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Remote work has slowly been gaining ground over the past decade or so. But it’s the events of the last year that have really brought it to the fore as a practical and beneficial option for businesses. More importantly, the increased uptake of remote operations during the pandemic has gone some way to prove that it is a more environmentally friendly approach. There has been less commuter traffic as a result of shelter in place requirements. Indeed, one study found that the northeast of the U.S. experienced a 30% reduction in air pollution during this period.
It would, therefore, seem perfectly reasonable that you would want the business you’re working for to support a transition to permanent or hybrid remote operations. Not only can it help you personally achieve a work-life balance, but it helps both you and your employer to make a difference in the fight against the irreversible effects of climate change. Yet, there is still some pushback from businesses when faced with requests to operate remotely.
This means that you need to take the position of an effective advocate for the environmental benefits of remote work. Let’s go through a few approaches that can help you be more effective in your representation.
Work with the Research
One thing that you need to remember about advocating is the power of empirical research. So much of the running of a company is predicated on the balance of risk that, without statistics, it can be difficult to convince some business leaders to make changes. Therefore, it’s worth taking the time to provide research that shows your employer that there is an advantage in shifting to remote operations.
There is certainly plenty of information out there to support the idea that in-office operations can be more harmful to the environment. However, it is also your responsibility to take care to ensure you only use credible sources. Wherever possible use academic papers. Presenting your case for remote operations as an environmentally friendly solution with spotty evidence is both ethically unsound and can actively harm your chances of success. Remember, you are presenting evidence to give the leadership of your organization the confidence that this is the right path; unsound resources won’t help.
It’s also wise to be cognizant of the fact that there will be evidence that opposes the case for remote work. If your organization is already against the practice, then it is likely they’ll already have these on hand to rebuff such requests. As such, it’s worth presenting these alongside your case. Talk about them in such a way to show that you’ve been responsible in taking both sides of the issue into account. Then you can also counter them by providing any additional evidence, or discussing ways in which these issues — such as energy consumption while at home — can be mitigated.
Come from a Business Perspective
Certain elements are important to accept when you advocate for any planet-saving solution in business. Primary among these is that your company’s priority may well be maintaining a profit. That’s not to say that they don’t have a strong set of ethical values. But understanding the need to make money to keep operations competitive can be a useful tool in directing your advocacy efforts.
You can approach this from some business perspectives, including:
Provide information about how aspects of fully remote and hybrid operations can be both environmentally friendly and cost-saving. The most obvious one here is the overheads reduced as a result of not needing to operate an office space full-time. But also introduce the less recognizable elements. If the business has company cars, discuss how the reduced mileage from commuting every day does more than lower emissions. There are also essential aspects of maintenance that have to be applied to keep cars safe, minimize breakdowns, and ensure ongoing fuel efficiency. While these are key to making sure vehicles are roadworthy, reduction of use can mean the company is less likely to have to pay for replacements resulting from wear and tear and improves longevity.
One of the areas that those against remote operations are focusing on as of late is how it affects productivity. Company leaders often express concerns that to be at their most productive, the team needs to be in the same place at the same time. The concept of time theft — however erroneous — is also frequently raised. As such, it is important to provide information not just on the fact that statistics appear to show that productivity in many companies has actually improved as a result of remote and hybrid working practices. You also need to go into how and why this is the case. Leaders need to understand the specifics of what elements of remote work — a healthy work-life balance and enhanced ownership of tasks among them — equates to productivity and in turn better profits.
Talk About Practicality
Changing from in-person operations to remote is no simple feat. This is likely to be one of the facts that dissuades employers from adopting this potentially planet-saving approach. Some logistics need to be planned and executed, and this takes time and investment. As such, part of your advocacy must include doing some of the groundwork here. When presenting your proposal to leadership, make sure to include information about how the business can make the move practically and with minimal disruption.
This is where you must get your colleagues on board as well. Not only is this a significant amount of work to undertake, but various departments will have insights into what tools the transition will need that you don’t understand. Indeed, you may have to present your proposals to your colleagues first, explaining how working from home benefits the planet and their lifestyles. Some attention here before you present to leadership can not only highlight the tools and processes needed to succeed, but also demonstrate the support of the workforce.
Part of the focus of practicality also has to go beyond simple day-to-day activities. Remember that talent development programs and health benefits may be affected too. Do some research into practices that are in line with working from home. Telemedicine can be excellent to explore here. It is growing in popularity with even specializations like some eye exams being able to be performed via video calls. There are also distinct benefits for both workers and businesses — employees get to attend appointments from their own homes, and productivity is less likely to be disrupted by traveling to doctor’s offices. By including all areas of business concern into your advocacy, you can show that you’ve considered all the potential issues, and have some solutions.
Work being shifted from traditional offices to remote operations can be an important tool in environmental preservation. However, to advocate successfully for this, you need to commit to research and be cognizant of the business and practical imperatives at play. Getting business owners on board with making changes is vital if we are to stem the damage that industry can contribute to the planet.