Remote work is gaining popularity with companies encouraging their staff to work from home. Employees can choose between working from home full-time or alternating between working at the office and from home.
The gradual migration from corporate to remote work has varying effects on climate change.
Let’s discuss some of the pros and cons of remote work.
The Positive Effects of Remote Work on Climate Change
Significant Drop in Greenhouse Gas Emissions
One of the perks of working from home is that it entirely does away with commutes. You save a considerable amount of money on fuel, too, consequently reducing your carbon footprint.
Your carbon footprint is a total of how much greenhouse gases you produce. The gases include methane and carbon dioxide that result from burning fossil fuels such as oil and coal. The number one source of fossil fuel combustion is the transport sector.
According to The Natural Conservancy, the average American produces sixteen tons of greenhouse gas annually. Greenhouse gases have very harmful effects on the environment and the population at large. They cause extreme shifts in weather patterns resulting in drought, floods, and even tsunamis.
Furthermore, they contribute to an increase in wildfires and smog. Smog has been linked to respiratory diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disorders and even lung cancer.
By telecommuting, you reduce your carbon footprint, thereby minimizing your environmental impact and supporting the human race as a whole.
Reduced Paper Usage
Companies are some of the major consumers of stationery and paper products: from notebooks to printed paper. The paper industry heavily relies on trees and is a significant contributor to environmental destruction and increased greenhouse emissions.
Paper industries produce greenhouse gases such as sulfur dioxide and carbon dioxide, contributing to acid rain formation and pollution. Besides the production, waste paper also plays a massive role in pollution. Non-biodegradable paper products take years to decompose and may end up in the ocean, causing harm to sea life such as turtles.
Telecommuting embraces a more digital approach where workers use applications and software to record, store and share information. By embracing note-taking programs and cloud storage software, remote workers reduce their paper usage, reducing their carbon footprint.
Improved Air Quality
Remote working means fewer people are on the roads. As already mentioned, the transport sector is among the number one producers of greenhouse gases. When people work from home, it means less fossil fuel combustion and better air quality.
Air pollution is a crucial contributor to respiratory illnesses such as asthma, lung and throat cancers, and bronchitis. Major cities such as Delhi have difficulty regulating air pollution due to the high population and increased carbon footprint of a rapidly growing middle class.
Less Plastic Usage
How many times do you grab a quick coffee on your commute? Most eateries use single-use plastic cups or plastic-based wrapping to store your food or beverage. Single-use plastic can be a menace to the environment. Without proper disposal measures in place, these plastics can potentially harm wildlife and even marine life, such as turtles.
Plastic is a non-biodegradable substance and takes hundreds of years to disintegrate. Due to its long life span, it can present challenges for us and future generations. Working from home helps cut back on plastic use as it allows you to use reusable cups, bowls and cutlery, instead of relying on single-use plastic foodware.
Reduced Power Consumption
Offices rely on electricity to run machines like computers and air conditioning. Managers rely on work from employee monitoring software to keep track of staff performance and productivity instead of the traditional method of timesheets. As a result, they have very high energy consumption rates. By working from home, you help reduce the extremely high electric bills and reduce the energy burden of society.
The Downsides of Remote Working
Only Partial Carbon Footprint Reduction
Unfortunately, not all forms of remote working possess such useful benefits on climate change. Hybrid work, a form of remote work where employees combine working from home with working at the office, doesn’t fully eliminate the need to commute nor the energy consumption habits of office buildings. While alternating between the office and remote working may go some way to reducing your carbon footprint, it stops short of having a sizeable impact on it.
The other downside of remote working may be in the energy industry. Does working from home really help cut back on energy consumption? Thanks to the ever-evolving tech industry, more and more people are embracing technology to simplify their lives.
Virtual work is a great example. Instead of driving or taking the bus to work to attend meetings or get work done, we use video conferencing apps such as Zoom and Skype. We now email whenever we need to pass official communication. All these devices use electricity.
One person can only use so much power, but think about all the remote workers worldwide, using their computers or charging their work tablets? That’s a considerable amount of energy consumption.
Remote Working is a Net Positive for Climate Change
Remote working is a crucial player in helping fight climate change. By working from home, you help:
- Reduce greenhouse emissions
- Improve air quality
- Decrease single-plastic use
- Reduce paper consumption
Even though some models of remote working, specifically hybrid work, encourage commuting, thereby maintaining certain greenhouse emission levels, remote work continues to make great strides in reducing environmental degradation and helping manage climate change.