Can Employers Help the Planet with Work from Home Policies?
In January, Kovacic Strand of the European Environmental Agency wrote an article stating that the COVID-19 pandemic was a lesson for the world on sustainability. Strand argued that the pandemic helped the world see that it was possible to adapt to new struggles. People might be more receptive to regulations that could address other issues, such as global warming.
The pandemic has also had more direct benefits for the environment. One of the biggest is the transition towards working from home.
Can Working from Home Help with Global Warming?
The past few years were marked by the COVID-19 pandemic and our lives were changed in many different ways. Many of us started to work from home (WFH), and over time, this practice became more and more common as people started to realize its benefits. The big question, however, is whether or not remote work offers some environmental benefits as well. More eco-friendly employers are pushing employees to work from home. The benefits can be huge.
The issue is surrounded by a lot of controversies considering the fact that during the pandemics the oil demand was reduced, and the use of residential electricity grew significantly. Many big companies were pleasantly surprised by the results of remote work, so they decided to allow employees to remain at home indefinitely. While we know that working remotely, like any other type of activity, comes with pros and cons, throughout this article, we’ll focus on the positives. We also published an article on the environmental impact of telecommuting several years before the pandemic that you might also want to check out.
Aside from the obvious benefits of working from home which include less time wasted commuting, no need to rent office space, more productivity, a healthier lifestyle, and more freedom to organize your schedule, another big advantage was the reduction of carbon emissions. As it turns out, in the US, the transportation sector is responsible for 28% of all greenhouse gas emissions, and commuters naturally account for a big percentage as well. An American worker spends on average 52 minutes going to work and coming home from work on a daily basis. So a reduction in commute time would automatically mean fewer cars on the road, a lesser demand for public transportation, and a reduction in our work-related carbon footprint.
So it comes as no surprise that working from home can have a positive impact on the environment if done right, so let’s take a quick look at five of the most significant ways in which WFH is eco-friendly.
WFH means less greenhouse gas emissions
As mentioned above, not having to go to work every day can help reduce the levels of greenhouse gas emissions associated with commuting. This might actually be the most important benefit of WFH because every time we avoid travelling by car or by bus, we lower our carbon footprint. Less commute can reduce air pollution and make the air in our cities more breathable. Specialists estimate that even if we work from home half of the week, or if half of the workers remain at home, we can lower emissions by 54 million tons per year.
WFH means better air quality
One of the biggest enemies that we face every day is air pollution. Air pollution isn’t just harmful tous, it is also a threat to our food sources and to the entire ecosystem. Usually caused by the release of large quantities of hydrocarbon, chemicals, and carbon monoxide, air pollution is something that can also be fought by reducing harmful activities. The good news is that remote work can be a valuable tool in fighting air pollution. Other things we can do to improve air quality in our cities are switching to electric vehicles, focusing on clean energy and green building, and planting more trees. These are all activities that we can focus on if we work remotely, as we’ll have a better reason to invest in our homes.
WFH means less fuel usage
This is another obvious advantage of working from home that will benefit our budget but also the environment. Remote workers drive less and naturally, spend less money on fuel. The environment benefits if the need for fossil fuels is reduced. In the United States alone, the average consumption of petrol per day amounts to 393 million gallons. This is huge and it’s important to remember that by changing our everyday routines and behaviours, we can contribute to a positive change. Driving our cars only when we need to, walking or riding bikes instead of driving, and using public transport are all important steps that we can make to save money, improve our health, lower our carbon footprint and avoid fossil fuel waste.
WFH can mean less energy usage
While you will use more energy at home, in most cases the global energy usage can be reduced by working from home. When people work in a traditional office, energy waste is inevitable. We don’t really pay that much attention to the energy wasted in public spaces or the office. As a result, offices use a huge amount of energy for the comfort of the employees. And more often than not, the energy consumption will be the same regardless of the number of people present at work. Computers, heaters, AC, lights, printers, coffee machines, and other types of equipment will always be plugged in, even if the office is almost empty. When we work from home, we are much more aware of the amount of electricity that we use. We tend to turn off the lights every time we exit the room, and we don’t leave the AC on when we don’t need it. So, even if your electricity bill will be a bit more expensive due to spending all your time at home, working from home might contribute to reducing global energy usage.
WFH means you can work in an eco-friendly environment
A traditional office isn’t always a green building. Lots of office buildings are built using construction materials that aren’t breathable and this can lead to energy waste. When you work from home, you get to create an eco-friendly space that is properly insulated and that is eco-friendly such as an office pod or a garden office cabin. An office pod is a comfortable outbuilding made of wood or recycled materials and equipped with insulation. By working from a garden pod, you get to customize your office space while also lowering your carbon footprint.