The study’s authors reviewed existing research into the impact of home-working.They found of the 39 studies analyzed, 26 suggested that home-working cuts energy use through reduced travel to work and office energy consumption. Only eight studies suggest the impact was neutral or negative.
But once a wider range of impacts are included, such as non-work travel and home energy use, the savings are much smaller and more unpredictable. So despite assumptions about the energy-saving benefits of working from home, there is still a lot of uncertainty around how great they actually are.
Available research suggests that the biggest energy savings are found when staff work from home full-time, rather than split time between the office and home. And even when home-working is full-time, other factors need to be considered, such as how commutes are often combined with other duties such as the school run and shopping.
People who usually work from home often live further away from their office, meaning that they have much longer journeys on the days they do commute. For example, one study of UK workers found that those who work from home have, on average, a 17.2km-longer commute than those who are solely office-based.
“A scenario after the threat of coronavirus has cleared where workers will want the best of both worlds – retaining the freedom and flexibility they found from working from home, but the social aspects of working at an office that they’ve missed out on during lockdown – will not deliver the energy savings the world needs,” study author Benjamin K Sovacool, Professor of Energy Policy at the Science Policy Research Unit, University of Sussex, told the Centre for Research into Energy Demand Solutions.
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