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| 13 June 2024, Thursday |

Full-time remote workers slash emissions by 54% compared to office goers: Study

A recent study, featured in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, revealed that individuals who worked remotely full-time generated less than half the greenhouse gas emissions compared to their counterparts who worked in traditional office settings. This study, which concentrated on U.S. employees, offered valuable insights into the environmental impact of remote work arrangements.
The research found that employees in the US who worked from home exclusively were projected to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by a substantial 54 per cent when compared to their office-working counterparts. This reduction stems from several factors, primarily a decrease in office energy consumption and the elimination of daily commuting emissions.
However, the study also highlighted a significant distinction for hybrid workers—those who split their time between remote and office work. These individuals did not achieve the same level of emissions reduction as full-time remote workers. In fact, one day of remote work per week only led to a minimal two per cent reduction in emissions.

This is because the energy savings from not being in the office were offset by factors like increased non-commuting travel when working from home. Yet, individuals who worked remotely for two or four days a week saw substantial emissions reductions of up to 29 per cent when compared to their on-site counterparts.
Researchers from Cornell University and Microsoft used extensive datasets, including Microsoft employee data, to model the predicted greenhouse gas emissions of various work arrangements. They analysed five categories of emissions, encompassing office and residential energy usage. Surprisingly, the study found that IT and communications technology had a negligible impact on individuals’ carbon footprints related to work, reported the Guardian.

While remote work presents a notable opportunity for reducing emissions, it’s essential to plan carefully to maximise these benefits. The study revealed that remote workers tend to increase non-work-related travel, including more driving and flying. Additionally, homes are not always optimised for decarbonisation, and some appliances may be less energy-efficient than their office counterparts.
The COVID-19 pandemic led to a remote work revolution, with many individuals relocating from high-density commuting zones to rural, low-density areas. However, this shift may result in longer commuting distances for hybrid workers and increased use of private vehicles, potentially leading to a greater carbon footprint.

While the study’s findings are specific to the United States, the underlying modelling and trends are likely applicable to other regions, including Europe and Japan.

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