Since the onset of the pandemic, we've seen traditional office lights flicker off worldwide, as employees make the move to working from home.

We’re witnessing a major evolution in our professional lives, spurred by a shift in our work locations and the core ways we approach our jobs.

Remote and hybrid work models are not new — but their prevalence skyrocketed when COVID-19 drew people away from office spaces.

According to a McKinsey & Company survey, nearly 60 percent of American workers now have the flexibility to do part or all of their jobs remotely. Flexible working arrangements have increased by anywhere from a third to tenfold since 2019.

There’s a massive upside to this trend. The surge in remote work has inadvertently set us on a greener path, with fewer cars on the road, less office waste, and a decreased demand for resource-heavy office buildings.

The current fusion of digital technology and telecommuting is nudging us towards a future where our professional lives contribute to a cleaner, healthier planet. Let’s dig deeper into the details of how this serendipitous shift is making the world a better place.

How the Shift to Remote Work Is Reducing Our Environmental Footprint

Here are just a few of the ways remote work positively impacts our environment:

Reduced commutes

The first key advantage of remote work is a drastic cutback in daily commuting.

Regular travel in vehicles substantially adds to air pollution, especially in the form of greenhouse gases. By choosing to work from home, we directly contribute to shrinking the carbon emissions that typically come from commuting — and those emissions are a big contributor to climate change.

Less office waste

Let’s face it: Traditional offices produce tons of waste. Materials like paper printouts and single-use plastics inevitably contribute to our landfills.

But the rise of remote work diminishes the demand for these resources and reduces the waste we generate on the job.

Digital tools, which facilitate the seamless exchange of documents between team members and customers, can make our home offices paperless (👀 Showcase Workshop can be a great partner in helping you make this transition).

Working from home also means we can sidestep the habitual use of plastic cups or cutlery common in many office kitchens. This can also drive down waste production.

Decreased energy usage in office buildings

Office buildings, with their wide spaces and endless amenities, are notorious for extensive energy consumption.

Traditional workspaces require substantial amounts of power to manage heating, cooling, and lighting — but the rising wave of home-based work is steadily decreasing the demand for energy-intensive spaces like these.

Working from home shifts the control of environmental conditions back into our hands. Rather than lighting an entire office floor or maintaining a uniform temperature across multiple rooms, remote workers can focus on heating, cooling, and lighting their own private workspaces.

Our homes also offer more natural light and better opportunities for ventilation, which can lower our reliance on artificial lighting and air conditioning.

Reduced business travel

The recent wave of working from home has also changed the way we approach business travel.

The need to hop on a plane or catch a train for a face-to-face meeting is being replaced by the convenience of virtual meetings. And even though I know we’re all suffering from Zoom fatigue, this change does spare us the hassle of travel.

It’s also good for the planet. Every virtual meeting or conference held in place of a physical one means fewer car rides, flights, and train journeys. This travel reduction corresponds to less fuel burned and fewer emissions released into our atmosphere.

The simple act of switching our meetings from boardrooms to virtual rooms is helping us respect and protect our environment.

Easing urban congestion

As the shift towards remote work reduces the number of daily commuters, our urban landscapes are also getting some unexpected relief. The decline in regular travel eases the strain on city infrastructure — from public roads to transportation systems — and reduces wear and tear.

Fewer vehicles on the roads means less traffic congestion, which leads to a noticeable improvement in air quality. Quieter streets and less crowded public transport also contribute to cleaner and healthier urban environments.

More sustainable lifestyles

The flexibility of remote work also gives us the chance to adopt more eco-friendly lifestyles.

With the time saved from not having to commute, you can invest more energy into activities like cooking at home. This is good for the waistline and helps curb dependence on takeout food that comes paired with plastic or styrofoam packaging.

The freedom of remote work also gives people the chance to pursue sustainable habits or hobbies. With the time you save every month, you could start composting kitchen waste or cultivate your own vegetable patch.

But There Are Some Hidden Costs

Remote work has a lot going for it, from the planet’s point of view — but there are some environmental costs to keep in mind.

When we shift to working from home, we’ll use more home energy. We’ll also have to consider the impact of digital technology and data centers when we’re figuring out if camping out in our home offices permanently is a net win.

The ultimate environmental benefits of remote work hinge on how resource-efficient your home workspace is in comparison to a conventional office environment. Are you powering a single laptop and a small desk lamp, or do you need a multi-screen setup and a full suite of office gadgets?

Another critical factor is the length and nature of the commute you're bypassing. If you're exchanging an hour-long drive in a fuel-hungry vehicle for a stroll across your living room, the environmental savings are clear — but if your previous commute was a short walk or bike ride, the benefits might not be as substantial.

The balance of these factors will vary from person to person. But we do know that with thoughtfulness and a willingness to embrace change, the shift to remote work offers significant opportunities to tread a bit easier on the planet.

Remote Work Means Going Paper Free, Too

Moving toward digital sharing is a requirement for remote work — and it’s also a practical step you can take toward a more sustainable future. In today’s decentralized workplaces, sharing online and getting rid of print materials has become more important than ever.

The fate of most printed materials, no matter how well-crafted, eventually leads to the trash bin. Opting for digital sales and marketing materials eliminates this type of waste. Gone are the days of chopping down trees just to update printed forms with the latest product upgrade.

Showcase Workshop makes the process of going digital easy and accessible for you, your team, and your customers. Our platform offers simple sharing features, including innovative VIP Pass links.

With these digital sharing options at your fingertips, all the materials you need are just a click away, available whenever and wherever they’re needed.

Sign up for a free trial of Showcase Workshop today and join us in creating a positive environmental ripple effect with the power of digitization.