Over the last decade, many companies and industries have increased their focus on sustainability by measuring the environmental impacts of daily operations and pursuing corporate social responsibility initiatives to reduce waste and energy costs. Following the advent of ubiquitous high-speed internet and high-quality videoconferencing services, businesses large and small began testing part-time remote-work policies, which can reduce travel emissions and office electricity use.
Although the hybrid office was already a popular idea at the start of 2020, no one could have envisioned how much would change by year-end. As the COVID-19 pandemic rapidly pushed the global knowledge workforce to work remotely, businesses began paying more attention to how much energy and emissions they might be saving by reducing daily commutes, business travel, and heating and air conditioning for offices. Global climate change remains a concern for virtually every industry, and it is becoming clearer each day that traditional practices such as frequent long-distance business travel and long daily commutes may never regain their peak popularity.
Today, it is virtually impossible to ignore the environmental impacts of products, services, and work itself. While there is no silver bullet to eliminate emissions and other impacts stemming from office work, high-quality videoconferencing is increasingly being seen as a net-benefit way to reduce an organization’s total footprint.
Instead of burning gasoline to commute to the office for a meeting or burning jet fuel to fly to a client’s headquarters, businesses can hold video meetings. They can also conduct virtual site visits, walkthroughs, speeches, seminars, and even entire conventions, dramatically lowering the environmental impact.
A growing body of research is revealing that work-from-home and hybrid-work policies can significantly lower electricity usage in office buildings, in addition to direct fossil fuel use for vehicles. With 28% of total U.S. emissions originating in transportation, companies striving to improve sustainability can make few changes that are more impactful than enabling workers to work from home at least part-time.
In fact, Kate Lister, president of Global Workplace Analytics, recently stated, “There is no easier, quicker, and cheaper way to reduce your carbon footprint than by reducing commuter travel … The annual environmental impact of half-time remote work (for those who both want to work remotely and have a compatible job) would be the greenhouse gas equivalent of taking the entire New York state workforce off the road.”
Looking Good While Doing Good
The quality of collaboration technology is key to making remote collaboration—and reduced corporate carbon emissions—a reality. Luckily, videoconferencing technology has advanced immensely.
Remote workers can face technical challenges if they’re using the wrong collaboration technology, however. Many basic webcams and microphones integrated in laptops, for example, don’t even match the video- and audio-capture quality of high-end smartphones. Since the home office is the new corner office, workers who spend hours a day on video will want to look their best and make investments to improve quality and reliability.
Better solutions exist in abundance, with advanced cameras, microphones, headsets, and software all helping to improve the quality of virtual communications through clearer picture and sound and more reliable, trouble-free setup. The options range from sub-$100 packages that simply upgrade the audio and video quality to $1,000-plus professional-grade tools with special features like noise cancellation; remote controls; pan, tilt, and zoom functionality; and multiple cameras and multi-microphone arrays that can capture entire rooms evenly.