Owing to the difficult circumstances that have hit Belgium and the rest of the world in 2020, many of you have had to embrace homeworking. It is indeed the most effective measure employers can take to protect their teams from COVID-19.
While it isn’t possible for everyone to work from home, it is at least a possibility for those who only need a computer and internet access.
Nevertheless, it is important to remember that homeworking requires some thought. Besides the logistical issues (equipment, connectivity, access to specific programs or internal company servers, etc.), there are also other concerns to be taken into account. For instance, the validity of workplace insurance or costs related to energy consumption.
In a homeworking situation, electricity and heating consumption during the hours worked at home will, in principle, be your responsibility, and not your employer’s. It would indeed be very complicated to separate your professional consumption from your private consumption during this period.
According to Wikipower estimates, the breakdown of the additional energy consumption is as follows:
This means that if you heat with gas, your energy bill could be EUR 12 extra per month. If you heat with electricity, this amount would increase to EUR 18. Your employer may decide to give you compensation, but this isn’t a legal obligation.
However, there is no need to panic. Even though these extra expenses shouldn’t be taken lightly, they can be reduced. That is why Energyprice.be has prepared a list of 8 tips to help you minimize your energy consumption during your homeworking hours.
It is important to air your house or apartment properly to get rid of any humidity. The accumulation of humidity inside your home can make your heating system less efficient, since heat is less well distributed in a humid environment. We therefore advise you to open your windows a quarter of an hour in the morning, before starting work, especially in the room where you plan to spend your homeworking hours. A bit of fresh air will always do you some good!
First of all, remember that it isn’t advisable to maintain an ambient temperature higher than19 or 20°C. The human body adapts perfectly to this level of ambient temperature, although some people who feel the cold more may not necessarily agree.
If it is important to you to consume as little as possible for economic or ecological reasons, then we would certainly encourage you to reduce your heating a little more, by setting your thermostat to 17°C.
To maintain a pleasant level of comfort nonetheless, all you have to do is put on some extra clothing, for instance, a thicker jumper. You can also take advantage of the natural warmth of the sun’s rays on sunny days by placing your workstation near a window with good exposure to light.
Finally, as Wikipower’s figures clearly show, heating with electricity is more expensive than heating with gas or oil. Therefore, avoid electric radiators as much as possible.
A desktop computer is generally more powerful than a laptop. In addition, it remains connected to the mains at all times. Hence, it consumes more energy. A laptop also has a more practical format. This is why it is preferable to use a laptop whenever possible, when you work from home. However, this isn’t always an option. This is particularly the case for artists and graphic designers. The small format of a laptop screen means that it is difficult for them to work efficiently on their projects.
If you opt for a laptop, avoid leaving it constantly plugged into the mains. Not only does this damage the quality of its battery, but it also leads to extra and unnecessary power consumption when your computer is fully charged.
There is no need to leave your computer screen on if you are away from your workstation for 10 to 15 minutes or when you take your lunch break. In that case, it is better to put it on standby, either by closing your laptop or locking your computer.
You can usually configure your computer to automatically go into sleep mode after a few minutes of inactivity. However, we still recommend that you adopt the habit of manually locking your computer whenever you need to leave it idle, even if only for a minute. Besides reducing activity and therefore energy consumption, it is also a useful precaution if you are working on confidential files.
This advice is as valid in the workplace as when you are working from home. Minimize printing documents for the benefit of the planet. Note that with the PDF document reader “Acrobat Reader”, you can fill out forms directly on your computer and even sign them. So think about taking advantage of this option before choosing to print!
As for scanning documents, if you only have one or two sheets to scan, you don’t need to turn on your scanner/printer for that. Now there are numerous free smartphone applications that allow you to make high-quality scans of documents.
This might seem obvious, but it doesn’t hurt to remind you: reduce your use of artificial lighting. Don’t turn your lights on during the day, and opt for the natural light provided by the sun. Obviously, this isn’t always possible, especially if the sky goes dark during a storm, for instance. In this case, make sure you have LED light bulbs, which consume much less energy than incandescent light bulbs. For the rest of the time, and as long as you don’t have to strain your eyes, opt for the natural light provided by the sun.
This tip is especially for coffee addicts. It is difficult to find time to make good coffee in the workplace. However, things are different when you are working from home. When you are homeworking, you can seize the opportunity to take your French press coffee maker out of the cupboard. You can use it to make a full-bodied cup of coffee. It will take you slightly longer to make it than with a percolator (4 to 5 minutes), but the result is not only more economical (although that depends on the model), but also tastier.
All you need to do is heat up some water (we recommend using an electric kettle, which is quicker and less energy-consuming than heating water in the microwave or in a pan), pour it into the French press where you have already put the amount of coffee you want to make, then let it brew and press the coffee.
For those of you who want to experience an old-fashioned coffee, you can heat the water using a candle heater. This is the most ecological solution, and it is certainly very stylish!
This advice is more of a general reminder to avoid wasting energy rather than advice specific to homeworking, but it is especially applicable in this particular case. Since your electricity consumption increases significantly when you have to work from home, it is all the more important to keep an eye on any unnecessary losses in order to maintain an optimum level of energy consumption. Therefore, make sure you unplug any electrical appliances you aren’t using during the day, such as your television (this will also be one less distraction!) or your domestic appliances. Don’t forget phone or laptop chargers either.
If limited to one or two days a week, you shouldn’t see a big change in your energy consumption while homeworking. However, you may feel more of an impact if you switch to homeworking for an extended period of time, for instance, in cases of force majeure (such as the coronavirus epidemic we are currently experiencing) or if you are unable to travel (broken leg, etc.).
In such cases, it is best to take every precaution to prevent your energy bill from soaring. Besides reducing your consumption by following the abovementioned advice, it might be useful to keep your budget under control by changing suppliers. You can do this by taking advantage of a group energy purchase, as organized by Wikipower, in order to benefit from an advantageous group price.
Lastly, you can also compare energy tariffs yourself through an independent price comparison service such as Energyprice.be, in order to find the cheapest electricity or gas contract.
We wish you every success in keeping your energy consumption under control and a pleasant homeworking experience, despite the current rather unusual conditions!
If you have any questions, you can phone our advisors free of charge on 0800 37 369.