Is Remote Work Better for the Environment?

Is Remote Work Better for the Environment?

Dr. Jordan Sudberg, the CEO and Medical Director of Spine and Sports Rehabilitation in Islandia, NY is in many ways a holistic doctor who believes in a healthy lifestyle and a healthy environment. Therefore it’s not surprising that Dr. Sudberg has opinions about whether remote work is better for the environment.

But Dr. Sudberg is also a man of science, so he has to take the hard facts into account.

On the surface

On the surface, it should be crystal clear that up to 37 percent of workers staying at home should be fantastic for the environment. After all, since the vast majority of workers drive cars to work rather than take public transportation, that means far fewer miles are driven to commute to work.

And now that the pandemic seems somewhat in control, that means that nitrogen dioxide, the main pollutant from cars, could be reduced by as much as 10 percent.

In addition, in the office, many workers are in the habit of printing things out to read rather than reading online, and as a result, there is a lot of paper waste.

In addition, many people throw a lot of plastics away while drinking coffee and eating lunch at work which is also not so great for the environment.

All that glitters is not gold

However, researchers in both Europe and the US have had second looks at the effect of remote work, and the picture is not so rosy.

While it’s true that not commuting to work has a positive impact on work, researchers at Harvard Business School discovered that at-home workers actually increased their total miles driven inside trips not necessarily related to business, by over 26 percent.

This may include things like shuttling the kids to school rather than letting them take the school bus and side-trips to the grocery store or mall.

So work-at-home employees may actually drive more, not less.

In addition, researchers in Europe discovered that quite naturally, the air conditioning and heating systems at large offices are much more efficient than home workers using their air conditioner or heating system at home.

So in essence, a homeworker may be burning up more HVAC fuels at home than they did at work. And as many large companies have the very best in HVAC systems, and may even be using solar in the office, the fuels being used are better for the environment.

In addition, studies have shown that quite naturally, at-home workers send more emails to the office than normal. This may not on the surface appear to be such a big deal, but some studies have shown the number of extraneous emails and files being sent back and forth is the equivalent of driving 200 miles in the family car, or equal to driving from roughly the distance from New York City to Boston.

Dr. Jordan Sudberg believes that it is indeed possible to make remote work possible for both workers and the environment, but many companies need to clearly evaluate how to keep the impact on the environment to the minimum as a result of their work at home policies.