Calculating work from home emissions

June 26, 2023

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

Everything you need to know about choosing the best carbon accounting method

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Infographic: How to calculate emissions rom working from home and remote work

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.)

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.  


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.  

Use our carbon calculator to calculate remote employee emissions

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

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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.

Editorial statement
At Sustain.Life, our goal is to provide the most up-to-date, objective, and research-based information to help readers make informed decisions. Written by practitioners and experts, articles are grounded in research and experience-based practices. All information has been fact-checked and reviewed by our team of sustainability professionals to ensure content is accurate and aligns with current industry standards. Articles contain trusted third-party sources that are either directly linked to the text or listed at the bottom to take readers directly to the source.
Sustain.Life Team
Sustain.Life’s teams of sustainability practitioners and experts often collaborate on articles, videos, and other content.
Alyssa Rade
Alyssa Rade is the chief sustainability officer at Sustain.Life. She has over ten years of corporate sustainability experience and guides Sustain.Life’s platform features.
The takeaway

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 measuring the carbon emissions from your remote workforce using Sustain.Life. 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.