Work From Home and the Environment

I should start by making this much clear: we are not in a post-COVID world. Far from it. For all of the talk of reopening things right now, COVID is still very much a factor. We are losing hundreds of Americans per day.

However, at some point we are going to be looking at the other side of this virus, and at that point, we are going to need to think about what different workplaces look like after the virus. Granted, many workplaces are already thinking about this.

Some workplaces cannot function virtually and therefore may end up looking the same as they were before the virus. There are many professions, such as many service industries, manufacturing, construction, and much more, that must be done on site and cannot be done virtually. There are other workplaces that have tried to function virtually, but with significant problems since the pandemic began—teaching comes to mind as one such profession.

However, some workplaces have discovered that they can function virtually quite well, and in some cases as well as they did before the virus. In such cases, it would be best from an environmental standpoint if work from home became a long-term condition.

In many countries, including the United States, transport is the number one cause of greenhouse gas emissions.[1] Furthermore, the overwhelming majority of said transport comes from the car,[2] which is the vehicle of choice for many to head to work. What this means is that if fewer people needed to go to a workplace, fewer people would need to drive. And if fewer people need to drive, there’s less pollution coming into the air, contributing to the problems of dirty air and global warming.

Basically, work from home is environmentally friendly.

Now, the question of whether continuing to work from home after COVID (in industries that have been able to work from home during COVID) is going to be, in many cases, an office-by-office decision, depending on how well different offices felt they were able to function during the pandemic. Some offices may decide that they didn’t function well when they worked virtually, and therefore will head back to their offices after COVID. Other offices may feel on the fence about this question. Other offices yet may feel that they have functioned quite well from home during the pandemic and will be more than happy to work from home after the pandemic. Other offices yet may feel that they have functioned relatively well during the pandemic but would find it useful to have a combination of a combination of in-person work and working at home. However, especially for offices that are on the fence—particularly offices that are in areas where the only way to get to the location (or by far the easiest/most convenient way to get to the office) is by car, perhaps environmental considerations could also play into the thought process in such a decision.

For as much as some of us may like to think of key decisions on the environment as some far-away thing for people in some distant land to deal with, the reality is that all of us as individuals, as well as our bosses as individuals, have a role to play in taking care of the environment. And, perhaps in cases where offices functioned well while working virtually during the pandemic, the decision to continue working from home after the pandemic can be more than an office functionality decision, but an environmental one, too.


[1] https://www.epa.gov/ghgemissions/sources-greenhouse-gas-emissions

[2] https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20200317-climate-change-cut-carbon-emissions-from-your-commute

Coronavirus Update From New York City: March 25, 2021

I hope everyone is well, regardless of where you are.

In this post, I feel like I have more personal news to share than I’ve had in many of my posts, so buckle up…

First of all, it turns out that I am also eligible for the vaccine now, which I didn’t realize at the time I published last week’s COVID update post. Since my Body Mass Index (BMI) puts me in the “obese” category (albeit not by a ton–if I were 10 or so pounds lighter, I would not be obese based on my BMI), my obesity makes me eligible for the vaccine. It’s somewhat unfortunate my own perception of myself–the perception that I am “a little overweight” as opposed to “obese” (a perception further driven by the fact that I have actually lost a lot of weight during the pandemic)–meant that I didn’t realize I was eligible through being obese until I’ve already been eligible for a month! What’s done is done though, and I am now on the lookout for a vaccine. In the meantime, my advice to others is that even if you don’t think you are obese, check your BMI on the Adult BMI Calculator that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has anyway–you also might be eligible for a vaccine without realizing it.

The second major piece of personal news is that my younger brother is back at college. He had to go home from college like many other students last spring, and since then, he’s had some form of online learning. He is back at his school, albeit with strict COVID precautions (masking, social distancing, being tested twice a week, etc.). While the second half of the second semester of his senior year looks a lot different from what that period of life should look like, I am glad that he can see his friends in a safe manner again. The college my younger brother goes to managed to control the spread of the virus during the first half of the semester (when a different group of students were on campus), so I am hopeful that he and his friends will have a healthy second half of the second semester.

A third, and final, major piece of personal news is that I might be going back to a physical office again in early May. A lot of details still need to be ironed out though, so we’ll need to see what happens. Personally, while my initial feeling was apprehension, I am also hopeful that whenever I come back to the physical office I work at, things will work out well.

In non-personal news, the test positivity rate in my part of New York City has decreased substantially, all the way down to just over 8.5%! For a number of days, I was nervous because we weren’t getting any data reported at all on the test positivity rates, but now those numbers are getting reported and the numbers themselves are promising currently. Of course, that can quickly change with one big ill-advised party in the area, but for now, I’ll be happy with the progress on the test positivity front.

That’s it for me, for now at least. I hope others are well!