How face-to-face work can promote sustainability

Face-to-face work has clear benefits: a greater focus on work tasks, much more frequent and effective cooperation, a very beneficial socialization on an emotional level and a deeper immersion in the context of the brand that leads to greater identification and involvement with the project. Both the company itself and the people who work for it are winners. But so does the planet: working in the office can also be very environmentally sustainable, both for clearly evident factors and for semi-hidden factors that are worth explaining.

Differences in the quality of energy management

The most important of these factors is the difference in energy efficiency. As explained a few years ago, in a BBC report, the specialist and Director of Sustainability of WSP UK, David Symons, "energy management in office buildings is generally more sophisticated than in homes". First, because they tend to have more advanced heating systems and, in cases such as those of office buildings like Diagonal 682 or Illacuna, as well as so many other Colonial assets, much less polluting. Second, because they are systems that heat the same building occupied by many people. 

Increased resource consumption

In the winter months, teleworkers have to turn on the heating to be able to work in optimal conditions. In the summer months they have to do the same with the air conditioning. But it is not just a question of aerothermics. According to Eva Rimbau, professor of Economics and Business Studies, "teleworkers have more need for heating, cooling, lighting, internet, kitchen or office materials" than face-to-face workers. It's a question of sharing: each worker at home requires devices and energy to meet those needs on his or her own, while in offices those resources are shared. It's much more efficient.

Increased distance to the office

There are many reasons to accept a job. And, until the advent of homeworking, proximity to the office was one of them. And a very relevant one indeed. In that sense, most workers tried to find jobs not too far from their homes or with a good connection that would allow them to get to the office efficiently. However, Rimbau herself theorizes, "the possibility of taking advantage of teleworking and avoiding commuting on some days might make workers more willing to accept a longer commuting distance on the days they go to the office: this could offset the emissions savings from teleworking days."

Benchmarking results

All these half-hidden polluting factors of homeworking are not mere speculation. In 2020, the British consulting firm WSP conducted an analysis to compare the carbon footprint of the two work modes. The conclusion was emphatic: "If a person worked at home all year round, they would produce 2.5 tons of carbon per year, about 80% more than an office employee." And that's when compared to a traditional office. The figures would be even more shocking if telecommuting were compared to working in modern, environmentally certified offices like the ones we have at Colonial. Sometimes the reality is just the opposite of what it appears to be.


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