Remote Work: A Win-Win for Employees and the Environment

Remote Work: A Win-Win for Employees and the Environment

It is commonly known that remote work can reduce carbon emissions. A new study has reaffirmed this belief, as it has found that working from home can reduce an individual’s carbon footprint by more than 50%.

The researchers assessed the greenhouse gas emissions of the remote and hybrid work place which got catalyzed by the COVID-19 pandemic; considering factors included information and communication technology, commuting, non-commute travel, and office and residential energy use.

Remote Work

In the United States alone, switching from working onsite to working from home can reduce up to 58% of work’s carbon footprint, and the impacts of IT usage are negligible, while office energy use and non-commute travel impacts are important. The remote work has to be significant in order to realize these kind of benefits.

Hybrid workers — those who work two to four days a week at home — were able to reduce their carbon emissions by 11 to 29%. Office energy use is the main contributor to the carbon footprint of onsite and hybrid workers.

Methodology to investigate the climate change mitigation effects of remote and hybrid work in the United States. Residential energy use, non-commute-related travel, commuting, office energy use, and ICT services are included in the system boundary. Acronyms: natural gas (NG), remote work/remote worker (RW), onsite work/onsite worker (OW).

For the study, the researchers modeled greenhouse gas emissions of US-based employees working entirely remotely, on hybrid schedules, and fully onsite. The analysis focused on emissions from a variety of sources, including residential and office energy use, commuting, non-commuting related travel, and IT usage.

The future of work is very much on the minds of many people and corporations these days. If the issue is what is the best way to lower carbon emissions from working, remote work seems to be the right answer. But if the issue is productivity, having workers onsite where they can be directly monitored and supervised may be what employers prefer.

Effect of remote and hybrid work on carbon footprint in the case of US Microsoft. (A–C) Show how transit type and trip origin and destination pairs differ by remote and onsite workers for non-commute-related travel. (D) Shows the variation in residential energy use. (E) Shows the breakdowns of carbon footprint for all six remote, hybrid, and onsite work scenarios. (F and G) Show the variation in household, workplace, and commuting GHG emissions for remote and onsite scenarios. Acronyms: remote work/remote worker (RW), onsite work/onsite worker (OW), combustion engine vehicle (ICEV).
The lesson from this research may be that greener cars and cleaner grids are more important in the larger scheme of things than whether an employee is offsite, onsite, or somewhere in between. In simpler terms, remote work can significantly reduce carbon emissions, but it is not the only solution to climate change. Other important factors include using greener cars and cleaner energy sources.

Reference- Journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Clean Technica, BBC, The Guardian