A recent study conducted by researchers from Cornell University and Microsoft indicates that remote work can significantly reduce an individual’s carbon footprint. The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found that employees who work from home could have a 54% lower carbon footprint compared to those who work in an office.
The researchers also highlighted the benefits of hybrid work, where individuals work two to four days a week from home. This approach was found to reduce carbon footprint by 11% to 29% compared to onsite workers. However, the study noted that working one day a week from home had a negligible impact on carbon footprint.
The reduced carbon footprint of remote and hybrid work can be attributed to several factors. Firstly, remote workers eliminate the need for daily commuting, resulting in energy savings from transportation. Additionally, remote workers do not contribute to office energy use. However, the researchers also noted some drawbacks. Hybrid workers tend to live further from the office, increasing travel distances when they do go into work. Moreover, as the number of remote work days increases, social and recreational activity trips become more significant.
Despite these drawbacks, the study concludes that the benefits of remote work outweigh the negative impacts. While remote workers may consume more residential energy, the overall reduction in transportation energy and office energy use far offsets these increases. The researchers emphasize the importance of organizations and policymakers promoting lifestyle and workplace improvements to maximize the benefits of remote and hybrid work.
According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the percentage of remote workers in the workforce has increased from 5.7% in 2019 to 15.2% in 2022.
Sources: Cornell University, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Microsoft