Working From Home: Good for the Environment?

As we enter August, we enter our fifth (5th) month of "quarantine", which for many means continuing to work and study from home. Although some people have returned to their offices, the majority have chosen to stay home. The question remains, could transitioning the workforce into home offices be a major step in reducing carbon emissions? Is the environmental impact big enough to justify keeping workers at home? What are the negatives? 

Positives

In a country as big as spread out as Canada, the reality for many is a morning and evening commute under regular circumstances. Working from home eliminates that need, allowing individuals to log-in and work from their living rooms, home office, or bedroom. With everyone working from home for half the week, or half the workforce working from home all week, carbon emissions can be reduced by up to 54 million tonnes every year. Along with this, the amount of fuel consumption is reduced as people drive less - many switching from a weekly fill-up to a monthly fill-up.

In addition, forcing employers to embrace digital work industry and economy-wide, reduces the paper and plastic waste created from traditional office settings. Adopting advanced technology and digital methods of communication and business-operations eliminates the need for paper and plastic office supplies; which in turn reduces the production of them and the environmental degradation that comes with it. 

Negatives

From a business standpoint, many are concerned with productivity and transparency. Larger corporations are used to hourly management and multi-level supervision. In the remote setting, this isn't possible to the same degree. However, changing the structure of management to production-based objectives seems to be effective for many companies. 

All in all, this pandemic has shaken up the way we do things; for some for the better, for some for the worse. Adaptation and growth has been required on many fronts but it has displayed where we can improve and how we can tackle the climate crisis in a new way. 

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