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25 May 2022

Remote Work And Its Environmental Impact

Rita Nakhoul


We have witnessed the widespread deployment of remote work for the past two years with the pandemic. And some figures seem to show that the employees are relatively favorable to it.

It is considered that remote working allows workers to manage stress better and improve concentration. And by proxy, ensure a better work-life balance.

But that’s not all; teleworking is also known for its effects on the environment.

Teleworking does not only have beneficial effects on our professional lives; since by working from home, we are evidently helping to reduce the volume of travel. We know the negative impact of our commuting on the environment, whether in terms of greenhouse gas emissions or air quality.

According to the French Environment and Energy Management Agency - ADEME, working people are responsible for 56% of all trips (all modes combined) made by French people on an average weekday and 52% of the associated mileage.

Furthermore, including 18% of working people who would become teleworkers would allow the daily avoidance of 3.3 million journeys, or 42.9 million km, on a weekday.

According to a low hypothesis, the direct benefit for the environment: is a reduction in our carbon emissions of approximately 3,300 tonnes at peak hours on a weekday.

Thus, could we say that remote workers have a positive environmental impact?

Let's look at the facts:


Reduced Commuting

One thing is sure: working from home reduces commuting. Remote can become a positive solution for the environment because it reduces the daily commutes, one of the fundamental causes of greenhouse gas emissions.

According to the report on the state of the environment, transport is the activity that contributes the most to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in France. In 2019, it represented 31% of French GHG emissions. 97% of transport-induced GHG emissions are made up of Carbon dioxide from the combustion of fuels. Road transport contributes almost all (94%) of transport sector emissions.

Energy use at home vs. the office

In general, energy consumption is more critical in an ample office space than in several small ones. The amount of energy we use (and waste) heating or air conditioning an office space of 50 people is higher than their 50 home offices.

Additionally, it has been found that the behavior of remote workers is more eco-friendly.

The reason is very simple: at home, we are more prone to turn off the lights, control the level of heating, not let the water run for too long, or unplug our electrical appliances.

Finally, telecommuting has positive effects on plastic waste: no more plastic cups or coffee break stirrers. At home, we use a mug!

Therefore, what if this lockdown period and telework were an opportunity to change our behavior to be more energy-efficient?

Small changes, real effects

Small changes in our behavior can significantly contribute to the climate crisis.

E.g., In offices, printers rank high on the power consumption podium, whether they are on standby or on.

Ink and paper usage: it's hard to deny that office supplies negatively impact the environment. A printing specialist has calculated that a British employee prints an average of 8,000 A4 pages in the office each year. So many cartridges alone create significant environmental damage if they are not recycled.

New Digital Waste?

Contrastingly, digital pollution is another rebound effect of remote work; and it varies according to several factors.

The development of videoconferencing and its use, which has increased 20 times during remote work, could weigh heavily on the environment.

Together with over-equipment - computer equipment and doubled telephones, at home and in the office - generates new digital waste.

It is a no-brainer that we do not want to replace regular waste with a digital one, so how can we as remote workers go greener?

Environment-friendly WFH practices

When we work from home, we tend to turn on the radio and turn up our room thermostat, using more fossil fuel than it needs to.

It goes without saying that we get the urge to make ourselves a good cup of coffee once in a while and turn on the television during our lunch break.

A day of work at home; is more environmentally friendly than a day at the office?

After all, the workstation in the office continues to be heated and lit for the colleagues there. And the coffee machine in the office is on every day. Also, the train runs even when we don't even take it.


Here are some practices to help us reduce the negative environmental impact of remote work:

Natural lighting

Daylight = less energy consumption. If our workplace is naturally very bright, then electricity bills drop quickly! The increase in telework has consequences on our energy expenditure; this detail should not be taken lightly.

Not only that, natural light gives us all the energy we need to start our working day on the right foot. Working in an environment that favors natural light over artificial lighting is better for your health. It is indeed endowed with vitamin D, which boosts our immune system and allows us to be concentrated longer.

Unplugging

When you are not using your computer, adopt the right reflexes! If this moment of break lasts more than an hour, turn off your computer. Indeed, standby mode consumes between 20 and 40% of energy. Do not hesitate to disconnect or unplug all the devices at the end of the day. Moreover, when you connect, favor wifi or wired connection rather than your 4G.

Less use of heaters by traveling

As a full-time remote employee, you're not tied down to any specific location because of work as long as you have a great internet connection.

Do you live in a stormy city? Do you prefer the hot weather? Well, remote work doesn’t only give you this opportunity, it also allows you to pollute less by moving to warmers places.

Environmental benefits of remote work

Penny for your thoughts? We found from experience that the remote working model reduces commute time, business travels, the use of public transport, and hence carbon footprint.

We at Stakha use the method of asynchronous meetings between team members. This method reduces the videoconferencing electricity consumption and therefore has a positive environmental impact on remote work culture.