As head of remote at Doist, I live and breathe remote work every single day. The core of what I do involves advocating for the future of work, and ensuring our distributed infrastructure is operating at peak efficiency. I approach this with enthusiasm because I strongly believe remote work can have a positive impact on individuals, organizations, and most importantly, our planet.
Remote work offers individuals flexibility over where they live and work, while companies gain access to global talent pools and cost savings. But the often overlooked element of remote work’s impact on sustaining our planet is something I am extremely passionate about, and hope to shed some light on here.
In 2015, the United Nations unanimously adopted a series of sustainable development goals (SDGs) designed to help achieve “peace and prosperity for the people and the planet, now and into the future,” by 2030. They are lofty goals, and span all aspects of our life here on earth–from ridding the planet of hunger and poverty, to preventing a climate disaster, and achieving gender and race equality. To achieve these goals we’ll need to rethink our approach to the way we live, consume, treat each other, and work. Yes, work.
The way we have been approaching work since the industrial revolution has contributed heavily to carbon emissions, inequalities, and work-life imbalance. Each of these are directly connected to the UN SDGs, and we have an opportunity (read: obligation) to change that going forward, and create a lasting impact on the environment and the well-being of future generations.
I won’t claim that remote work is the key to accomplishing these objectives, but then again, there is no silver bullet. We’re much more likely to achieve these goals via a series of 1% improvements than a few sweeping changes. With the migration to remote, we have the opportunity to contribute our 1%.
In the remainder of this article we’ll dive deeper on how remote work can be a force for good, and how it should be approached in order to positively influence the trajectory of the UN initiatives. This is not a comprehensive list, but instead a high-level overview with some relatively easily implementable best practices, which if adopted by the masses, would pay massive dividends.
What are the sustainable development goals?
The UN Sustainable Development Goals, also known as the SDGs, consist of a series of goals broken down into 17 categories:
- No poverty
- Zero hunger
- Good health and well-being
- Quality education
- Gender equality
- Clean water and sanitation
- Affordable and clean energy
- Decent work and economic growth
- Industry, innovation, and infrastructure
- Reduced inequalities
- Sustainable cities and communities
- Responsible consumption and production
- Climate action
- Life below water
- Life on land
- Peace, justice, and strong institutions
- Partnerships for the goals
Perhaps the most obvious of these opportunities is the effect remote work can have on our environment. The easy example to reach for in this regard relates to the commute: fewer people working in offices means fewer people commuting to work in gas guzzling vehicles.
”Considering the rebound effects of remote work on carbon emissions, studies have shown that working remotely is more sustainable than working in the office.” –David Sciamma, Dr. Remote
However, commuting is only one …….