Unified communications help businesses go green

UC presents opportunities to save fuel, electricity and paper.

The productivity benefits, cost-savings and general ease of use of unified communications solutions are well documented. Enterprises, SMBs, government organizations, contact centers, health care providers and even educational institutions are all well aware of the power of UC tools such as video conferencing, VoIP, email and unified messaging. What many of these sectors may not realize is that UC is helping them go green. 

Reducing the carbon footprint 

One of the most frequently cited benefits of UC is that it severely limits the amount of business travel thanks to remote communication capabilities. Rather than flying across the country, employees can simply hop on a call, or initiate a video conference. 

Business VoIP offerings eliminate long-distance charges, so businesses are less reticent to get on the line with a partner across the country. Not only does this save the time and money associated with business travel, but it also reduces a company's carbon footprint. Burning jet fuel or a tank of gas is no longer necessary to meet with another branch out of state or to pitch ideas to a client on the other side of the continent.

"Telecommuting takes cars off the road."

UC also gives employees the option to work from home. Telecommuting is on the rise, with 80 to 90 percent of U.S. employees expressing an interest in having the option to work remotely at least part time, according to a study by GlobalWorkplaceAnalytics.com.

In addition to eliminating the morning commute and giving employees the option to keep up with work flows during inclement weather or in special circumstances, telecommuting takes cars off the road. For an employee with an hour-long commute each way, this can significantly reduce annual fuel emissions. This saves time spent traveling, money spent on gas and carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere. 

Less paper waste

Reducing the use of paper products in offices has been one of the most tangible benefits of the digitization of business communication systems. Company paperwork and announcements can be disseminated via email, and documents can be sent as attachments, or uploaded to a shared drive for universal access. Volumes of information can be stored in databases, freeing up office space that would have otherwise been occupied by large metal filing cabinets.

More importantly, the overall business demand for paper products is curtailed. In fact, the results of recent survey conducted by AIIM found that 49 percent of respondents have already begun to cut down on paper products in the office. 

And thanks to the fact that most VoIP phones integrate with computer software that allows for the storage of hundreds of contacts, the Rolodex is on the verge of obsolescence. 

Digital collaboration tools help cut down on office paper stacks.Digital collaboration tools help cut down on office paper stacks.

BYOD consolidates devices, saves energy

As paper disappears from offices, more devices are showing up with regularity. Laptops, tablets, smartphones and even smart watches are invading workplaces everywhere.

For companies that have hopped on the bring your own device bandwagon, this is actually a boon. Thanks to cloud computing and cloud UC, employees are more frequently presented with the option to work from their own devices. Rather than giving workers a company laptop or tablet in addition to the standard desktop so they can work outside the office, employees can log in to the business' network remotely on their own devices.

In addition to cutting hardware costs, BYOD eliminates the need to charge multiple work computers on a regular basis. Instead, personal and work computing happens from a single device that can connect to multiple networks.

Further device consolidation can be orchestrated through the use of VoIP softphone technology. With a mobile application, a personal smartphone can become a wireless VoIP phone. Likewise, a personal laptop used for work purposed can run UC software that enables Internet calling.

These capabilities cut down on the need to plug in an actual phone hand set. Imagine that an office with 40 employees unplugged half of its VoIP phones, instead switching to a VoIP softphone wherever possible. This represents the elimination of 20 devices that would otherwise perpetually leech electricity.

These electricity savings combined with the reduction of paper waste and fuel consumption really add up. Over the course of years, they help save money, time, resources and maybe even the environment.