Homeworking & the Environment – Actual Change or Greenwashed Dreams?

6 September 2021

As city skies cleared up and traffic congestion all but disappeared during the pandemic, the working world fell into the realisation that working from home can have immense beneficial effects on the environment.

Positive Effects

It’s no question that increased remote working results in a decrease in commuter traffic on the roads, especially in such a car-centric society as in Malta. We have also realised the needless costs and environmental impact of travelling abroad for meetings which could easily be held online. The benefits of decreased dependence on fossil-fuel powered vehicles – meaning less emissions of greenhouse gas and other dangerous pollutants – is immeasurable. In fact, the WHO reports that 4.2 million deaths annually are caused by air pollution alone.

Other positive environmental effects of remote working include decreased energy consumption (and so, running costs) for the employer, wherein offices may be downsized to cater for skeleton or rotation groups, if at all required. Remote working also means a tremendous decrease in paper use, as several entities bid to go paper-less, whilst plastic consumption may also reduce as workers would eat meals prepared at home rather than buying on-the-go meals caked in heaps of packaging.

A Balancing Act

Let’s not get carried away though. This radical shift will not bring about positive environmental change alone. Firstly, employers should still encourage their workers to be conscious at home, although it is reported that domestic energy consumption is much less than that that of corporate environments (that said, employees are financially incentivised to save energy at home when they have to pay for it themselves).

Whilst downsizing your offices reduces overhead costs, it would be disappointingly counterproductive to pile up landfills with furniture and other movables which have become unnecessary. Therefore, offsetting the negatives against the positives becomes a highly crucial balance which must be maintained when seeking the virtual working shift for the purposes of maintaining a more environmentally friendly environment.