Teleworking and its impact on the carbon footprint


When COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic, telework took hold globally. This has allowed assessing the impact of telework on the environment. These ideas are taken up in this article.

First of all, it is worth noting that there is a real impact, but although a priori we might think only of environmental benefits, other negative aspects must also be taken into account in the overall calculation.

For example, when talking about energy consumption, the first idea is to save energy by closing large office spaces that consume electricity, air conditioning, water and so on. However, we must also consider energy consumption in households. In certain scenarios and depending on the circumstances, the consumption of employees may be higher than the consumption of the office, for example if the residence where the work is carried out is not energy efficient, the worker's own habits, the geographical location of the employee, etc. In addition there is a greater dependence on technology to make video calls, send emails or instant messaging, because where previously it was possible to resolve a matter in person, now it is necessary to use electronic means with the consequent expenditure of energy.

Where there is a greater consensus is in reducing the carbon footprint from commutes. Avoiding the use of public transportation and, especially, private transportation, helps reduce the emissions associated with these means.

Other matters to consider include, for example recycling. Studies in the UK have shown that during the pandemic months, recycling has increased and that teleworkers adopt this routine at home rather than in the office. Here again, the use of technology, which also generates more waste. According to the United Nations, 50 million tonnes of waste are produced worldwide each year, of which only 20% is formally recycled.

The benefits of teleworking for the environment are therefore manifold, but employees need to be made aware of the need of responsible use of energy and IT equipment.