Not everyone can work remotely but for those that can, the shift towards remote work looks like it’s here to stay with benefits for employees, employers and the environment.
Less commuting to and from work means lower carbon emissions (not to mention less stress for employees). Transportation is one of the largest sources of carbon emissions in New Zealand and commuting accounts for a sizable proportion of emissions. Widespread adoption of WFH practices would mean less cars on the road, decrease the demand for public transportation, and reduce our overall carbon footprint.
In a world where businesses are under increasing pressure to show their commitment to climate change initiatives, a WFH policy is one way to make their business practices more environmentally friendly and keep their employees happy at the same time.
For employers, remote work can reduce commercial real estate and operational costs. With fewer people working on-site, organisations may benefit from lower electricity usage, less equipment and less wastage. Some may choose to downsize their commercial property and require less space for parking in urban centres.
By the numbers
In May 2020, a University of Otago study of 2,595 New Zealanders working from home during lockdown found that most people were equally or more productive (73 per cent). Many wanted to continue working from home at least part of the time post lockdown (89 per cent). Sixty-five percent felt optimistic they would be able to continue some form of remote working, representing a significant shift in our work behaviour.
Flexible work hours and WFH options vary considerably by industry. According to Stats NZ, the industries in which people were most likely to work from home were:
- financial and insurance services (71 percent)
- information media and telecommunications (66 percent)
- professional, scientific, technical, administrative, and support services (59 percent)
- and rental, hiring, and real estate services (58 percent).
The industries in which people were least likely to work from home were:
- retail trade, accommodation, and food services (15 percent)
- transport, postal, and warehousing (20 percent)
- manufacturing and electricity, gas, water, and waste services (24 percent)
- health care and social assistance (24 percent)
- and construction (26 percent).