Remote Work's Positive Changes to the Environment and Business

Eric House - Aug 24 2021
Published in: Mobility
| Updated Apr 27 2023
New research found that while remote work will contribute its own greenhouse gas emissions, it’s still more environmentally friendly than working in an office.

You might remember the pictures splattered all over the news in 2020: once bustling streets filled with traffic jams and busy pedestrians were suddenly empty and desolate. As emergency quarantines took hold of cities around the world, some saw empty streets and skies and questioned whether there was possibly a positive outcome on the environment with this sudden decrease in carbon emissions.

While many have returned to pre-pandemic levels of traffic and foot jams, many are also still working remotely. So what, ultimately, is the impact of remote work on the environment? A recent study sought to find out, analyzing data from over 457,171 employees and corporations on such elements as commuting, paper usage, and business practices. It found that while 34.3 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions are projected to be produced in 2021 by working from home, remote work is still greener than working in an office.

Remote Work’s Positive Impact on the Environment

When it comes to reducing emissions, there’s often no quick and easy fix. Remote work will still have environmental hurdles to overcome, as a forest of over 70,000 square miles would need to be planted to offset the 34.3 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions predicted to be produced by remote work in 2021. Yet, it’s still likely that remote work can have a positive environmental impact. Based on the research, these are just some of those positive environmental outcomes of remote work:

  • Approximately 247 trillion sheets of paper are saved every year by working outside the office, as well as approximately 16 trillion trees saved from deforestation.
  • In the U.S., there was a 67% decrease in waste production for businesses in 2020 due to remote work.
  • While numbers vary, the average worker reduces their carbon footprint by approximately 1,800 pounds by working from home.
  • Between March and early June of 2020, the U.S. reduced its carbon dioxide emissions by approximately 15%.

Corporate Sustainability Can Drive Profits

Another major finding from this research is that companies who allow their employees to work remotely are experiencing “customer base gains and positive boosts to reputations.” Indeed, the option to work remotely can make a company an employer of choice. It goes a long way for employee satisfaction, and now we see that it can positively impact both the environment and company profits.

Even before the pandemic, more employers were making strides toward corporate sustainability as they come to understand the role they play regarding economic growth and environmental impact. Call it corporate sustainability, corporate social responsibility, sustainable development, or even ESG, experts say that the COVID-19 crisis has not only enhanced our understanding of the environment, but also that more companies are focused on sustainability.

While remote work may be here to stay, it isn’t the only way companies are conducting their work. Some have adopted hybrid models, while others are making the gradual transition to working completely on-site. Many employees still crave relocation as the workforce mobility industry keeps people moving to where work is going. Through it all, new ways of understanding how mobility and other forms of working can exist while positively impacting the environment continue to emerge, and the world will be better for it.

Registration for the 2021 Global Workforce Symposium is Now Open!

Global Workforce Symposium 202One is about bringing the industry together as one and it’s time to celebrate all that global mobility professionals do to keep the world moving. We’re excited to welcome the entire industry under one roof for the first time in two years! Don’t miss this year's largest global mobility meeting. Just as we've done for many years, we're bringing together verticals across the mobility and relocation industry for an event that will feature all of the parts you've come to love over the years plus a few new surprises! Register now for GWS: 202One, taking place 19-22 October in Chicago, Illinois here!