Guest Blog Post by Mike Gifford, founder of OpenConcept Consulting Inc.
There has been a huge shift to using digital tools over the last month or so as people seek ways of continuing to work, study and interact with each other while staying at home to comply with physical distancing.
This has in many ways had advantages for the environment. People are commuting a lot less, many nearly empty buildings have turned down heating (or air conditioning). We are also consuming less stuff because we are actively being discouraged from leaving our homes.
But digital transformation does have an environmental cost. It takes a lot of energy to deliver all of those video conferences, stream all those movies, and engage in all of our favourite social media platforms. There are absolutely good reasons to do this, but we should also be aware of the costs of this consumption and do what we can to minimize it.
In this three-part blog series by Mike Gifford, founder and CEO of Open Concept, we will take a look at what the environmental impact of digital tools is and what steps we can take in our everyday lives to reduce it.
Read part 1 of the series here : What Can Organizations Do To Reduce CO2 During The Pandemic?
Read part 2 of the series here: How To Minimize The Impact Of Digital Technology During The Pandemic
Building an Effective Remote Work Culture
Many organizations and individuals are struggling to build a good work culture through this pandemic. Especially those that are used to working in traditional office settings.
In seeking solutions, many are looking to organizations that have already chosen to abandon ties to brick and mortar. There are so many great resources on working remotely:
- Jeff Robins, a long-time leader in the Drupal CMS community and a remote work advocate, has a newsletter, podcast and writes articles in Yonder.
- The global remote tech company Zapier raises a number of points about culture, but also the importance of still getting together physically.
- Much of this has been pioneered by tech companies like GitLab.
- It is more important than ever to make meetings count.
- Messaging apps are super useful too, so no surprise that Slack has wisdom to share.
- We can’t forget about the value of culture, which the Toggl team reminds us of.
- Forbes also has some good ideas.
There are absolutely environmental costs of working remotely, but they will likely be outweighed by the costs of commuting and maintaining a separate office environment.
There has been a lot of discussion about the apparent effect of the pandemic on CO2 levels. In early March, Scientific American published an article demonstrating that it is more complicated than this and how we respond will have a big impact on whether we achieve an overall reduction or not. In May, the BBC published a comprehensive overview of what it is dubbing “the biggest carbon crash ever recorded”. But experts warn that a systematic change in how energy is generated and transmitted is needed to fix the carbon emission problem.
Do you really Need an Office?
As the pandemic continues to impact the workplace, remote working (for most) has become the new normal. But what happens in the post-pandemic world? Will your team want to return to commuting? There are definitely challenges with working remotely, but there are also real advantages. And while not all organizations can work remotely, an increasing number are finding that they can.
OpenConcept is moving permanently to a virtual work environment and encourages others to do so as well. With COVID-19 it is clear that as a digital company, we need to be taking leadership in adopting a remote workforce. We don’t see the world returning to the way it was in February, and want to invest in our people and our clients, rather than heating another building.
We have put our office up on the market and will be looking to learn from other companies in our community that have already done this and are thriving. Many of the tools people are struggling to learn now, we were already using. We will be looking to find new ways to build a culture that allows us to function more effectively as a team.
And Finally …
Ultimately there are a lot of things that each of us can do to reduce our carbon footprint. Sometimes it can be as simple as remembering the basics: turning off lights, keeping the temperature of your home (or office) at 20 degrees Celsius, using power bars for your devices and turning them off at night, only using your car when you really need to. What options are right for you and your team will be something that only you can determine. We are in a place now we didn’t expect we could be at the beginning of March. There has been a dramatic shift in what we thought was possible both personally and globally. Maybe we can use this pause to consider what we can do to shift green when we emerge.
We have to experiment with new approaches to a low carbon economy. Whatever you are experimenting with, share it with others. Good solutions are going to be more powerful the more people adopt them. Communities like EnviroCentre’s Carbon613 are a great place to do this.
About the author
Mike Gifford is the founder of OpenConcept Consulting Inc, which he started in 1999. Since then, he has been particularly active in developing and extending open source content management systems to allow people to get closer to their content. Before starting OpenConcept, Mike had worked for a number of national NGOs including Oxfam Canada and Friends of the Earth.
As a techie at heart, Mike likes to get into the code when he gets the chance. Being ultimately concerned about the implementation and implications of the technology, he is able to envision how your website can become a much more powerful communications tool for your organization.