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Why Remote Work Policies Are Good For the Environment


Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) criteria carry more weight than ever for individuals and companies committed to sustainable and ethical practices. Broadly, ESG criteria push beyond financial metrics in their assessment of company performance, instead focusing on environmental stewardship, social responsibility, and corporate governance.

Therefore, a fascinating balance needs to be struck between business success (in the traditional sense) and sustainability. Today, we delve into this balance, exploring the intriguing intersection between these principles and the remote work policies that so many businesses now operate within daily.

Curious about the relevance of this crossover? Well, according to a 2021 survey by Gartner, 85% of investors considered ESG factors in their investments, highlighting the growing importance of satisfying these criteria. When we combine this within modern businesses and startups, especially those seeking investment and going through the fundraising process, you begin to understand the massive relevance of being aware of ESG.

Being aware encompasses participating in strategies that can drive positive ESG impact, such as remote work setups. So, let’s look at exactly how these strategies enable companies to implement these ideologies more efficiently and effectively.

Related: Dear Boss, You’re Holding Too Many Meetings — Here’s Why the Best Teams Have Fewer Meetings

The impact of remote work

Kicking things off with the ‘E’ of ESG, remote work inherently reduces a company’s carbon footprint. With fewer, or in some cases such as ours at Bubbles, zero employees commuting, there is a massive decrease in greenhouse gas emissions (strictly from travel). In this light, we should look at some stats from Global Workplace Analytics.

They claim that if those who could work remotely did so just half the time, the reduction in emissions would be equivalent to taking the entire New York State workforce off the road. The scale of this workforce is mainly incomprehensible, so I feel comfortable drawing a parallel here with the incomprehensible environmental benefits of companies committing to remote or hybrid work policies.

However, the benefits do not just involve travel. In an environmental sense, remote work also reduces the need for large office spaces, meaning less energy consumption for heating, cooling, and lighting.

I want to note that the benefits are not without some challenges. An increased reliance on digital infrastructure that often occurs for remote work to be a success means those involved will have a higher electricity consumption and electronic waste. That’s not to say that this challenge is not manageable, though. For the most part, companies are able to navigate these challenges by adopting green IT practices, such as using energy-efficient servers and encouraging the recycling of electronic devices.

Related: Has Technology Killed Face-To-Face Communication? How to Navigate the Nuances of Digital Age Communication

Social benefits of remote work

On the social front, remote work positively impacts job satisfaction and work-life balance, both of which are key components of the ‘S’ in ESG. Employees gain more flexibility within these working setups, reducing stress and improving mental health. Not to flood you with facts, but according to Buffer in 2020, 98% of remote workers would like to continue working remotely to some extent, for the rest of their careers. So there you have it – implementing these strategies within a company will not only make you more ESG friendly, but it will benefit the lives of your hires.

Remote work also promotes inclusivity and breaks down borders (quite literally) that were common with in-person workplaces. By removing geographical barriers, companies can have access to a more diverse talent pool, which is obviously great for the output and growth of the company. This includes creating inclusivity for individuals who may have disabilities or caregiving responsibilities that make traditional office work challenging. The inclusivity that comes from committing to remote strengthens the social fabric of your company and allows you to have better professionals on your team.

Governance and remote work

Onto the final letter. In the context of ESG, governance involves implementing and ensuring robust policies, accountability, and transparency within a company or organization. Sometimes, remote work setups can struggle with effective communication, so I want to highlight the importance of going remote correctly.

This is because remote work policies necessitate clear communication (asynchronous or synchronous) and documentation, which, when done well, inherently improve governance practices. Staying in touch with team members when geographically separated can be done in a range of ways.

This was at the forefront of my mind when I founded Bubbles. I wanted to facilitate effective remote work by capturing essential discussions and real-time decisions through AI note-taking. I then wanted teammates to be able to follow up and align quickly with quick recordings or comments. From my perspective, this level of documentation and communication aligns well with ESG goals by promoting ethical decision-making and reducing the risk of miscommunication and oversight.

Related: ESG For Entrepreneurs: A Path To Business Success

Limitations and challenges

Despite the numerous benefits, remote work is not without limitations. Of course, the potential for employee isolation and the difficulty in building a cohesive company culture can be prevalent in this culture. Approach this as a challenge to overcome, and invest (financially and emotionally) in team-building activities and ways to create an inclusive digital workplace where people feel that sense of community.

The digital divide can also be challenging. Not all employees have access to high-speed internet or a conducive working environment at home. Understand this and aim to address these disparities. This is why recruiting and onboarding are critical so that you make the most of these efforts.

Conclusion

Remote work policies are a powerful catalyst for driving positive ESG impact and should be viewed in this light rather than as a trend. I hope that by sharing this, I have opened your eyes to the importance of navigating evolving work landscapes and leveraging them for ESG and company benefits.



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