There's much talk about work from home: efficiency, people who like it, people who don't, but I didn't see any policy talk, by governments, about its impact on the environment and whether it should be seen as a tool to fight climate change.
Governments around the world are now looking to solutions that involve flexible work to help tackle issues such as congestion in cities, high office prices and elderly employment.
But beyond improving time productivity for employees, there are many environmental benefits associated with homeworking. Not only does it reduce travel distances and fuel consumed, it also avoids excess energy consumption in the office.
And through these benefits, homeworking can actually contribute to meeting global targets for emissions reductions and energy demand.
In the UK alone – where the number of people working from home in the UK increased by 13% between 2007 and 2012 – homeworking has the potential to reduce carbon emissions by over 3 million tonnes a year.
Amid the immense hardship of the Covid-19 pandemic, one unexpected bright spot has emerged: residents from Los Angeles to New Delhi are reporting unprecedented smog-free skies—the result of a drastic reduction in vehicle-based and industrial air pollution.
What could work-from-home climate policy look like?
First, policy makers should consider tax breaks to companies that support employees working from home at least part of the time. The benefit should be proportionate to carbon emissions avoided, with credible third parties tasked with verifying emissions reductions. This could be coupled with broad-based policies to support high-speed internet connections, and legislative reforms similar to the federal Telework Enhancement Act of 2010.
Second, policies encouraging or requiring eligible employees to work from home, either full-time or part-time, can be a meaningful part of corporate emissions-reductions goals, which are increasingly relevant to consumers and investors alike. Businesses also should encourage employees to walk, bike, or take public transportation on days they do come into the office, by reimbursing related expenses.
In light of these "unprecedented smog-free skies," are any governments actively promoting work from home policies (such as those given above) as an effective way to reduce CO2 emissions for the purpose of meeting the challenges of climate change?