Sustainable remote and hybrid work requires green IT

Embracing Green IT for Sustainable Remote and Hybrid Work

How to Create a Sustainable Remote and Hybrid IT Infrastructure

It’s obvious that remote and hybrid work offer certain climate advantages: they take drivers off the road, reduce the burden on packed commuting systems, shrink corporate paper and plastic waste, and reduce the need for sprawling office parks. However, truly sustainable remote and hybrid work requires more than sending your workforce home. 

When employees are stuck working with outdated machines and with outdated IT infrastructure, power use surges. If companies make snap decisions to upgrade their team’s remote hardware, the old stuff tends to end up in landfills. And when companies pursue a hybrid work policy without thinking through its impact on how sustainable it is, they can inadvertently double the environmental impact of their IT decisions

When Canadian Payroll Services went remote in 2020, our HR and IT team worked quickly to make the transition a success. Once we made the decision to stay remote, our focus turned to finding better and greener ways of working remotely. Sustainable remote and hybrid work requires real, long-term commitment, but it’s work that pays off in efficiencies, cost savings, and your company culture. 

We talked to Canadian Payroll Services head of IT, Tim Kraft, about creating sustainable remote and hybrid work infrastructure and policies. 

How to Create a Sustainable Remote and Hybrid IT Infrastructure

What are the environmental benefits of remote work that are invisible to people who don’t work in IT?

Our office move is a good example. We went from a non-dedicated server space to a data centre (DC) with dedicated cooling, ventilation, and dust controls. When servers run hot, they use more power, so moving to a DC will reduce our carbon footprint through those efficiencies.

Do you consider environmental impact when purchasing hardware, setting up new systems, and choosing vendors?

Yes, environmental aspects are directly tied to cost. If I purchase hardware, I focus on Canadian vendors to cut down on shipping and import costs. The closer the better. We must also manage the amount of power our equipment draws in the DC, as we are limited to 20 amps. So, keeping it as low as possible is just more beneficial for us in that aspect as well.

How does a “green IT” approach benefit businesses? 

IT costs don’t tend to be direct revenue generators, so when possible, saving costs by going green can be our most effective option to add long-term cost savings to a business. My approach is to be as efficient as we can with design, location, and hardware selection.

What can companies do to green their remote and hybrid infrastructure?

Upgrade their hardware to more efficient systems. The typical server today is far more powerful than older models and still much less power-hungry. An internal example again for us is our recent network-attached storage purchase. We went from a device using 750 watts to one running on 300 watts. Moving to shared cloud providers such as Azure, or AWS would be another method. It again moves your infrastructure to well-managed power-efficient datacenters possibly on shared hardware.

Are there any policies companies can implement to encourage energy efficiency in their remote and hybrid workforce?

Regular IT maintenance, proper IT planning and investment can always help with these efficiencies. Energy costs for hardware affect every aspect of IT from servers to end-user desktops.

What can companies do to reduce electronic waste in their remote and hybrid workforce?

Proper care, maintenance, storage, and repairs can extend the life of IT equipment. Having reliable vendors for IT equipment recycling is important too, to keep harmful waste out of landfills.

What environmental issues do you expect to get more attention in the remote and hybrid work world?

I hope to see continued focus on hardware recycling. There are hundreds of heavy metals found in electronic equipment which should be kept out of landfills as much as possible. With rare earth minerals currently selling at a premium, we may see an added focus on this, as they are required for many internal components as well. The largest issue however may just be the cut to carbon emission possible, with a remote workforce removing commuter traffic and pollution from our roads.

Greening your remote or hybrid team? Download our remote work checklist to help your employees set up a greener home office. 

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