The public health and economic crises that have unfolded since March and the calls for social justice that erupted in June have upended the status quo we called “normal’ and tested our nation’s resolve to unite and overcome challenges.  They have drawn attention to disparities in the quality of life within our communities and taught us lessons that could be applied to implementing climate solutions.

For many companies, the most dramatic workplace change has been shifting to allowing employees to work remotely. An estimated 30% of US employers have adapted; implementing technologies and new forms of communication to connect co-workers and clients, collaborate on projects and to continue to meet organizational objectives. Although distance learning and telecommuting had been available previously, COVID19 challenged us to set aside long-held beliefs that remote working arrangements are less productive, fail to foster corporate identity and team cohesion. What we’ve learned is that workers can remain fully engaged and be equally productive working remotely as collocated in an office. The reduction in daily commutes improved air quality, benefitted our health and the environment. Our ability to be flexible, innovate, adapt, and thrive demonstrated resilience– the trait needed to address and mitigate climate change.

Now that we’ve observed that remote working can be productive and sustainable, Growing Climate Solutions is calling upon employers to leverage this workplace experiment to address greenhouse gas emissions that drive climate change.  As we return to work in a “new normal” we are asking employers to consider adopting or revising their organization’s telecommuting/ remote-working policies to allow the maximum number of employees to work remotely one to two days a week going forward.  In fact, 43% of full-time American employees say they want to work remotely more often even after the pandemic crisis subsides.

Institutionalizing greater levels of telecommuting will:

  • Cut greenhouse gas emissions by taking cars off the road, reducing both vehicle miles traveled and traffic congestion.
  • Decrease automobile accidents, with fewer cars traveling and less congestion
  • Improve employee work-life balance and morale and lead to greater productivity and employee retention.
  • Potentially reduce the employer’s costs associated with office operation overhead and sick time. One study found that firms that allow 50% remote-work saved on average $11,000 per employee.

Clearly this may not be appropriate for every type of business or employee, and the remote work policy will have to be tailored to each organization. However, the collective adoption of generous remote-work policies among multiple employers in the region would demonstrate innovative climate leadership. Together, we could offer an employment/workplace model for effectively reducing transportation emissions, the sector contributing 45% of all greenhouse gas emissions in Florida.

If this climate solution resonates with you, consider joining Growing Climate Solutions as a partner or simply discussing it with your employer.  Engaging participants regionally will encourage others to follow suit, and Southwest Florida could lead on a new American lifestyle.