Is flexible working the way to save the planet?

The environmental benefits to the planet of flexible working are being studied in one of the world’s busiest cities


The impact of flexible working on the planet’s pollution levels is the subject of a major new study.

Authorities in India are trialling flexible working in a host of workplaces to see if it will reduce congestion and pollution in Mumbai.

The scheme will see workers stagger their start time. So anyone living near their workplace will still start at 9am. However people who live further out won’t be expected in the office till much later in the morning. Shifts will still last eight or nine hours irrespective of start time.

One aspect of the trial that will be interesting to watch will be the impact on workplace dynamics. For example, if those earning the highest salaries live in the furthest out suburbs it may leave employees without access to bosses for the first few hours of the day.

Environmental benefits

Advocates for flexible working have begun to focus on its environmental benefits. As climate change rises up the political agenda more imaginative solutions are sought. Here the Labour party tried to sell its policy of free broadband on environmental grounds. Better network connections would allow more people to work from home.

The Indian study doesn’t seem to go as far as entertaining working from home.

Staggering working hours is also seen as a smart way to cut congestion on the roads and over-crowding on public transport. WHSmith is trialling a core hours project at its head office that means employees can alter their start and finish time.

Separate studies in other Indian cities will see a fleet of electric bikes introduced in an effort to cut air pollution.

A spokesman for the Maharashtra state body charged with tackling pollution said, “With a two-pronged strategy, we are assessing aspects of shared and clean mobility, and how beneficial these projects may be for common citizens.”

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