According to Statista, ‘Before the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, 17 percent of U.S. employees worked from home five days or more per week, a share that increased to 44 percent during the pandemic.’
COVID-19 accelerated the work from home model all across the world, throughout 2021 many companies have chosen to remain remote, or develop a hybrid office model. Research from Apollo Technical estimates that ‘22% of the workforce (36.2 million Americans) will work remotely by 2025.’
Businesses across the globe have learned all about the benefits of working from home, and the challenges. Data suggests that there are many sustainability benefits to working remotely. Regardless, new evidence indicates that there may also be some sustainability downsides.
What are the sustainability benefits of working from home?
Fewer workers doing the daily commute meant fewer cars on the roads, and therefore, reduced emissions. Global Workplace Analytics estimated that if people with ‘telework compatible’ jobs worked from home for half the week, greenhouse gas emissions would be reduced by 54 million tons.
Better air quality
At the peak of the pandemic air quality improved because so many people across the globe were working from home. Accelerated digital transformation meant reducing paper usage, another positive environmental change.
Decreased power consumption
Office spaces tend to consume a large amount of power and energy. Your average office relies on data servers, heating and cooling devices, printing stations, and plenty of electricity.
Along with the environmental benefits, many employees have reported increased business productivity. While these benefits are all valid, there’s been some recent debate about the sustainability downsides of remote working.
What are the sustainability downsides of a remote work model?
There’s some evidence to suggest that working from home may actually have some negative impacts on the environment. Data from WSP UK suggests that working from home is eco-friendly during the summer. However, this may not be the case during the winter. WSP UK researchers suggested that ‘the environmental impact of remote work was higher in the winter due to the need to heat individual workers’ buildings versus one office building,’ (BBC, 2021).
Heating and cooling needs vary depending on the country. The US relies more heavily on air conditioning systems. As a result, when Americans work from home during the summer, this has a slight impact on the environment.
Research from The Conversation suggests that ‘hybrid working is fuelling demand for more tech and bigger homes,’ and both of these things will have a negative effect on the planet. As WFH models became more permanent many people began to replicate their offices at home. Many homeowners found themselves wanting more space.
While working from home has some sustainability benefits, remote workers need to carefully consider their green practices at home. Fortunately, there are lots of ways to prioritize sustainability at home including:
- Use a renewable energy provider.
- Opt for green search engines.
- Purchase energy-saving appliances
- Use IBC totes as rainwater collectors.
- Try smart meters to manage energy usage.
As hybrid office models continue into 2022 it’s up to both companies and workers to review their working practices, keeping sustainability in mind.
Jake Leonard, a broadcast media and journalism veteran, is the editor-in-chief of Heartland Newsfeed. Leonard is also GM and program director of Heartland Newsfeed Radio Network, wrestling editor and contributing writer for Ambush Sports, a contributing writer for My Sports Vote and Midwest Sports Network, and a former contributor to Bleacher Report and Overtime Heroics. He resides at home in Nokomis, Ill. with his dog Buster.