Transport is responsible for 28% of the UK’s carbon emissions, most of these being created by cars. 78% of work related travel in the East of England is undertaken by car.
Avoiding as much of this travel as possible bears a considerable potential for reducing not only the employer’s but also each individual’s carbon footprint.
Enabling those that can to avoid the commute and work remotely has been recognised as a good way not only to save carbon but also money. The employee could potentially save money by avoiding costs for fuel, parking or public transport, whilst employers might be able to economise on office and parking space, as well as other savings (such as catering etc).
Obviously remote working is not possible for everyone, but the technological development over recent years has made it much easier for a lot of office based workers. For those that worry about the social or mental health aspect of remote working co-working spaces might be a good alternative to the classic home office.
The Covid-19 measures like barring people from travelling into offices has accelerated the trend of more people working remotely and forced companies to get to grips with the technology required for this new way of working. Government advice is still to work from home if possible, and for employers to take “all reasonable steps” to enable this. It seems likely that many “office” jobs will continue to be done from home for the foreseeable future, yet another way in which businesses have unintentionally cut their carbon footprint as well as office costs. Most businesses will be working to adapt to the changes they’ve already seen.
Working from home
Arranging for workers to work remotely might be new to both or either employers and/or employees.
Employers should talk to their employees about how they might improve working from home arrangements and support employees to adjust to remote working. Teams will need to consider doing things differently and individual employees’ needs, for example anyone with childcare responsibilities, a long-term health condition or a disability. Important: write down the arrangements that have been agreed so everyone’s clear.
By law, employers are responsible for the health and safety of all employees, including those working from home. Even if it’s very unlikely that employers can carry out usual health and safety risk assessments at an employee’s home, an employer should still check that the employee has the right equipment and feels the work can be done safely. Managers keep in regular contact with their employees, including making sure they do not feel isolated. If changes are needed, employers are responsible for making sure they happen.
Changing to homeworking may be a challenge for many managers and employees, particularly if they’re used to working together face-to-face. It’s important to build up a healthy relationship of trust and confidence. Employers and managers should make sure that everyone working from home knows what’s expected of them.
This includes agreeing:
- when employees will be available to work
- how they will keep in touch
- how work-life balance will be managed, for example taking regular breaks and switching off from work at the end of the day
- rules around storing information and data protection
- how performance will be managed and measured – taking into account people’s circumstances where necessary
- who employees should contact if they have any problems or their circumstances change
It’s important to recognise that some employees may find it hard to motivate and organise themselves when working from home.
If this happens, the manager and employee should talk about practical steps that might help.
Employees also have a responsibility to take reasonable care of their own health and safety. Anyone working from home should keep in regular contact with their manager.
Employees may want to talk to their employer if they run up costs through having to work from home. Employers may have their own policy on this. Find out more about homeworking expenses on GOV.UK.
Equipment and technology
Employers are responsible for the equipment and technology they give employees so they can work from home. They should also support the employee to set up any new equipment or technology.
Employers should regularly assess how their systems and temporary arrangements are working and make any improvements.
Looking after mental and physical health
It’s likely that employers and employees are experiencing a high level of stress and anxiety at the moment. Find out more about supporting mental health in the workplace.
It’s important for employees to take regular breaks, for example to avoid sitting at a computer for too long. They should also try to do other things to stay mentally and physically active outside of their working hours. It’s a good idea for employers to remind staff about this.
Find out more about looking after your mental health from the Mental Health Foundation.
Keeping in touch
Employers and employees should keep in touch regularly. This should include regular communication between:
- individual employees and their managers
- employees who need to work together
- team members
This might involve new ways of working, for example using video or conference calling technology.
Pay and terms and conditions of employment
Employees who are working from home must get the same pay, if they are working their usual hours. Their usual terms and conditions still apply, apart from having to work from home on a temporary basis. Employers need to make sure staff working from home follow the law on working hours.
What is Coworking?
Coworking spaces offer their users a shared space to work. Individuals and companies can book work spaces like desks in open plan offices, or seperate rooms in these shared spaces. They usually provide all the basic infrastructure of an office like furniture, kitchens, toilets etc. Some even offer additional services like handling mail and calls or other office admin. Offers usually range from annual contracts to flexible memberships to suit most needs.
Having started in the USA 15 years ago, coworking spaces have become more and more common across the world. They are most common in urban, but also starting to occur in rural areas. Coworking is not just about the sharing of infrastructure and cost, but also aims to provide a sense of community, as well as a productive and collaborative environment environment.
There are a couple of coworking offers available in Cambridgeshire: