Saving the World One Flexible Space at a Time

Photo credit: iStockphoto/solarseven

It is widely accepted that efforts to promote flexibility at work can attract and retain the right talents. The COVID-19 epidemic and the Tokyo 2020 Olympics preparation have also put the spotlight on why it is time for flexible working. 

Now, HR has another reason to drive flexible workspaces: the environment.

According to the Suburban Economic Study, commissioned by Regus and conducted by independent economists, “outer city” office spaces will cut carbon emissions by the equivalent of 1,280,000 transatlantic flights between London and New York each year by 2029. In China alone, a total of 320,000 metric tonnes of carbon emissions would be cut, equivalent to 160,000 transatlantic flights.

This is based on 250kg CO2 equivalent per hour flying.

The mathematics is straightforward. By allowing people to work closer to home, a local office space will save workers an average of 7,416 hours per year in reduced commuting times, equating to a reduction of 118 metric tonnes of carbon emissions per center per year.

In the U.S., where commuting times are among the world's longest, this reduction increases to 208 metric tons per year. In emerging markets, like China and India, the carbon savings may be smaller but still significant. In China, a total of 9,208 hours will be saved through remote working each year, which converts into an estimate of 52 metric tons of carbon savings. The report estimates a reduction of 54 metric tons of carbon emissions per year for India.

"Commuting can be uncomfortable, unfriendly, and incredibly time-consuming. It is also a huge source of global pollution," says Mark Dixon, chief executive officer of  Regus' parent company IWG. "In an age where every business and individual has a responsibility for their environmental impact in the world, commuting into major cities looks increasingly old fashioned."

Regus already sees some large companies addressing the need for flexible working through their policies. As it becomes the new normal, moving away from working in a single, central location, the report forecasts that employees can soon expect to be based outside of the major metropolitan hubs in flex spaces.

The so-called “flex” economy can also drive economic benefits. The report notes that it can contribute more than USD 254 billion to local economies in the next decade. On average, 121 new jobs globally are created in communities that contain a flexible workspace, with an extra USD 9.63 million going directly into the local economy.

"Over the next decade, we expect to open many more locations in smaller towns, cities, and suburban areas. Our vision is that, soon, there will be a professional workspace available on every corner ending the idea of commuting for good. This will benefit our personal health, as well as that of our planet," says Dixon.

So which is better, asking your employees to work from home or at a co-working space? The report suggests the latter because co-working spaces are designed to be more energy-efficient and have better ventilation and illumination. But of course, the report does come from a provider of such spaces. 

Photo credit: iStockphoto/solarseven