Can flexible working save the environment?
Wed 14 August 19
Despite the proliferation of digital nomads tapping away on their laptops in local coffee bars over recent years, the daily commute is still very much a key feature of the working day for employees up and down the UK. The right to request flexible working was rolled out in 2014 but even today, five years on, less than 10% of jobs paying over £20,000 are advertised as being flexible.
Although the primary motivations behind the move towards more agile methods of working - which encompass flexibility in respect of both time and location of work - have been primarily financial (reduced office rents for employers) and social (family-friendly), there is a third good reason: environmental. Less commuting would undoubtedly lead to fewer car journeys and a subsequent reduction in pollution; according to a report from the Carbon Trust, greater adoption of homeworking could save around 3 million tons of carbon emissions in the UK alone.
Over the past few decades, the perception of environmentalism has transformed from a “hippie fad” to a mainstream concern; the results of a recent survey conducted by Greener UK and the Climate Coalition indicates that around two thirds of British citizens want to see urgent political action taken by their MPs to tackle climate change and protect the natural environment. Many businesses now include environmental policies in their corporate social responsibility agendas and, in a legacy act in the final days of her premiership, Theresa May enshrined in law a commitment to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
Perhaps the environmental benefits which accrue from abandoning the daily commute will provide the tipping point for wide-scale adoption of flexible working. In the meantime, the government may build upon the 2014 flexible working legislation; MP Helen Whately recently introduced a bill in Parliament to make flexible working the default position for all employees as part of a move to close the gender pay gap.
Any tools which help professionals to work remotely will bolster agile working policies. One such tool is digital dictation, especially when it’s linked up to the cloud. Lawyers, who have traditionally relied upon office-based secretarial staff to type up correspondence, can now use cloud digital dictation software to work from anywhere, avoiding the daily commute and reducing their carbon footprint as a result.
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