‘There’s no going back’

Citrix Systems' Keith Littlejohns explains the butterfly effect of work flexibility.

Katie Hill - Editor-in-Chief, My Green Pod

Home » ‘There’s no going back’

Published: 22 April 2021

This Article was Written by: Katie Hill - My Green Pod

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This article first appeared in our Earth Day special issue of My Green Pod Magazine, distributed with The Guardian on 22 April 2021. Click here to subscribe to our digital edition and get each issue delivered straight to your inbox

As companies around the world continue to re-evaluate long-term work models, it’s fascinating to step back and consider the colossal knock-on effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, and the way it reinvented the usual work routine almost overnight.

For those of us who were fortunate enough to be able to continue our jobs remotely, the ‘normal’ workday became an experiment in what’s possible.

Fortunately, technology allowed business to continue, showcasing the power of remote work solutions. But it also optimised lifestyles in ways people did not expect, allowing
employees to re-evaluate what works for their individual circumstances.

Being productive suddenly opened doors to exciting new societal, environmental and health benefits.

Flexibility and emissions

The ‘butterfly effect’ has been described as the phenomenon whereby a small change in a complex system can have large effects elsewhere. It has become more apparent as our world becomes increasingly complex.

As we delve deeper into the positive impacts of work flexibility, we make fundamental changes that multiply and promote additional positive change: we discover that everything does connect to everything else.

Remote work solutions from Citrix enable anyone to work from anywhere, which reduces transportation emissions from commuting and enables a shift to more energy-efficient devices.

For example, with Citrix Workspace there’s no need for applications and data to reside on endpoint devices. This puts product sustainability into practice, because it allows customers to transition away from more energy-intensive desktops with large-screen displays and high-performance processors and towards more energy-efficient laptops. This can significantly decrease an organisation’s energy demand and reduce waste.

Citrix Workspace, combined with flexible remote work policies, can drive down corporate office space needs and reduce employee commuting, further reducing a company’s carbon footprint.

Slashing emissions

According to a recent PwC survey, the majority of CEOs believe that pandemic-driven shifts towards remote collaboration and fewer people working from offices are two trends that are probably here to stay.

When organisations deploy Citrix Workspace and manage client devices to optimise for energy efficiency, they can –depending on the size of their employee base – dramatically decrease the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with client computing.

That’s because giving employees the ability to work on any device – on any network anywhere – can decrease reliance on fossil fuels and reduce the burden of traffic congestion from commutes.

As an example, emissions from transportation account for 14% of global GHGs and 28% of GHGs in the US. In the US, transportation is the largest contributor to GHG emissions,
and prior to the Covid-19 pandemic over 75% of Americans commuted to work by private car.

Work-from-home employees in the US avoid emitting 3.6 million tonnes of commuting-related GHGs, which is the equivalent of 91 million trees planted.

Reducing GHGs from transportation also contributes to better air quality, a reduction in chronic health issues, a reduced dependency on fossil fuels, a healthier natural environment and more liveable cities. Likewise, reduced energy use overall can reduce pressure on ageing utilities infrastructure.

With 100 million Citrix users in more than 100 countries, savings at this scale are sufficient to address the climate crisis.

The known unknowns

It has always been clear that Citrix solutions help avoid GHG emissions for its customers, but the impact has been hard to quantify. It was also less clear how Citrix could advance sustainability as an organisation and explore the wider knock-on effects of remote work.

The company wanted to understand how it could go from enabling business efficiency to proactively contributing to the dematerialisation of the global economy.

Interestingly, many employees around the company were asking similar questions; from sales and marketing to investor relations and real estate, different stakeholder groups were interested in the broader role Citrix could play to help advance a low-carbon future.

The global Citrix workforce was asked what mattered to them, and more than 3,000 employees responded. 90% stated that working for an environmentally responsible company is important to them, and 82% said they would like to get involved with environmental and social projects within the company.

The company’s direct and indirect GHG emissions were analysed in a bid to find additional opportunities for reduction, including migrating more on-premise data centre usage to the Cloud, and increasing how much renewable energy is sourced and generated.

Citrix formulated a new target to reduce its absolute GHG emissions by 30% by 2030. The company expects to refine this target in the near term to receive approval from the Science Based Target initiative (SBTi) and ensure Citrix is doing its bit to keep global warming well below 2°C.

Overall, Citrix found that the tried and tested corporate message of ‘aligning sustainability and business strategy’ actually runs true, without the need to pivot and adapt its
product offerings in material ways.

Designing communities

By creating solutions that allow employees to do their best work, Citrix is nurturing more sustainable lifestyles and helping people to feel fulfilled – professionally and personally.

From less road congestion and food waste to enabling a distributed employee base and helping democratise the workforce, the sustainability benefits of asynchronous, flexible work are boundless.

If the pandemic has brought the world closer to ‘peak office’, then now is the time to rethink cities and towns on a more human scale, based on how we want to live and work.

A distributed workforce not only opens new economic opportunities to people in rural locations and small towns, but also allows for the repurposing of existing office space into much-needed housing in expensive urban areas.

A recent study suggests that young people in the US prefer living in urban neighbourhoods significantly more than previous generations. In short, flexible work means we can design neighbourhoods for communities, not commuters.

Companies have discovered that flexibility is key, and that there’s no one-size-fits-all solution to ensure their employees can do their best work.

In August 2020, REI announced it would embrace a distributed work model and sell its brand-new corporate campus after it re-examined ‘assumptions of the past’.

Many companies have extended remote work policies indefinitely and others, such as Citi and Ford, have announced hybrid work models.

No going back

We have been given a fascinating opportunity to use what we’ve learned from the pandemic to change our habits for the better.

Many traditional workday consequences were already known, such as the link between overlong commutes and unhappiness, but they should no longer be seen as inevitable.

The substantial time and resources once expended without a second thought are now conspicuous waste. We’ve shown that we can adapt and reallocate resources efficiently, to the benefit of company balance sheets, worker health and the climate.

Citrix has realised there’s no going back, and its greatest impact will be to harness the tools that facilitate remote working to support a sustainable future and improve people’s lives.

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