The ascension of remote employment is increasing rapidly, with 37% of employees having some remote work capability at the moment, up from 30% as of a decade ago and only 9% as of 1995, according to Gallup.
For many job seekers today, pursuing a remote job comes with a lot of benefits – lower commute time, increased productivity, and serious flexibility are among the most often cited. It can actually be change that benefits the environment. Because three quarters of millennials, one of the fastest growing adult segments of the population, are actively looking for changes that they can make to be more environmentally conscious, this should be big news.
What are some of the positive ways that remote work can affect the economy?
Reduces the Utilization of Fossil Fuels
Flexjobs recently studied the effects of remote capable employees working from home, and their results were particularly notable when it came to fossil fuel utilization. Working remotely reduced the consumption of gas by more than $20 million per year globally, but it also decreased the greenhouse emissions by 54 million tons annually, and helped to save 640 million barrels a year of oil. These are real savings that should have you immediately sitting up and taking note, but there’s more to come.
Directly Improves the World Around You
Remote work offers numerous benefits to both towns and cities that have a working population, by lowering the amount of traffic throughout the day, thereby improving air quality while easing congestion.
For those working remotely, this shift dramatically reduces your carbon footprint as well. Dell is a great example of this, with 20% of the 20,000 person workforce working from home or remotely, and another 20% working outside of the office occasionally. The result of this shift was that their employees saved almost 7,000 metric tons of greenhouse gases (equivalent to almost 16 million miles less being driven annually) for 2014.
Even though there are plenty of direct benefits to working remotely, there are also plenty of indirect benefits that accrue to those who put themselves in this position. A key benefit seen by employees is on the improvement in productivity seen by working remotely. With productivity loss costing employers an estimated $1.8 trillion annually and two thirds of employers reporting higher productivity of remote employees, remote work provides a huge win for the economy (and environment) at large.
From an environmental perspective, if you get your work done faster then you can spend less time in front of the computer, which lowers energy usage and can have a number of other secondary effects by improving the lives of remote workers everywhere.
Reduces Company Overhead
Even though the environmental benefits from increased productivity and reduced commuting costs are very real, they can sometimes pale in comparison to the cost of maintaining office space made redundant in part because of a switch to remote work.
Aetna is a great example of how effective this can be – 40% of employees work on a remote basis, and they are helping them save an estimated $78 million in real estate costs per year (meaning less environmentally damaging building projects in the future). This is compounded by the lower ongoing use of environmentally costly utilities, HVAC, housekeeping, and other services designed to maintain those spaces.
The increased use of remote work not only creates directly measurable environmental benefits, but its benefits are in many cases extremely far reaching and often only noticed after large scale remote work programs have been implemented.