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Can Homeworking Save the Planet?

A new Smith Institute report looks at the contribution new ways of working can make

We need to plan for much greater integration of homes and workspaces if we are going to meet carbon reduction targets, according to an influential group of thinkers, practitioners and policy-makers across the private, public and not-for-profit sectors.

Home is where the work is for an ever growing number of people – 12% of the workforce, and 41% of businesses.

A shake-up of policy across the board is needed – planning policy, enterprise policy and transport policy in particular. If we carry on as if nothing has changed, we will be designing-in unsustainable working and commuting practices. Instead we need to plan for much increased levels of home-based working if we wish to achieve a low carbon economy.

The need for a radical rethink is put forward in a new report from think-tank The Smith Institute, Can Homeworking Save the Planet? How homes can become workspace in a low carbon economy launched at the British Academy on November 19th by Matthew Taylor MP.

According to the authors, the gradual approaches we now have to reducing carbon are not enough. Simply making homes, offices and cars more energy efficient will not deliver the scale of benefits needed if we still have work patterns rooted in the industrial age. What is needed is a radically new approach to where and how we work, that will substantially reduce the need to commute and the need to build separate workplaces.

The report provides new evidence of the sustainability impacts of new ways of working using information and communication technologies. The barriers to maximising the benefits from these are partly cultural and partly rooted in policies based on outdated assumptions.

The report’s editors are Tim Dwelly, Director of the Live/Work Network, and Andy Lake, editor of Flexibility.co.uk.

 According to Tim Dwelly, “The government has plans to build 3 million new homes, mostly within commuting distance of London, plus huge amounts of new office space. Instead of building for the old world of work, the government should be planning for homes that include space for work, and new communities that include live/work quarters and local work hubs that support home-based enterprises. Social housing providers often ban working from home. They need to turn this around, and build homes and developments that enable people to work as well as put a roof over their heads.”

Andy Lake said: “The eco-towns proposals are basically fig leafs covering the nakedness of business-as-usual in planning and development. The authors in this report are putting forward creative approaches for policy-makers to create the infrastructure for low carbon working. We need to plan for the home as a centre for multiple activities, including work, study, healthcare, food production and increased social interaction. We should be planning for enterprising communities, not dormitories for commuters.”

The report includes essays by:

  • Kate Barker, Adviser to HM Treasury and author of the Barker Review of the Planning System
  • Richard Simmons, Chief Executive of the Commission for Architecture & the Built Environment;
  • Gideon Amos, Chief Executive of the Town and Country Planning Association
  • Susheel Rao, Sustainability Adviser to the Duchy of Cornwall
  • Stephen Glaister, Executive Director of the RAC Foundation
  • Dennis Pamlin, Global Policy Advisor at the WWF
  • Caroline Waters, Director of People and Policy at BT
  • David Cowans, Group Chief Executive of Places for People
  • Peter James, Professor of Environmental Management at Bradford University
  • Colin Mason, Professor of Entrepreneurship at Strathclyde University
  • Tim Dwelly, Director of the Live/Work Network, and
  • Andy Lake, editor of Flexibility.co.uk

Each essay provides its own perspective, and together they provide powerful arguments for moving homeworking and flexibility closer to the centre of policy for addressing climate change.


Download the report

To download the report in pdf form click the link below:

Can Homeworking Save the Planet?





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