A recent survey showed that 40% of British adults now work from home at least one day a week, and one in ten work from home on a full time basis. A quarter of us would turn down a job if it didn’t include the possibility of working from home.
We all know the benefits from working from home – being able to get up later, having time for breakfast and maybe a school run. When you’re finished for the day, you’re already home. That means there’s time to cook a proper meal, and enjoy the evening without the mental and emotional fatigue of a long commute. When I worked in London, working from home gave me an extra two and a half hours in the day. It made a huge difference to my wellbeing.
That little bit of extra time and energy is valuable. We’re more likely to get a full night’s sleep and cook proper meals. There’s room in the schedule for exercise, gardening, and hobbies and interests. Working from home makes us happier and healthier.
Those benefits ripple outwards too, first of all to families. Children get to see their parents, and partners get to see each other. It’s better quality time too, because we don’t arrive home stressed and tired. We have more time and energy for friends too, and for volunteering or local organisations. Working from home gives us more opportunity to be active citizens, with benefits for community and for local democracy.
There can be environmental benefits too, which is what this particular survey is out to highlight. More working from home means fewer commuters, easing pressure on overcrowded public transport and reducing traffic. The most sustainable journeys, as they say, are the ones you don’t take.
Reducing the number of commutes has a carbon saving too. This is slightly more complex than it appears, because the commute isn’t the only factor. If people stay at home and heat a whole house with one occupant in it, there wouldn’t be much of a saving. That’s true at the office end too, where we’d be heating unoccupied desk places while staff are at home. This can be overcome with well insultated home office spaces and smart heating controls. Shared workplaces such as libraries or co-working spaces also have a role. I’m writing from Luton’s Do Wrk today, ten minutes from my home. They can provide the office facilities that people might need, and also a sense of community.
The Carbon Trust looked into working from home in 2014. They concluded that an extra four million people working from home by 2020 would deliver significant cost and carbon savings:
Not every job can be done from home, and we’ll always need a certain amount of office space. But the days of traipsing into an office every day may be numbered, certainly as the default assumption. Working from home could help to meet climate targets, address time poverty and enhance our sense of freedom and community all at once.