Work from home (WFH) vs in-office has been continuously debated since the start of the pandemic. Some articles report better productivity with WFH. Others report the opposite. Setting aside the endless productivity debate, secondary effects of WFH appear generally positive. Note than an estimated 37 percent of all US jobs can be done fully remotely (49 million jobs based on 2020 employment levels).
- Time savings for employees. The average commute time in the US was 55.2 minutes (2019 data). This is strictly door-to-door time, and does not include other factors such as dressing for work, packing food, setting up a laptop, etc.
- Direct cost savings for employees. The median annual transportation cost to commute was $2,226 (2017 data) with average gas prices at $2.41/gal. When factoring in all other direct cost savings of WFH such as child care, lunch, apparel, etc., total savings per employee has been estimated over $4,600 across all expenses.
- Ending homelessness. HUD estimated 553,000 average homeless people in the US daily. The unused office space could be used as shelter with minimal conversion effort. HVAC, restrooms, elevators, etc. are already installed. Some companies have begun making these space conversions at smaller scale.
- Carbon emissions reduction. This question was brought up in mid 2020 before a full year's worth of pandemic-era data was available. CO2 emissions fell 5.4% in 2020 according to NASA estimates. Some reduction was caused by construction / manufacturing disruptions and other factors. Regardless, reducing US daily commuters by 30+ million individuals in 2020 was obviously beneficial. Air traffic also reduced over 60% in 2020 as a combined result of deferred personal travel and shifting business meetings online.
- Reduced traffic for businesses supported by commuters. In many cases one could argue this is actually a positive result. For example, there is an entire industry dedicated to commercial office construction. Is this really a necessary industry? Or a massive waste of resources/emissions to build redundant structures when employees can do the same job from home? In 2019, 38% of global CO2 emissions were generated by building construction and operation. Perhaps construction resources would be better used to ease the housing shortage.
In summary, it would be very refreshing to hear these considerations included by business and government leaders when discussing WFH policies. Tech sector management particularly tends to favor environmental initiatives and political causes. However these concerns seem to disappear immediately from discussion when the topic is return-to-office or hybrid work arrangements. Politicians regularly advocate for carbon-reduction policies. Where is the left-leaning political advocacy for WFH, either based on environmental or pro-worker reasoning? Does it exist and I'm somehow missing the headlines?