In Cardiff and everywhere, there has been a lot of talk lately about clean air and reducing carbon emissions and indeed, in Wales, the Government has declared a climate emergency which suggests they are finally taking this seriously and we are going to see some critical action.
As ever with this conversation, the ideas and actions for tackling carbon emissions tend to be focused on getting people to switch their mode of travel from the car to cleaner, greener forms of transport such as electric cars, bike or train.
What I notice though is that those responsible for solving this problem rarely seem to ask themselves the very important question: ‘What if people didn’t need to travel?’
We are so entrenched in an industrial model that work is still seen as a place we go rather than something we do and so rarely given the consideration it deserves as one of the tools in the box when it comes to tackling climate change.
As someone with a long history of promoting flexible working, I can see a lot of opportunities not only for the environment but for individuals and employers too. So why are we not talking more about this and how working differently can reduce carbon emissions whilst also increasing community cohesion and overall well-being?
It’s a bold claim but I believe that it’s because so many managers are scared to let people get on with it and unable to tell if they are actually working if they can’t see someone at a desk in front of them. Too many organisations manage people on the basis of time and presence in the office. Just think what we could achieve if that switched to trust and outcomes instead?
Part of the issue is the number of limiting beliefs around different ways of working so here are some common myths and realities that will hopefully help to open up some new ways of thinking about how we can reduce the need to travel for work purposes, reduce carbon emissions and improve air quality.
Myth: When we talk about working differently, we mean people working from home on a permanent basis.
Reality: Working in an office and working from home are just two options in a broad spectrum and also not mutually exclusive. People could maybe work one day a week in their local community which could be at home or in a community hub or café or anywhere they feel inspired. This would reduce the need to travel and increase feelings of connections in the community.
Myth: If people are at home, they will have more distractions.
Reality: When people are working from home, they might put the washing out or get the dinner started and that is actually ok. When they are in work, they might be talking about what happened last night on Coronation Street or making everyone a cup of tea which is also ok. Regardless of whatever household tasks get done when at home, most people would say that working remotely is great for getting on with work projects because there are fewer distractions.
Myth: Working remotely has a negative impact on well-being.
Reality: If you work alone, at home, all day, every day, this can have a negative impact on well-being for some people. However, working from home sometimes can be beneficial because people can concentrate on a piece of work and save time travelling to the office which they can then spend getting jobs done or playing with their children. This can have a positive impact on well-being.
Myth: Supporting remote working requires expensive video conferencing platforms to allow people to remain connected.
Reality: We are better connected than ever before so utilisation of the wide range of free channels available to us means that teams can remain connected regardless of location.
Myth: Managers are automatically equipped to cope with any working arrangement.
Reality: Technology has transformed what is possible in the workplace, allowing people to work whenever and wherever is best to get the job done. Ensuring staff performance when managing remote workers is something that many feel less confident about so training should be built in to organisational development programmes to ensure managers have the necessary skills to cope with all situations.
Do you think working differently has the potential to help reduce carbon emissions? Do you have thoughts on how we can build confidence and skills to manage different ways of working? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
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