I'm working from home today, though not out of choice.
I hate working from home. There are enough distractions to divert even the most single minded character, and sadly single mindedness is not one of my defining traits.
Just as way of example, as I type now I am but a click away from Bargain Hunt on BBC 1, a rather fetching looking Western of uncertain vintage on BBC 2, Loose Women on ITV, and, here's the clincher, Muppet's in Space on Channel 4. It's a miracle I'm getting any work done and between you and me as soon as CBBC comes on I'm not sure I'll be able to resist much longer.
Moreover, the argument that these domestic distractions are offset by the lack of office-based distractions doesn't really hold up when you consider that the miracle of email and IM means I can undertake the exact same meandering conversations with my colleagues that typically break up my office-bound day, only with fewer hand gestures.
No, I'm working from home because it is early January and as convention dictates I have the mother and father of all colds. I'm a spluttering, sneezing wreck and I'm not sure my colleagues would thank me if I dragged myself into work only to spend the whole day filling the air conditioning system with germs. As such I am sitting in my lounge trying to work out if it is possible to overdose on Lemsip - I've just read the box, it is apparently but I'm pretty sure I'm OK.
The silver lining to this miserable day should be that just a day after the TUC called on workers to do more to help make their workplace greener I am doing my bit, following the trade unions' advice and working from home. And yet, I'm pretty sure that far from cutting my carbon footprint my cold and subsequent domestic incarceration has only served to increase my carbon impact.
A report last year from the Consumer Electronics Association argued that home working in the US had led to an overall reduction in carbon emissions as eradicating emissions associated with commuting and office work more than offset increased domestic emissions. But while this may well be true for the economy as a whole (and it is still somewhat unclear if the same rule can be applied to the UK with its shorter commuting distances and greater use of public transport) it does not apply to each and every individual.
I'm not about to work out the exact carbon footprint - not least because my head feels like it is trapped in a very soft, but very real vice - but right now I'm guessing I'm not having the greenest of days.
Like a good environmentalist virtually everything in my flat is turned off while I'm at work, but right now the heating is on and I might have to turn it up if the weather forecast is right and it starts to snow later, a couple of lights are blazing away, the stereo has been playing all day (LCD Soundsystem, Feist, the Cribs, and Dylan's Nashville Skyline, since you ask), the coffee machine is keeping me caffeined up and the kettle has been boiled at regular intervals for the Lemsips. Moreover, the TV is going on as soon as Pingu comes on.
Admittedly I haven't travelled to work, but I usually get the Tube and even in my more egotistical moments I'm pretty sure the underground does not run solely for my benefit. Meanwhile, the light above my desk at BusinessGreen's central London bunker will still be blazing away and no one will have tweaked the heating to take account for my absence. The only difference is that my computer is not on, but then again this clunky old laptop has been on all day instead.
Of course, for many people the carbon calculations would prove quite different and working from home would deliver a net reduction in their carbon emissions. But as with so many green initiatives a blanket approach is unlikely to prove universally successful.
Businesses or employees embracing home working or considering doing so for environmental reasons need to look closely at individual worker's circumstances and assess whether or not working from home really will deliver net carbon savings. If it does they also need to look at ways to maximise those savings by ensuring that freed up office space is cut back or perhaps even by helping staff make their new home offices more energy efficient.
Home working has major role to play in any green business, but both employers and employees also have to realise that it will not work for everybody. It certainly doesn't work for me.
Right, I'm off to make myself another Lemsip.
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