how we run our offices, our environmental initiatives extend far beyond minimal compliance.
During the pandemic, many organizations made the move to remote or hybrid workplaces. With this shift, the day-to-day of many people changed drastically. As a result, we have put a lot of consideration into the environmental impact of this change.
How collaboration technologies are making work greener
Making it simpler to connect is not the only way that technology powering the Modern Workplace is reshaping the world. Their environmental impact is undeniable.
Let’s take commuting for example. Before the pandemic, roughly 90% of the population would drive to work. Most of them by themselves. Working remotely has cleared up roads drastically, saving time, money, and gas emissions. In the US alone, this reduction in traffic has saved roads from about 112 billion miles of average wear and tear.[i] This lowers construction, and maintenance needs significantly.
In hybrid and remote work environments, paper and office supplies have become almost obsolete. For example, one no longer needs to print out dozens of copies for meeting attendees. They may now attend from the comfort of their home and have everything at their fingertips on devices configured for their needs.
The energy needs for large office buildings that are not being used at full capacity have also gone down. With fewer people in the office, and less need for heat and air conditioning, this has considerably lowered the energy emissions of the organizations.
Some environmental concerns regarding hybrid and remote workplace
While the remote or hybrid workplace offers many environmental benefits, there are some negative environmental considerations.
For example, with employees spending less time in the office, the energy to power their workstations must be drawn from other places. Now each individual worker’s building needs to be heated or cooled instead of just one office building. Add to that having lights on for more hours of the day and having several devices per user drawing power can end up creating more emissions. Furthermore, many newer office buildings have been built with high sustainability standards.
One UK study found that the average employee who works from home year-round produces 2.5 tonnes of carbon per year, “around 80% more than an office worker.”[ii]
It is not just energy needs that increase with home offices. Recreating the office at home has led to an increase in home deliveries for new equipment, devices, furniture and more. Home office desk sales alone increased by 438% from April to June 2020.[iii] This means pollution from manufacturing, and delivery vehicles.
For those opting for a hybrid work environment where employees work at home some days and at the office on others, communal office space still needs to be maintained which offsets some of the potential energy savings.
A note about electronic waste
One of the downsides of the Modern Workplace is how much electronic waste it can generate. With more devices per worker and the increased potential device damage or loss in a remote, hybrid, and mobile work environment can wreak havoc on landfills.
Electronic waste not only threatens our environment, but it also threatens the health of humans and animals. And, in 2020 alone, e-waste was marked at 53.6 million tonnes worldwide.[iv] That is expected to grow to 74 million tonnes yearly in the next decade.
Procuring quality products that are built to last can help reduce e-waste. This is where best-in-class devices like Microsoft Surface shine. Not only are Surface devices well-built and Energy Star certified, they are also manufactured and packaged in keeping with Microsoft’s stringent environmental standards. The tech giant has been carbon neutral across the world since 2012 and commits to being carbon negative by 2030. [v]
Microsoft takes it even further by requiring that all third-party products be tested and certified by the Windows Hardware Quality Labs (WHQL) before they can display the Windows logo on their packaging. Criteria being measured includes Power Management features which greatly enhance the longevity of key system components, reduce power requirements, and offer overall improved efficiency and performance to the user and the environment.
All the manufacturers we work with share our commitment to sustainability and ethical resourcing. Intel, for example, has put in place a new program called R.I.S.E. so that by 2030 they will be running on 100% renewable energy and be at a net-zero for water and waste emissions.[vi] IBM has also long valued sustainability. Their first environmental policy was implemented in 1971.[vii]
When devices do need to be decommissioned, disposing of them properly is important not only for sustainability but also to protect data. Converge offers comprehensive decommissioning services and even offers a FREE take-back program for packaging materials and Northern Micro products. This service is available nationwide in Canada and offers both pick-up and mail-back options.
The Modern Workplace is here to stay, and with it we do see a greener horizon. However, that does not negate the fact that we still need to take multiple aspects of sustainability into consideration to meet are environmental commitments.
Want to modernize your workplace and make it more sustainable at the same time?
Contact one of our Modern Work experts.
Learn more about Northern Micro and Converge’s environmental stewardship initiatives.