How working from home helps the environment
Conversations about the benefits of working from home tend to focus on eliminating commutes and reducing costs. There’s another, broader advantage to consider when it comes to giving your teams the power to work from home: lowering the environmental impact on the local and global environment.
In recognition of Earth Day 2020 and its focus on climate action, consider how working from home benefits the environment.
Reducing greenhouse gas emissions
Understanding the greenhouse effect
For many people, getting to work means using some type of motorized vehicle. While walking or using a bicycle are simple alternatives, they aren’t always practical. Driving to the office or taking a bus contributes to greenhouse gas emissions through the carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide that come from running a combustion engine.
Aaron Bernstein, acting director of the Harvard Center for Climate, Health, and the Global Environment, explained how temperature increases caused by greenhouse gas emissions can lead to rising surface-level temperatures, higher sea levels and more precipitation. These changes can then cause a number of issues, including:
- Displacement of populations.
- Food supply insecurities.
- Increased exposure to some diseases.
Telecommuting’s role in lowering greenhouse gas emissions
When your staff members work from home, they don’t have to travel to their desks or offices on a daily basis. Because their commute will likely consist of a short walk to their home office or a nearby coffee shop or library, they will lower their contribution to greenhouse gas emissions.
Transportation accounts for nearly 29% of all greenhouse gas emissions, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. That’s the largest single major emissions category. While a single daily commute only contributes to a small fraction of this total, offering work-from-home opportunities to your team can quickly add up.
Someone working five days a week, 48 weeks a year will commute to and from work 480 times in that period. Allowing a team of 10 to work from home two days a week, for example, would eliminate 1,920 total commutes in the same timeframe. With fewer cars on the road overall, the benefit expands by lowering the potential for congestion and gridlock. That means the people still driving to work enjoy higher gas mileage, which further reduces emissions. Your organization can help support the environment directly through this simple change.
Lowering office energy use and overall consumption
Offices need to provide a variety of resources to help employees working go about their daily duties in a comfortable, productive environment. Heating and cooling, electricity, water, office supplies and many other needs must be addressed in an office environment.
By allowing individual employees to manage their own climate in smaller buildings – instead of having to create an environment that’s acceptable to everyone in a much larger office – the environmental impact of operating heaters and air conditioners can be reduced.
When employees work from home, they don’t consume resources in the same way. They will still need electricity to power their computers and mobile devices. However, they’re more likely to use electronic alternatives to processes that create physical waste, like using paper to send memos or record important takeaways from a meeting.
Reduced use of traditional office resources means lower demand for products that create pollution due to their manufacturing processes. This is another situation where each business and team will only make a small contribution to lowered pollution, but the collective effect of many businesses offering work from home options can have a positive impact.
Reduced creation of, and exposure to, pollution
We have already looked at the direct benefits of lowering greenhouse gas emissions through working from home. A related factor to consider is that telecommuting can reduce overall pollution while limiting employees’ exposure to it.
When your staff works from home, they lower the level of pollution created through traditional commutes. Automobiles release a variety of pollutants, like ozone, that lead to smog. These emissions can harm plants, animals and people alike. The EPA highlighted a number of human health risks associated with smog, including lung irritation, damage and reduced function.
Similarly, smog can harm plant life by reducing the ability to engage in photosynthesis – the conversion of carbon dioxide, sunlight and water into energy for the plant, which releases oxygen as a byproduct. Scientific American said this reduced ability to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere also leads to increased greenhouse gases and more global warming.
When your staff members telecommute, they won’t contribute smog to the atmosphere by driving to and from the office. This basic change leads to benefits across the natural environment.
Allowing employees to work from home also helps them avoid exposure to these pollutants. Considering that roughly 150 million Americans live in areas where air quality doesn’t meet federal standards, as the Union of Concerned Scientists said, a telecommuting option can improve air quality and protect your employees. That means they’re healthier and more productive.
Working from home supports your staff and the environment
Telecommuting creates a number of benefits in terms of work-life balance, productivity, and supporting the health of the environment.
The most important consideration for business leaders to make is giving their staff effective tools to maximize the value of the time spent working remotely. Solutions for meetings and live collaboration like Cisco Webex help remote and in-office employees connect with each other simply, effectively, and consistently. Take advantage of your free plan today.
May 11, 2021 — Vanessa Philogène
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