As the pandemic hit, we made the change to the new normal – working from home. We swapped the daily morning commute across cities for a walk downstairs, or to the home office if you’re lucky.

Sitting at the desk from 9 to 5 surrounded by colleagues seems like a distant memory. But as lockdown eases and workplaces slowly reopen, employees are set with a choice: to stay home or to embrace the office?

There have been some surprising benefits to working from home.

There’s the extra time we’ve gained from cancelling out the commute, the money we’ve saved from homemade lunches and the pollution reduced from staying in.

Whilst these factors may not be reason enough to permanently leave the office behind, there is some food for thought to be considered when we move forward.

Stay Home, Save the Planet

As the world paused for COVID-19, the planet was able to take a deep breath of cleaner air.

We’ve all seen the pictures of dolphins in Venice’s canals and the empty highways of Los Angeles, but how can we continue to make a difference on a local level?

Whilst the emergence of these images delighted the environmentalists, everyone knew this was a temporary positive of the pandemic.

Nevertheless, we can take inspiration from aspects of our accidental eco-friendly quarantine lifestyles.

In a recent Digital First Talent Strategy roundtable, David Scott, Resourcing Manager at Nationwide discussed the shift in the recruitment process, suggesting that a virtual hiring process could be incorporated into a business’ permanent green strategy.

He says, ‘I think that would be really well received. Young candidates are more and more concerned about social purpose and the future of our planet.’

David also highlights that optimising virtual interviews and reducing physical travel doesn’t just help out the environment, it reduces time strain on the day for both interviewer and interviewee.

Choosing to retain aspects of this transition period could benefit the environment more than we think.

Taking a combination of reduced office hours and increasing awareness of energy usage could be a positive way forward.

Monocle points out the importance of keeping our newfound flexibility.

Having a company culture where there is the option to come into the office if you need – for inspiration, to socialise, to build connections – but axing the concept that being in the office equals maximum productivity.

This outlook may just result in a happier and healthier workforce and planet.

To track the impact of blended home working and office working, Startups Magazine shared the Carbon Offsetting system with its readers.

Carbon Offsetting enables businesses the opportunity to counteract the everyday emissions generated from work life that cannot be avoided through funding sustainable projects across the globe that help to reduce or absorb equivalent CO2 emissions.

During the Digital First Talent Strategy roundtable, Ben Rutter, co-founder at Bond RPO, suggested the use of a carbon calculator to illustrate the tangible impact of these small work life changes.

He explains, ‘If you can say every first interview that we’re going to do this year is going to be done online and we’re also going to let everybody work one day a week from home, what’s the net effect on carbon that your business is bringing?

‘Using a carbon calculator shows you this by checking how many trees you’ll save, for example.’

Perhaps our eco-conscious next steps shouldn’t be to close the office doors long-term, but just to lose the stigma around homeworking.

Here’s an opportunity to learn from the adaptations COVID forced upon us.

Rather than reversing the progress, we made in reducing our emissions, we can continue to strive towards a greener future with more flexibility.