The last two years have seen cataclysmic changes in the way many of us work. Of course the biggest change has been the move to working from home (WFH); according to the US census, “between 2019 and 2021, the number of people primarily working from home tripled from 5.7% (roughly 9 million people) to 17.9% (27.6 million people)”.
Other high income countries have reported similar findings with three regions in Europe (1 in Finland and 2 in Belgium) recording more than 25% of people working from home in 2020. Canada as a whole reported 30% of those working during April-June 2020 worked most of their hours from home.
Less people working outside of the home meant people experienced improved air quality as the number of vehicles on the road dropped precipitously. But it is obvious that we shouldn’t be looking for something as detrimental to humanity as a pandemic to decrease emissions.
However, we can take lessons from the WFH experience during the pandemic.
An approach that was formalized by the Queensland government in Australia, is the idea of having distributed work centers (DWCs). These DWCs were a “convenient, accessible and safe workplace option that allows approved users to work closer to their home, alongside employees from various Queensland Government departments.” In other countries, there are numerous examples of coworking facilities where workers from different companies and solopreneurs share space and access to services like printing and meeting rooms.
To allow for meaningful reductions in greenhouse gas emissions these DWCs should be set up outside of traditional business districts and/or downtown cores and instead be located near transit and/or be within easy walking or cycling distance from population centers.
If you were working from home during the pandemic and would like to continue doing so at least some of the time, why not raise the concept of DWCs with your organization’s leadership?
Coming in Part 2: the 4-day work week is getting a lot of buzz around the globe - how might this change affect workers, the workplace and greenhouse gas emissions?