Can home working ever be Carbon net zero?

By Fay Capstick

As we saw last week Covid has changed how we work, most probably forever. More people are spending some of their working week (if not all of it) working from home. With the climate crisis deepening how does this shift in working location impact the environment? Can home working be net zero, and what is net zero anyway? Home working is particularly popular in the industry we supply, IT and Digital, where a lot of work can be done from home.

What is Carbon Net Zero?

Net zero simply means carbon neutral, so the act of balancing the emission of carbon dioxide caused by an activity with its removal from the environment. This can be achieved through finding methods to lower the carbon impact of an activity, and then by off-setting what is generated above this, such as by tree planting.

Do emissions vary by season?

Carbon dioxide emissions from home working varies by season and country, and a lack of commute isn’t automatically better for the environment.

In the summer, if you live in the UK you likely won’t be running air-conditioning at home. Air-con takes a lot of energy to run, so this is a positive. In the winter for the UK it might be better for workers to be in an office rather than heating their whole home for themselves, assuming the office is efficient (many aren’t).

How do our homes impact our emissions?

A homeworker in a passive house (a house with minimal energy needs to heat and cool) would be better placed working from home regardless of season (and country). Homes that meet passive house standard are not common in the UK. Typically the newer the build the better energy rating it will have. A home heated through fossil fuels is not ideal for the environment and will make reaching net zero harder.

What research has been done?

The Carbon Trust recently produced a report looking at the impact of home working (

A surprising outcome of this research is that it is energy inefficient offices, and not simply avoiding commuting, that can have the biggest impact on reducing our carbon emissions and therefore helping to reach net zero.

For the days you do commute, remember all commuting is not equal

How you commute on the days you go into the office can make a huge difference. In Britain much commuting is done by bus, train and tube, which is positive. In the US the primary method is by car (only 5% commute using public transport:, and is the least efficient method you can use to get to work. But if your commuting is done by electric car, then that can make a positive difference to lowering your emissions. In Norway, for example, 40% of new cars are already electric. The UK has to play catch up. Our figure is currently 10.7% (

So does home working help to achieve carbon zero?

The Carbon Trust say that a hybrid working culture might not actually be better for the environment in areas where there are well designed buildings and transportation systems available.

Other aspects do represent a carbon saving over working in an office. Home working means that people are far less likely to print out documents. Any printing that needs to be done is likely to be minimal, with the printer being turned on and off as required.


So we can conclude that home working can help towards achieving net zero, but it’s complex. It depends on the country that you are working from, how your home is heated and how you would have travelled to work. The final piece of the equation is off-setting any of your extra emissions.

Our next blog post will be about how you as an individual can make the days that you do work from home greener.

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. By continuing you agree to the terms as specified in our cookie policy