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.

5 Ways Businesses Can Protect The Environment

Over the years, humans have begun to see the negative impact a lot of our behaviors have had on the earth. Whether it is our use of energy, our contribution to growing landfills or a variety of other things, many people are making changes. More and more individuals are looking for ways to reduce their carbon footprint and lead environmentally friendly lives.

While individuals are increasingly doing their part to help the environment, businesses also need to do the same. They are often some of the biggest contributors of the environmental damage being done, and need to find ways to turn it around. With that in mind, this article is going to go over a few ways that businesses can help protect the environment.

1. Adopt More Efficient Processes and Machinery

Many processes and machines that businesses will use end up using a lot more energy or power than they need. Protecting the environment can often be as simple as replacing or changing these processes and machinery to efficient options that exist today.

ecofriendly-manufacturing

For example, a fax machine, which is still used at many companies, can use a lot of energy to work all day. They can generally waste a lot of paper too. Instead, consider using a service like eFax. They allow you to send and receive faxes quickly, all online without the need for a machine. This is only one of several examples of how old, outdated and inefficient processes and technology can be replaced.

2. Reduce Paper Waste

Many businesses create a lot of waste. While this type of waste can depend on your company and industry, it is often things like paper and garbage. In fact, around 26% of the total waste in landfills is paper waste. This isn’t all from companies, but they generally create much more paper waste than residential households will.

While many companies have gone completely paperless, others still have a lot of work to do in that department. Some of the best ways to reduce paper waste are to store files online, use electronic documents and print things less often. In addition to less waste, these online solutions are generally easier and preferred for both employees and customers. Of course, any paper you do still need to use, make sure it gets recycled and isn’t simply tossed in with the rest of the garbage.

3. Use Efficient Light Bulbs

Keeping your office buildings well-lit is an important part of ensuring your employees can comfortably see and do their job. However, with potentially hundreds of light bulbs on for the better part of most days, these lights can use a ton of energy. Instead of using traditional bulbs, consider using energy-efficient LEDs.

LED-lighting-workplace

In addition to saving energy, these bulbs can save money as they take less energy to use. Most will also last significantly longer, and aren’t that much more expensive to buy. This is a quick change that can have a significant impact on how much energy is used and/or wasted at your business.

4. Allow Telecommuting and Remote Work

While the prevalence of remote work has been growing recently, there are still some companies who don’t allow it. By simply allowing people to work remotely permanently, or from time to time, companies can improve their eco-friendliness. The amount of energy used in your office should drop significantly with less people there.

Also, with less people driving to work, your company will lower the emissions it is responsible for creating, even if only by a little bit. In addition to saving the environment, having more employees work remotely will save on energy costs. You could even potentially downsize to a smaller and more affordable office.

5. Clean Up Any Mess You Make

Using hazardous materials or chemicals is sometimes required at many companies for a variety of things. Ensuring you proper waste disposal is of the utmost importance. As a result, be sure to work with a reputable clean-up service who works in an environmentally friendly manner.

recycling-in-offices

If this mess is cleaned up incorrectly, your company could be doing a ton of damage to the environment near your offices, plants or factories. Not only that, but you could find yourself in serious troubles with the government if you don’t do things according to the regulations in your area.

Bottom Line

These are 5 of the many different ways that businesses can help do their part to protect the environment. Many of these methods can also help the business by saving you money or providing an increase to efficiency or productivity.