What Are The Environmental Effects Of Remote Work

Remote and hybrid work environments have become increasingly common in the past 18 months. There have been downsides for businesses and employees. For example, IT teams are trying to manage cybersecurity in a remote work world. For employees, while they might like the freedom and flexibility of working remotely, there may be a sense of isolation or a lack of connection with corporate culture they don’t like as much.

Even with these downsides, there are plenty of benefits too. Some of these are environmental. We’ve seen more remote and hybrid work does help reduce detrimental environmental effects that come with traditional work, but are there downsides to this as well?

Below, we explore the environmental impacts of remote work in detail:

Environmental Effects of Remote Work

1. Reduced Greenhouse Gas Emissions

One reason that initially so many environmentalists were on board with remote work is that it can reduce greenhouse gas emissions stemming from commutes. When you work from home, it reduces gas emissions from vehicles or public transport. Fewer commuters across the board tend to mean less greenhouse gas emissions.

According to Global Workforce Analytics, if who everyone worked in an office originally were to work from home for only half the week, it would reduce emissions by 54 million tons a year.

Current remote workers before the pandemic avoided the emission of 3.6 million tons of greenhouse gases annually. With this also comes a reduced demand and consumption of fossil fuels.

Reduced GHG emissions and consumption of fossil fuels can then help reduce air pollution and improve air quality. Air quality contributes to many respiratory illnesses, including infections and asthma.

2. Less Paper Usage

Even without the push for remote work due to the pandemic, more and more businesses and office environments were moving toward a paperless model.

This is environmentally friendly not just because there’s less consumption of the paper itself but also other supplies related to paper, such as printer ink.

The benefits from a business perspective include fewer overhead expenses, more efficiency and productivity, and a more digitized work environment that’s secure.

a paper free office

3. Reduced Consumption of Plastic

A lot of the things people typically do during a workday have a significant environmental impact, yet we often don’t consider them in our day-to-day thinking.

For example, when you’re working in a traditional office setting, you may be using a lot more plastic than you do at home.

If you pack your lunch or buy lunch, you’re probably using plastic utensils, cups and more.

It creates a lot of waste, whereas if you’re working at home, you’re probably using your own coffee pot and mugs, and dishware. You’re likely preparing more of your meals, cutting down on packaging.

The world is in the midst of a plastic crisis, so this is especially critical.

4. Cutting Down on Energy Consumption

Most offices utilize more energy than their employees would working from home. There are computers constantly on, as well as massive printing stations. The lights in an office are probably always flipped on, and it’s not common for employees to turn things off when they leave a room. There could still be people in the room, or they might not be as conscious as they are when they’re in their own home and responsible for paying the utility bill.

Energy-Saving Tips for Small Businesses

Heating and cooling a large office is always expensive. Reports show that energy consumption in office spaces is almost twice as high as when people work from home.

5. Migration Away from Urban Areas

We saw a striking move during the pandemic of people away from major urban areas to suburban or even rural places. They were no longer tied to cities for work and could do their jobs from anywhere. That has a positive benefit on the environment, by reducing the harmful congestion in cities.

It’s better for people to spread out, rather than being concentrated in a few areas that can bear the brunt of the effects.

Are There Also Negative Impacts of More Remote Work?

While the benefits of remote work can be significant from an environmental perspective, are there potential downsides too?

One example is that employers may be less likely to support green and renewable energy initiatives. When their employees aren’t working in the office, they don’t have to think about costs and how that might affect them.

It’s also possible that because people are dispersed and can work from anywhere that they might have to fly or travel long distances when they do go into the office or have meetings. That’s not good from an environmental perspective.

With those things being said, the benefits environmentally and on renewable energy efforts of remote work do seem to be greater than the downsides.

Easy 10 Steps Towards a More Sustainable Business

Are you looking to make your business more sustainable? This is something that every business owner should be looking to do and it can bring a multitude of benefits in addition to the ethical reasons, so here are 10 of the best ways that you can go about doing this.

1. Eco-Friendly Products

First, you need to make sure that you are both producing and sourcing eco-friendly products and trying to reduce plastic use as much as possible.

steps-sustainable-business

2. Green Energy

Switching to a green energy provider is one of the most effective ways that you can reduce your impact, plus you can make huge savings over the long-term on your energy bills, so it is a smart financial move to make.

3. Encourage Cycling

It is important to encourage staff to use green forms of transport as opposed to driving. One way to do this is with bike parking outside of the office and to start a cycle to work scheme.

4. Reduce Food Waste

You should try to reduce food waste as much as possible and the best way to do this is to educate your staff on the importance of only bringing in what they need and using up spare food.

Food-Waste

5. Watch Water Usage

Water usage is another area to address and you will want to try to cut down on if possible, particularly when it comes to washing and cleaning.

6. Increase Recycling

Recycling is one of the best ways to be more sustainable but often an area where businesses could improve on. You can do this by educating staff on what they can and cannot recycle and making it easier for them to recycle items, such as placing recycling bins in the office.

7. Reduce Paper Usage

You should also try to minimize paper usage throughout the business. Where this is not possible, you should instead look to eco-friendly alternatives. As an example, you could have loyalty and business cards from eco-friendly supplier.

paper-free-office

8. Use Energy-Efficient Equipment

Switching to energy-efficient equipment is smart as it will reduce your energy consumption, which will also help to reduce your utility bills too.

9. Green Shipping and Delivery

Opting for green shipping and delivery can greatly reduce your impact and costs, which can be achieved through green packing materials, minimizing packing materials, and using compact packaging. Also, using a routing app will make delivery more efficient and fast, encouraging the use of bicycles, and reducing air pollution from cars and motorcycles.

10. Charitable Contributions

Business can also be more sustainable through charitable contributions, such as starting a promotion, donating a percentage of profits to charity or starting a fundraiser.

Hopefully, this post will inspire you to make positive changes to your business and play your role in preventing environmental damage.