How the Rise of Remote Work Has Been an Unplanned Blessing for the Environment

Jori Hamilton – Contributing Writer

Posted on Tuesday 22nd December 2020
macbook pro on brown wooden table

For many of us, 2020 has been one of the most challenging years we’ve ever lived through. And as COVID-19 continues to spread and myriad businesses remain shuttered, we face an uncertain future. Remote work is rapidly becoming the norm around the world, and the trend seems to be gaining momentum, even as critics question the long-term viability of telecommuting. 

At the company level, remote work can save employers upwards of $11,000 per year, per employee, as well as reducing the amount of required office space. Less office space results in fewer resources consumed. And the purported benefits of remote work don’t stop there: Research indicates that working from home has positive environmental effects, especially in regards to air pollution.

Indeed, global carbon emission levels fell an unprecedented 8.8% in the wake of COVID-19, primarily due to decreased traffic. Fewer commutes mean fewer vehicles on the road and lower emissions overall. As such, remote work has the potential to help increase the popularity of climate change efforts, thus fueling a push towards greater self-sufficiency. 

Fewer Commutes, Lower Emissions

Even before the novel coronavirus came on the scene, the idea that remote work could positively impact the environment was making waves across various industries. The good news for modern workers is that digital technology has expanded remote work opportunities in virtually every industry. Even essential healthcare workers may be able to perform certain aspects of their job from the comfort of their own home.

According to Western Governors University, remote nursing jobs are becoming more ubiquitous post-COVID. Along with administrative roles such as health informatics and auditing jobs, professional nurses may work in telehealth, speaking to patients remotely. Telehealth keeps vulnerable populations safe from potential COVID exposure and allows healthcare professionals to determine individual patient needs without the risk of facility overcrowding.

In regards to public health, remote work is thus a win-win for both everyday citizens and the environment. As more and more of us reduce or eliminate our daily commutes, breathable air quality will inevitably rise, yet that may not be the entire story in terms of your environmental impact while working from home. You must also take increased power usage and your dietary habits into account. 

Striving Towards Self-Sufficiency in Your Daily Life

For starters, your carbon footprint involves much more than just transportation-based emissions. Your habits and lifestyle also directly factor into the amount of total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions you cause on an annual basis. The amount of waste you produce, your preferred forms of transportation, and your shopping habits are just a few of the factors involved in determining your carbon footprint.

In many ways, it seems as though modern life inevitably results in excessive emissions production. Even if you’re working from home and have eliminated the need for a commute, you’re now likely consuming more resources on the home front. When your home doubles as an office, classroom, gym, and more, your energy consumption will increase, and with it, your household’s carbon footprint.

To counteract increased reliance on the grid, some eco-conscious citizens are learning to become more self-sufficient. The freedom afforded by remote work translates to various other aspects of your life, and adopting a more sustainable lifestyle may be the logical next step. To truly embrace self-sufficiency, however, you must be willing to make sacrifices and to live with less. Eschewing materialism in favor of frugality is one of the primary tenets of self-sufficient living, and that simple change also serves to reduce your carbon footprint, and keep it low-impact.

Working from Home to Conserve Resources

It’s important to note, however, that self-sufficiency can leave you vulnerable. When you’re no longer tied to the grid, you may find that you’re on your own in the event of an emergency, whether it’s a global pandemic or inclement weather. As such, remote workers and those living a self-sufficient lifestyle must have an emergency plan in place. Self-sufficient remote workers must be ready for anything, as faulty equipment and excuses can compromise professional relationships. 

For instance, remote workers should have a backup source of power on hand in case of a power outage. This is especially crucial if you rely on electronic devices, from laptops to printers and smartphones, to do your work. It may also be prudent to invest in a mobile hotspot or similar internet connection, as emergencies have been known to disrupt internet connections, sometimes for prolonged periods of time. 

As we look towards an uncertain future, it’s important to consider the long-term impacts of climate change, and how human behavior is harming the natural world. Interestingly, remote work may help lead the charge towards green transformations at the business level, subsequently reducing global carbon emissions. The increase in remote work was an unexpected consequence of the novel coronavirus pandemic, yet it’s also an unlikely ally in the fight against climate change.

Image Source: Unsplash

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