Calculating work from home emissions

January 24, 2022
Article

How to calculate your company’s remote emissions from home office equipment.

AT A GLANCE

Calculating your company’s emissions from remote and WFH employees

What to include: Emissions created by the equipment—owned by your organization or its employees—to perform remote work. This includes everything from home heating, cooling, and lighting to computers and other home office equipment.

Why measure: Believe it or not, emissions from your employees’ home offices are part of your company’s comprehensive greenhouse gas (GHG) inventory.

Emissions scope: Scope 3

How often: Survey employees to get accurate monthly calculations or estimate an annual total with Sustain.Life.

What to do next: Create a baseline by estimating the carbon emissions from your remote workforce with our carbon calculator tool. Then decide how to curb those emissions through a series of initiatives like purchasing energy-efficient ENERGY STAR-certified computer monitors and incentives for employees to switch to LED bulbs, smart thermostats, and smart plugs.

The coronavirus pandemic brought with it a massive shift to remote work. Even in late 2021, an estimated 45% of full-time employees work remotely. Depending on your industry, working patterns, and company policies, that number could be much higher. (For Sustain.Life, it’s 100% because we’re fully remote.)

Use our carbon calculator to calculate remote employee emissions

Plus, it includes a full suite of other carbon calculators to measure and manage your GHG emissions.

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With the remote work shift comes a shift in emissions—from the workplace to the home. More remote workers mean more remote work emissions and higher home energy bills. Compared to 2019, during the height of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, American households spent $6 billion more on power and used about 21% more water.

Less commercial energy use—which is more carbon intensive—and fewer hours spent commuting might not be such a bad thing when it comes to climate change and environmental impact.  

Regardless of whether remote work is here to stay, it makes up a more significant portion of many companies’ carbon footprints than ever before.  

Much of that energy consumption has been siphoned from commercial spaces, which are less efficient because they typically have one speed: on (or off). They often operate at full HVAC and lighting capacity, even when occupancy is low. According to an article in Bloomberg, “In the work-from-home era, it may be more economical to keep employees at home during particularly hot or cold periods, as managing extremes is an energy-intensive business.”  

Great for your company’s carbon footprint, right? Not so fast. Believe it or not, you should account for your remote workers’ GHG emissions in your company’s carbon footprint.  

Why should you track your work from home emissions?

If your company has no remote employees, you can stop reading here. But if you’re like Sustain.Life, a fully remote company, or even a portion of your workforce is remote, you’re going to want to continue.

Emissions your employees create while working from home could end up being a significant portion of your overall carbon footprint.  

SIDE NOTE

While Sustain.Life measures the annual greenhouse gas emissions for our entire staff, we also offset those emissions—plus personal ones—as an added employee benefit.

What emissions scope do remote work emissions fall into?

Even though they don’t physically happen at your company’s owned facilities, your employees still create emissions on your behalf. So what contributes to emissions in a home office? Put simply, it’s all the equipment your remote employees use to perform work—computers, monitors, printers, and keyboards, plus lighting, heating, and cooling.  

Home office and remote work emissions are scope 3 because your company creates them indirectly.  

If you’re asking,” Scope 3? What’s that?,” this quick video will get you off on the right foot about emissions scopes (scope 1, 2, and 3) and why they’re important.  

How to calculate and estimate remote work emissions from home offices:

Similar to our commuting emissions calculator, you can track your company’s carbon footprint from its remote employees in a few steps:  

1. Find out your company’s total number of employees.  

2. Estimate the percentage of your employees that work remotely.  

3. If you’re able, collect the total combined wattage for your organization’s home office equipment (Sustain.Life includes a survey you can send to employees to gather this info). If not, we’ll give you an estimate based on national averages.  

Sustain.Life’s automatic carbon calculator for WFH emissions

4. Sign in to your Sustain.Life account and go to the home office equipment emissions calculator and enter the data you gathered.  

5. That’s it. Sustain.Life automatically calculates your carbon footprint in metric tons (MT) of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e), and you can calculate this each month or do it in quarterly or annual batches.  

What’s next?

Once you’ve measured your employee’s emissions from their home office, it’s time to think about reducing them as much as possible. Thinking about the equipment they use—for example, you could purchase ENERGY STAR-rated equipment, purchase a carbon offset subscription, or even provide incentives for switching to renewable energy to cut down on emissions. It’s also an opportunity to engage your remote employees—ask them how they’d like to build a more efficient home office and what support they’d like.  

Sign up for a demo to learn how you can use our platform to manage, offset, and reduce your employee emissions on and off-site.

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The takeaway

• An estimated 45% of full-time employees work remotely.
• It could be more economical and environmentally friendly to keep employees working from home.
• Emissions your employees create while working from home could end up being a significant portion of your overall carbon footprint.