Numerous reports suggest that remote work is an efficient method to counteract global warming. Despite this, the underlying mechanism by which this occurs is sometimes neglected in various publications including white papers. However, at Works, we have deliberated on this topic thoroughly and deemed it as one of the primary advantages, which we have included in our latest white paper.
At Works, like many others, we have emphasised the positive impact of remote work on the environment, particularly in terms of reducing the carbon footprint from daily commutes. Nonetheless, to fully comprehend the potential of remote work to mitigate the effects of climate change, additional research is necessary. With that in mind, I will evaluate some of the most noteworthy studies and literature on the subject of remote work and its relationship with climate change.
Before delving into the information about carbon emissions associated with remote work, it is crucial to understand the significance of climate change and the various viewpoints on working remotely. This is an exceptional moment for us to make a concrete contribution to this cause, and we must seize this opportunity.
According to a survey conducted in 17 developed economies spanning North America, Europe, and the Asia-Pacific region, 72% of participants believe that climate change will impact them in some way. Furthermore, 80% of respondents stated that they are willing to change their way of life or employment to mitigate the effects of climate change.
Considering the escalating severity and frequency of the impacts of climate change, the statistics related to it are not unexpected. It is imperative that we act quickly to safeguard our way of life from the risks associated with extreme weather. As a result, more and more people are urging influential bodies such as governments and corporations to take responsibility for addressing this issue.
It is crucial to take into account the possible consequences of working remotely. Despite seeming unrelated and unusual, it is necessary to grasp the broader picture. Remote work has become the preferred option for numerous organizations since the outbreak of the pandemic. Initially, this was due to government-mandated stay-at-home orders and quarantines, but now, many companies have recognized the benefits of remote working beyond just being a backup plan.
For organisations like Works that have long advocated remote teams as the future of work, it is a natural evolution to embrace this approach. It is crucial to observe how entire industries are adjusting their perspectives. Employees are increasingly preferring remote work, to the extent that they now expect their employers to accommodate this trend. The majority of the influential millennial generation in the current workforce are receptive to the idea of working from home.
The public is clearly expecting businesses to address two seemingly dissimilar issues: combatting climate change and offering flexible work arrangements. Interestingly, it may be feasible to satisfy both of these expectations simultaneously.
Why Remote Work is Beneficial for Everyone
Leadership may not immediately recognise the advantages of incorporating remote work, yet it is worthwhile to contemplate the potential benefits of this approach. These include heightened productivity, team development, decreased expenses on infrastructure, lower absenteeism rates, and greater adaptability and diversity in the workplace.
The possibility of saving costs is a compelling element of this scenario. According to Global Workplace Analytics, companies can save an average of $11,000 per year for each employee who works from home half the time. These lowered expenses are advantageous for both businesses and workers, with firms potentially economising between $2,000 and $7,000 per remote worker per year.
Previous suggestions have stated that the benefits of remote work extend beyond individuals and companies and also benefit society as a whole. While the advantages already mentioned are substantial, when the possible positive impact of remote work in reducing global warming is considered, it becomes evident that remote work can have a favourable effect for everyone.
Global Workplace Analytics has reached the same conclusion that if employees were to work remotely for half their time, the United States could reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by an amount equivalent to that of all New Yorkers permanently ceasing to travel by road. This would result in 8.3 million people no longer needing to commute, thus removing a significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions.
A study conducted in 2023 found that the ecological impact of having 4.3 million New Yorkers working remotely on a permanent basis would be significant. It was calculated that achieving a 100% adoption rate of remote work would result in a reduction of 3 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions, equivalent to planting 92 million trees.
Given the current data, as well as the desires of the labour market and the interests of corporations, it is clear that remote work should be adopted by companies.
Why Not Work Remotely?
Remote work has many advantages for both employers and employees, so why are not all companies opting for this approach? While more and more organisations are transitioning to remote work, some are still hesitant to do so. A few are even resisting the idea of letting their workers work remotely and want to recall them to the office once the pandemic crisis has subsided.
Many companies are hesitant to implement remote work due to concerns about potential decreases in productivity, difficulty in managing unhappy employees, disruption to corporate culture, and a deterrent to innovation. However, research has shown that these issues can be easily mitigated or resolved through the adoption of a hybrid work model.
If that happens, the efficacy of the model in dealing with climate change should be convincing enough to sway those who oppose it to reconsider. Working remotely can be advantageous even in situations that are not permanent.
Before I bring this article to a close, I want to address a point. Some may argue that eliminating commuting would reduce energy consumption, but this is not the case. During the pandemic, global energy consumption actually increased. Does this pose an environmental problem? Certainly not!
Remote work is a crucial element of the collaborative effort to combat climate change. It is essential for all stakeholders to do their part by maximising current energy sources while promoting the adoption of renewable energy to complement the expansion of remote work.
It’s clear that a new challenge has emerged, but the same problems persist. Fortunately, technology offers a possible solution. Companies like Arcadia are developing innovative technologies that can aid energy providers in better understanding their customers’ energy needs while lowering costs by eliminating waste. Arcadia’s services have the potential to significantly shift our energy consumption habits, increasing efficiency as we move towards a more remote-based business model.
It’s reasonable to anticipate conflicting perspectives when it comes to remote work, however, with the growing potential to lower carbon emissions and the benefits of telecommuting, this ought to no longer be regarded as a subjective issue.