Although it seems that humanity has successfully hurdled the worst of the global pandemic, we all know that COVID-19 affected more than just our health systems. During the height of the worldwide health crisis, we’ve had to make tough choices. Some of us lost our loved ones. Businesses were forced to close shop. Millions of people lost their jobs, and we’ve all experienced mental anguish or stress in some form.
Amidst all this, there was one major upside: The earth had time to heal.
Because of travel restrictions, lockdowns, and social distancing, companies had to devise ways to continue operating — even at a minimum. Remote work — which has been around for several years — became a viable solution for companies that had never once considered it to be an alternative arrangement.
Since tomorrow is Earth Day (April 22), we’re dedicating this post to how remote work contributes to Earth Day values, as well as how we can take on the challenges that our sense of isolation costs our mental health, among others.
What Is the Purpose of Celebrating Earth Day?
Earth Day came into being in 1970 as people realized the negative impacts of human (or anthropogenic) activities and industries on the planet and recognized the need to address these concerns.
Remote work contributes to Earth Day values like the need to protect the environment and mitigate the impacts of industrialization on the planet.
With remote work (or working from home) becoming the primary work mode for companies hanging on despite the pandemic, our need to get up, prepare, and drive or commute to work became a thing of the past.
Aside from inactivity in major economic segments, including the commercial and transportation sectors, factories and warehouses also remained shuttered during the height of the pandemic. So, even for just a few months, carbon emissions went down significantly.
With the transportation sector comprising around 20% of global CO2 emissions, we can infer how eliminating the need for employees to drive or commute to work can reduce emissions significantly.
In fact, the lack of transportation activities contributed to the environmental benefits observed during the first few months of the pandemic. These beneficial environmental impacts included the reduction of air, water and noise pollution and the rejuvenation of natural habitats like forests and the oceans (including the Caribbean Sea).
What Are the Pros and Cons of Remote Work?
Aside from the beneficial effects of remote work on the environment, there are other advantages, as well as disadvantages of working remotely – which is why some companies gradually normalizing their operations are at a crossroads. For example, should remote work remain an optional work arrangement, or should employees report on-site the way they did pre-COVID?
Some of the benefits of remote work include the following:
It saves time for everyone as there’s no need to go through the motions of getting to work.
It saves money otherwise spent on commercial space rental, maintenance, and utilities.
It helps improve productivity, especially when applied in tandem with flexible work timings.
It gives people opportunities to achieve a better work-life balance as they can work and be present for their families as well.
It helps flatten corporate hierarchies as direct communication between employees and top executives happens through company apps or platforms.
It allows for greater diversity and inclusivity as some companies have globally distributed teams or people with disabilities who greatly benefit from more flexible setups.
But, of course, we also know that forced isolation can come at the cost of our mental and physical health, relationships, and social connections.
Communication and trust can also break down if remote work is not managed effectively.
Remote work can negatively affect employees if the company doesn't allocate time for socials or team events, health and wellness breaks, regular check-ins, or doesn't offer flexible scheduling options.
Good thing there are tools and apps (e.g., Slack, Asana, Microsoft Teams) that companies can use to improve collaboration, feedback, and communication. But are these enough?
Does Working From Home Affect Your Mental Health?
In a survey on work-from-home (WFH) arrangements conducted recently by Gartner, an overwhelming 70% of service employees revealed they’ve grown to like it and wish to continue working remotely. But, of course, it is uncertain whether all companies are willing to recognize and accept this reality. One thing is sure: when considering the future of their work-from-home programs, company executives must strike a balance between their own ambitions for the future and employee desires.
Research also shows that working from home can be good or bad for your mental health.
Good in the way it reduces the stress of your daily routine of going to work and allows you to spend more time with your family.
Bad in the way it can isolate you from your co-workers, weaken social ties and degrade your communication skills.
Some companies are addressing the challenges of employees wishing to continue working remotely by offering WFH as an optional work arrangement or even a hybrid model. By giving employees the freedom to decide where they work, you empower them. This sense of empowerment can translate into better outcomes, such as an increase in productivity, trust, loyalty, and job satisfaction.
Companies can also work on providing relevant mental health support, including support that addresses specific employee requirements. These include being sensitive to and addressing Black mental health needs and those of single parents, persons with disabilities, and other under-supported groups. This way, employees are not left to fend for themselves or feel helpless, misunderstood or isolated while struggling to perform their best in their roles.
The Advantages of Remote Work – For the Earth and Everyone
All things considered, remote working is a beneficial arrangement that helps the Earth and us humans. However, it comes with certain challenges that can only be addressed with the proper support, strategies, and infrastructure.
At Tough Convos, we recognize the value of remote work for both our health and the planet's health. We now know how crucial taking time and space is to reconnect with ourselves, others, and the Earth.
We also recognize how essential social activities and in-person conversations are to building strong teams and inclusive cultures.
We have stepped up to help you do just that because it's especially hard while working remotely.