Home working

Grain's home working guidelines

The Grain team is all remote and home-based. These are our guidelines for home working best practices. We’re sharing them publicly because remote or hybrid working is now becoming more of a norm due to the pandemic as well as advances in technology.

Setup – mental space and ergonomics

  1. Ideally, you will have a dedicated space which you don’t need to move around, e.g. not the kitchen table.
  2. Check the ergonomics: do you have a proper chair with the right back support? Do you need a second screen, laptop stand, an extra keyboard, a “handshake” mouse with wrist support on the mouse mat?
  3. Is the room light and natural light appropriate, without glare in your face or reflecting off the screen?
  4. Be sure to take regular breaks, at least every hour. Another guideline is to take your eyes off the screen every 20 minutes and focus your eyes in the distance for 20 seconds.
  5. Using WhatsApp on a laptop will save you texting on a small screen.
  6. Try to divide your work time and personal time with a regular routine. Some people build in “commute” time with a walk around the block or reading or listening to music to help transition from home to work life and back.
  7. Get outside at least once a day.

Home electricity and heating

Who is your energy supplier? Ecotricity, Good Energy, and GEUK (previously Green Energy UK) are top ranks from Ethical Consumer magazine because they are all helping build new sources of renewable energy. Bulb and Together Energy also get high marks.

Ideally you would use one of those providers.

UK housing stock tends to be old and leaky. Our ancient boilers and inefficient central heating may not seem so attractive when we rely on them on a more consistent basis. Of course, we want to help our pockets, as well as the environment, and there are options to save both. The first step is to check your thermostat. Consider a maximum of 20°C, with each degree saving carbon and at least £80/year on bills.

Slightly more time consuming and expensive, but worthwhile additions are draft excluders, double glazing and insulation.

Turn off your devices, lights and gadgets when not in use rather than leaving them on standby.

Going one step further, you could consider investing in solar energy to possibly be self-sufficient with electricity and even sell on to the grid.

If your home is well insulated, you may want to install a heat pump.

Avoiding waste

What we throw away is startlingly apparent when we put it in our own bins, instead of at the office. Grain’s aim is to be paper-free, so please think twice before hitting the print button. Whatever stationery you do buy could be sourced locally (opting for recycled FSC paper) or from The Green Stationery Company.

It’s easy to get caught up in the “recycling” aspect of the mantra “reduce, reuse, recycle”. We imagine that all of the Grain team are already using reusable bags rather than plastic or paper ones, and perhaps buying in bulk to avoid single-use plastics. With no commute, in theory we have more time for cooking at home, avoiding the packaging that comes with prepared foods. There’s a plethora of plastic free options – get some ideas at The Plastic Free Shop.

Many supermarkets like Tesco, Waitrose and the Co-op are now accepting all kinds of soft plastics and packaging like crisp packets for recycling. There are TerraCycle schemes for other items like CD cases, toothpaste tubes and pens. Superdrug locations with pharmacies even recycle medicine blister packs in aid of Marie Curie.

Note that industrially compostable items like coffee cups are not always acceptable in the council’s compost bin, which may go to anaerobic digestion. That means that the coffee cups need to go in the general black bin. The lids can usually be recycled. Plastics marked 1, 2, and 5 are the most widely recycled types. Check what your local household waste recycling centre accepts.

If left in the general black bin, batteries can be dangerous, causing explosions and toxic leakage. There are battery collection points in many shops, and some councils allow you to simply leave them in a bag on top of the bin.

If you have items to give away, the Olio and NextDoor apps, local Facebook groups, and sites like Freecycle and Freegle are brilliant.

Electronics, devices and hardware

If it’s time for a new device or hardware – a laptop, screen, or smartphone – consider buying secondhand or refurbished. Most devices’ carbon footprints come from the embodied carbon, rather than from usage, so the longer a device is in use the better. It’s easier to keep rare metals in use in the same device than to somehow extract and reuse them.

Graphic from RSA’s The Great Recovery.

The Fairphone is best in the industry for greener electronics, if you can bear to veer away from the Apple ecosystem.

On the other hand, if you have an excess of equipment, think about donating to local school schemes or charitable organisations. The Restart Project lists programmes throughout the UK. Check before dropping anything off at a charity, since many don’t accept electrical goods and computers.

Look for a local Repair Café or similar where you may be able to repair appliances.

If something electric or electronic needs to be disposed of, follow the WEEE (Waste Electric and Electronic Equipment) Regulations and drop it at your local household waste recycling centre. There are further guidelines on hazardous waste here.

Whether donating or disposing of any device, be sure to wipe it of all data beforehand.

Data itself creates carbon emissions – a simple email less than a PDF, Zoom on audio only 4% compared to video…but at the same time a video call causes just a fraction of the emissions of travelling to a meeting. It’s all about balance!

What else can we do?

One of the benefits of working from home is our choice in purchasing. We can buy our food in fewer trips and avoid the packaged lunchtime sandwich.

We can shop locally, and extend this to our supplier connections for all of our household and family needs.

Taking further steps, we could spend that lazy lunchtime online (changing your search engine to Ecosia, which plants trees with every search) looking at ethical banks for your personal or business account — every pound in the bank or pension is worth nine in leverage. B Corp Triodos Bank uses their funds on sustainable projects and charity ventures.

Our personal carbon footprints are made up of about 25% home, 25% travel, 25% food and 25% everything else. We covered homes and energy above. Regarding travel, it is Grain’s policy to avoid travel, particularly flying, as much as possible, opting for video calls and emails instead. In our personal lives, taking public transportation, walking and cycling are always preferable to driving or flying. Check out our “bananas” infographic for more detail. If it’s time for a change of vehicle, the smallest suitable secondhand electric car would be the way to go.

For food, we all know by now that a local, in season plant-based diet is the most sustainable and if you don’t want to eat only swede and sprouts all winter then being flexitarian may be more manageable.

It’s likely you’re already living along the lines described here, so thank you! Grain’s mission is to help businesses become champions for people and the planet, and we as individuals can all be looking out for each other and our home planet too.