Best carbon footprint forward: is WFH the greener way to go?


At Strutt & Parker, our Housing Futures Survey revealed that 38% of us WFH for at least three out of five days. However, just over half of those who still count a commute as part of their working week are now willing to travel further to the office than before the pandemic. And with 61% of the UK travelling by car to get to their workplace, this means carbon emissions could be on the rise.

The driving forces

Hybrid working and the flexibility it brings gives house hunters a lot more choice when it comes to what they want from their home. Today, green spaces are high on the must-have list – no doubt particularly important for the 66% of us with dogs who keep us company in the home office. However, distance to the office is now less of a driving force when seeking out that perfect property. In fact, our latest survey found that 81% are happy to travel up to 20 miles to their place of work – a sizeable increase from the 68% who said the same in 2020.

Less of us being on the roads on a daily basis is good news for the environment. But when we do embark on the morning commute, our journey to work has increased – making it less likely we’ll be able to cycle in for those face-to-face meetings. In some cases, this could potentially cancel out the savings we’ve attempted to make in the first place – both to our bank accounts and our carbon footprints.

In the UK, 40% of our carbon emissions come from households.

And 15% of this is from heating our homes.

A search for greener spaces

Double glazing. Energy-efficient heating systems. Electric car charging points. Today’s dealmakers and breakers show that property seekers are increasingly thinking green when putting down roots. Spending more time at home can cause a rise in domestic utility bills though – especially in the current climate – so these sought-after eco features are likely to be high up on the wish lists of those who WFH regularly.

Many hybrid home workers have spent considerable time finding the ideal WFH space, with the picture-perfect backdrop for their seven-a-day video calls. Could warming only that one room be a way forward? Also be sure to unplug laptops and monitors once they’re fully powered to help keep electricity costs under control. For some, solar-powered homes with dedicated WFH spaces could also be an option. In fact, 35% of home movers are looking out for solar panels in their house hunt.

Our Head of Sustainability, Donna Rourke, notes it’s important for sellers and buyers, as well as developers, to be aware of the “best ways to make homes more sustainable and the benefits of taking action”. But there are eco considerations for business owners too. If fewer employees commute to the office each day, how costly is it to host the ones who do?

50% of respondents said it was important their future home has electric car charging facilities

Seasonal changes

As the seasons change, working habits are likely to follow suit. Winter months naturally lead to a rise in energy usage as we reach to switch on the heating, lighting and kettles more frequently. With the cost of living increasingly on the rise, energy bills alone could drive many of the WFH generation back to the workplace. But for those still not heading into the office, there’s nothing to stop you from implementing your best office practices at home. From paperless working to effective waste recycling and washable cups and cutlery – small changes can make a positive eco-friendly difference.

Here are some simple – but effective – ways to reduce your carbon footprint when WFH, year-round:

1. Keep draughts at bay

A well-placed draught excluder, or heavy curtain, can block out breezes that come through the front door – which take the temperature down inside and the thermostat (and bills) up.

2. Capture the heat

Heat just the room you’re in. When working in the living room, it’s not necessary to heat the bedroom – unless it’s a duvet day.

3. Brew a strategic cuppa

Keep the cost of your hot drinks to a minimum by only boiling the water you need. But, have as much caffeine as required to get you through the day.

4. Screen your energy

Long-term cost savings can come from a short-term investment, such as a low-energy monitor or display – it will still show your many daily emails, but uses less power while doing so.

5. Block up the chimney

A chimney balloon can help with heat escaping through your chimney breast. They sit neatly inside the billowy space preventing costly warm air from making its way outside.

6. Step away from the oven

Join the crowds and have a go at air frying your WFH lunch – saving both energy and time, it’s a win-win.

Head to the latest instalment of our Housing Futures research, Life Moves: Reimagining Our Homesfor more insights on sustainability and striking the work-life balance.

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