Picture someone who works from home, what do you see? Depending on whether you commute to an office or whether your office is right in your apartment or house, you probably have a very specific image in mind.
Those who do their work from a traditional office setting may have pictured a life of leisure, of days spent in pajamas, occasionally tapping away at a computer between plenty of home-based distractions. And for people like me who actually do spend our days working from a home office? We probably pictured something much different – a super productive day void of the distractions of the typical office: No big trays of donuts or left-over bagels to tempt us, no cubicles or harsh overhead light, and no long lines of 5 pm traffic to sit in as we make our way to work.
Yes, working from home takes discipline, but for more and more American workers, remote work is quickly becoming a way of life. We connect with our co-workers over skype instead of the water cooler, we call in to meetings instead of gathering in conference rooms, and we typically work for longer stretches and are often more productive. No shade meant for office workers, but anyone who has worked in a busy office setting will likely agree, office life can be distracting.
By removing extraneous factors, like traffic during a morning commute, and allowing workers more autonomy over their schedules, many remote workers are able to maximize their productivity while achieving more balance in their day to day life. Think about it: If you commute 30 minutes each way, that’s an hour you get back of your daily life. If you don’t feel well, but feel well enough to work, working from home can provide a healthier solution for the worker and their coworkers. But the benefits of working from home aren’t limited to employees and your bottom line, working remote can be a huge benefit on the environment as well!
Benefits of remote workers on the environment
What makes working from home so great for the earth? Let’s go back to one of the touchstones of the traditional American office worker: the commute. If you’ve ever sat in traffic going to or from the office, you know how demoralizing it can be. Sure, wall-to-wall traffic is a great time to catch up on podcasts, but wouldn’t you rather be listening to those podcasts somewhere else? We agree. But the commute – and sitting in traffic – to and from work isn’t just bad for morale, your aching back, and your work/life balance – it’s terrible for the environment, too. According to EHS Today, an American occupational safety and health magazine, if the 40% of American workers who hold remote-compatible jobs and who want to work from home did so half the time, oil consumption would be reduced by 280 million barrels of oil annually and would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by the equivalent of removing 9 million cars per year from the roads. Makes sense right? Fewer cars on the road means less gas consumed, fewer barrels of oil needed, and more of your paycheck in your pocket as opposed to the gas tank – for those worried that less reliance on oil would hurt the economy, think about how you’d feel with a hundred extra bucks to spend every month. This could translate to a boosted local economy and more security for workers.
But carbon emissions and gas consumption aren’t the only areas where working remote saves. By working from home, remote workers save on energy consumption, too. Science Direct finds that workers treat energy consumption differently at home than they do at the office. This could be because using home energy has a direct effect on the worker – they end up footing the bill. A study by Sun Microsystems found that energy used by offices is nearly twice that used by us at home, reducing energy consumption per home worker by approximately 5,400 kWh a year. This could translate to up to 133 billion kWh hours saved per year, reducing overall energy by 3.3%
A few years ago, Global Workplace Analytics partnered with Flex Jobs to showcase the positive impact working from home can have on the environment. From that study, the below points illustrate the environmental benefits of working from home for the then 3.9 million American workers who work remote at least half the time:
- Tons of greenhouse gases (GHG) avoided (EPA method): 3 million
- Reduced traffic accident costs: $498 million
- Vehicle miles not traveled: 7.8 billion
- Vehicle trips avoided: 530 million
- Oil savings ($50/barrel): $980 million
- Total air quality savings (lbs. per year): 83 million [source]
On top of all this, it’s been found that remote workers also use considerably less plastic. Coffee cups, straws, lids, plates, bowls, cutlery – just a few of the many, many plastic pieces that office workers use daily and ultimately throw away every day. While home workers aren’t immune to the occasional to-go coffee cup or takeout container, remote workers ultimately use less plastic than traditional office workers. While many offices are working to reduce their use of single-use plastic, nothing compares to brewing your own coffee (so much better, too), and using your own mugs, metallic flatware and ceramic bowls and plates. Not only will remote workers be saving plastic, but they’ll likely be eating healthier too by preparing their own meals.
With so many obvious benefits of working from home, it’s a wonder that more companies don’t make the option available to workers. If you’re hoping to take the first steps towards remote work and your job would translate to working from home, find out if it’s possible to work remotely one day per week. By building trust with your employer, they may begin to see the light – and the benefits – of working from home.
Do you work from home? Share your experience with us on social by tagging @AvocadoMattress and #AvocadoGreenMagazine!
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