Does Working Remotely Offer Environmental Benefits?

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A few years ago, human resource experts used to hypothesize that the corporate world will accept and move to a work-from-home concept in future. However, no one knew the future would arrive so abruptly! In the post-Covid era, almost every service industry professional is working remotely.

Remote employment has more benefits than regular work at office. Time flexibility, worker independence, and a healthy work-life balance are all its obvious benefits. However, working from home eliminates the need to go to work. This not only reduces the downtime and increases the number of working hours each day, but also shows the natural benefits of working longer hours.

Evolving Work Week Dynamics

The average work week for American workers used to be at 41 hours, according to a study reported by the Washington Post. This was the longest work week among all workers in OECD countries. Further, Americans were less likely to work part-time and more likely to put in long work weeks, with only 18% of US workers putting in fewer than 35 work hours per week.

However, all this data from a pre-pandemic era got distorted in the post-Covid era. The average workday lengthened by 48.5 minutes in the weeks following stay-at-home orders and lockdowns, and the number of meetings increased by 13%, a paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research showed. But having a longer workday span does not necessarily mean people worked more hours within that day.

This data shows how much time employees could have spent in a real office, in turn how much energy was utilized and emissions were released due to reduced commercial use. This way, employers not only can enhance their reputation as an eco-friendly organization, but also save a lot of money. US employers could save $11,000 per remote worker per year if employees worked remotely an average of 2.5 days a week, according to a study by Global Workplace Analytics.

Meanwhile, employees traveling across the globe for business meetings and trade events have also reduced drastically. Almost all companies are relying on webinars and online meetings to conduct business these days. However, manufacturing and logistics industry professionals must travel wherever their goods end up. Particularly in Europe, the Schengen visa allows you to travel freely around Europe, allowing you to work from home while at the same time being able to return immediately to your office for important meetings.

Here are some of the major environmental benefits of employees working remotely:

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Reduction in Amount of Paper Used

Companies are using less paper due to the digital integration of remote employee records. The amount of paper consumed can be reduced significantly by working from home. According to Southern Indiana University and the American Forest and Paper Association, Americans use 85 million tons of paper, or 680 pounds per person each year. About two-thirds of the paper is recycled. Each year, there is a steady reduction in paper production and the resulting emissions is a lot lower as well.

The environmental impact of long hours of paperwork and employment without paper, however, is not limited to paper consumption. Even one stored tree can remove 14.7 pounds of CO2 from the atmosphere, reducing greenhouse gas emissions every year.

Lower Energy Consumption

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Remote work has a significant impact on global energy use as well. Low electricity bills at work and in brick & mortar offices reflect this in most cases. Total energy consumption has declined due to home-based work caused by the COVID-19 epidemic, according to the World Economic Forum. With drastically lower use of office spaces, emissions caused by air conditioning units and other lighting is reduced immensely.

The reduction, however, is not as significant as analysts had predicted. The reasons for this vary, but some studies have found the following:

  1. Free time spent traveling, despite the absence of commute to work
  2. Higher energy consumption than expected at home
  3. Increased electricity consumption among rural households

However, any environmental benefits derived from remote work, no matter how small, must be celebrated. You should consider incorporating energy-saving techniques into your daily life to develop these good qualities:

  • Using less hot water
  • Working at night to save energy
  • Keeping the HVAC system in normal condition
  • Turning on devices when not working
  • Switch to LED lights if possible

Reduced Use of Plastic Packaging

Bengaluru Government Bans Plastic Usage
Image – Flickr/Day Donaldson

Plastic Oceans International estimates that the world produced 300 million tons of plastic each year since 2016. In addition, some of this plastic is used only once, meaning that it is discarded at a landfill or in the minutes after use.

While working remotely may not have a direct impact on that amount, it does offer the opportunity to limit or eliminate the use of plastic to the greatest extent possible. You can help reduce the use of plastics in your workplace as a remote worker by:

  • Making coffee at home can help the environment by reducing the use of plastic lids
  • Plastic soda bottles can be eliminated
  • Although pollution at home may seem like a nuisance, it can help reduce the use of plastic bags when delivering food
  • Drinking tap water or a filter can help you avoid filling your water bottles at once

In addition, the natural benefits of remote work are not limited to homework. It is a critical time that gives you every opportunity to contribute to a brighter future for the world.

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