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Hybrid Work Can Reduce U.S. Carbon Emissions by 87%

The rise of hybrid work has brought with it rapid changes to the way people work. The frequency or ability to work remotely varies by type of work and by an individual’s personal characteristics, with many companies settling on hybrid work patterns in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a recent study from IWG. The study finds that transport emissions are the largest source of carbon emissions in both the United States and United Kingdom, and office buildings are a major consumer of both electricity in gas in both countries.  

Cities in the U.S. show the largest potential carbon savings due to hybrid work compared to London and Glasgow, due to the prevalence of commuting by car, with Atlanta (90% reduction), just edging out Los Angeles (87%) and New York (82%).  

Employees in Los Angeles who work close to home have 41% less emissions than in the traditional five-day commuting scenario. Further, workers in Atlanta who work close to home see a nearly 90% reduction in carbon emission compared to the five-day commuting scenario.  

When it comes to transport-related carbon emissions, the report examines environmentally friendly “variations” in the form of sustainable transportation like walking, cycling, or public transport in favor of traveling by car. With building-related emissions, this variation includes these “close to home” local workspaces—or working from home—instead of traveling to standard office buildings in major city centers.  

The report finds that environmentally friendly “variations” require action to tackle both types of carbon emissions. IWG can support reductions in transport emissions through a series of measures including the following: 

  • creating a dense network of local workspaces around the country, reducing the distances to travel and removing drawbacks to using public transit, walking, or cycling; 
  • providing high-quality facilities like cycle parking, showers, and changing rooms for commuters; 
  • ensuring workers have safe commutes to cycle and walk to their workplace; 
  • reducing the amount of car parking provided in workspaces; 
  • providing bikes for borrowing; and  
  • choosing sites for local workspaces in walkable areas with access to public transportation.  

There are clear reductions in emissions in all scenarios that limit the amount of time spent in a central city office, even for people who drive. Car use and distance traveled are the largest determinants of transport emissions, the report finds. A home workplace has the lowest emissions in the U.S. when compared to office buildings.  

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