20th Jan 2022
Even before the pandemic, remote working was a growing trend due in part to the high cost of living in cities. With many workspaces located in the suburbs, employees who were able to work remotely and chose to venture away from a home office situation, greatly reduced commuting times, improved their mental health, and increased their productivity.
Now, two years into the pandemic — and with hybrid work looking like it’s here to stay — we’re finding the switch to working closer to home is not only having a positive impact on our work-life balance — and our wallets — it’s also having a positive impact on the environment.
Scientists have long known that the reduction of greenhouse gases is integral to halting the global effects of climate change. According to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, “the reduced air quality resulting from the emission of nitrogen oxide leads to acid rains, eutrophication, haze, effects on wildlife, ozone depletion, crop and forest damage.” According to Global Workplace Analytics, in the U.S. alone, commuters sitting with their engines idle during a traffic jam wastes almost three billion gallons of gas and accounts for 26 million extra tons of greenhouse gas emissions. They estimate that working remotely could reduce global greenhouse gas emissions by 54 million tons every year. This figure is based on people working remotely 2.5 out of 5 working days a week and results in saving roughly 119 billion miles of highway driving.
Similarly, the Suburban Economic Study commissioned by global workspace provider, Regus, found that “by 2029, flexible offices will reduce carbon emissions globally by the equivalent of 1,280 flights from London to New York each year due to reduced commute times. Workers would also save an average of 7,416 hours each year in reduced commute times, which is equal to 118 metric tons of carbon emissions.”
The Green Future Index, conducted by MIT Technology Review Insights and co-sponsored by Citrix, is a ranking of 76 leading nations and territories based on their progress and commitment toward building a low-carbon future. Through their extensive research, the study’s authors noted that “the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated many things—not least of which the shift to remote work.” As evidenced by the remarkable improvements in air quality around the globe since March 2020, the environmental benefits of flexible work models are hard to deny.
As if reduced emissions weren’t enough incentive to adopt a flexible work schedule, studies also show that several other factors are also positively impacted by working closer to home. From a carbon, energy, water, waste, travel, air quality, resource, and biodiversity point of view there are additional positive environmental impacts resulting from a flexible work economy. Less energy and water is used at corporate offices when there are fewer employees present. According to BusinessEnergy.com, businesses can consume as much as 250,000 kWh per year. In comparison, the average household typically uses 10,972 kWh of electricity per year according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
So why not just work from home? Two words: energy efficiency. Turning again to Global Workplace Analytics, we find that office equipment energy consumption can be up to twice that of home office equipment. However, it’s more energy efficient to heat and light a flexible workspace than a single home. And, when you consider the number of people working in that flexible space, the efficiency is significant. If corporate employers can create a work-from-anywhere experience that actually works, their company can strengthen itself and retain more employees while simultaneously helping strengthen climate resiliency.
According to Connecticut-based technology research and consulting company, Gartner, 82 percent of leaders plan to allow employees to work remotely some of the time. Additionally, according to one of their studies, 70 percent of employees are more likely to work for a company that prioritizes sustainability — making it clear that what’s good for the planet can also be good for an employers recruitment efforts and bottom line.
“Tackling climate change is a task that will require approaches from many angles, but a good place to make an immediate start would be to build a more sustainable lifestyle, drawing from changes we have made during lock-down,” says Alicia Fallows, of The Oxford Scientist. She goes on to state that “bringing in a more flexible working lifestyle, not returning to everyday commutes and considering whether meetings can be taken online, are factors that will help to bring down our carbon footprint…providing we sustain them. These changes might also create a more stress-free, accommodating working routine.”
If more employers support a flexible work environment — allowing employees to utilize flexible offices and coworking spaces like WORKSPACE — we can significantly mitigate climate change. By choosing to work remotely, even if only for a few days a week, you will reduce your carbon footprint by diminishing global energy demand and consumption.