Embrace remote working to keep air pollution low, employers urged
Working remotely is both achievable and welcomed by the public, with 87 per cent of those currently working from home wanting to continue to do so to some degree.
A survey commissioned by charities Global Action Plan and Guy’s and St. Thomas’s Charity on behalf of the Business Clean Air Taskforce (BCAT), showed that almost one in five commutes by car could be avoided if employees continue to work remotely as we emerge from lockdown.
Of the 19.5 million who have been working from home during lockdown, 41% were previously not allowed to do so.
While remote working is not suitable for all professions and is not welcomed by everyone, allowing employees the option to work from home when it suits them can improve wellbeing, with 54% of lockdown homeworkers saying they are less stressed and 65% are happier not to deal with rush hour.
To avoid a surge in air pollution and the health issues it causes, Global Action Plan is encouraging businesses to embrace remote working fully for all employees it suits, as workplaces begin to open. This is the most immediate action companies can take to prevent employees from defaulting to driving to the office and clogging up the streets for those who must work on site.
Maintaining lower levels of air pollution could also help the recovery and prevention of a second spike in coronavirus, which have been linked.
The survey also finds that 72% of the public believe clean air is more important now because coronavirus can affect people’s lungs, and 74% of the public want businesses to do more to improve air quality in their recovery.
Chris Large, Partner at Global Action Plan, said: “The experiences of working from home during lockdown have unlocked a new working option for millions of employees and it has kept many businesses running. If employers support greater remote working, as many as 1 in 5 car journeys driven for business purposes could be eliminated, equating to 11 billion miles saved per year. We should take this opportunity to minimise pollution and traffic, free employees from unnecessary travel and fortify business against future disruptions. We don’t need to work from home every day to make a significant reduction to congestion on the roads which will help people breath cleaner air.”
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “Here in London, we have already made great progress in improving air quality over recent years, and this has been accelerated further during the coronavirus lockdown. But cleaner air should not just be temporary. As the Government starts to ease lockdown measures, our challenge will be to eradicate air pollution permanently. Continued working from home, where possible, is now vital for allowing essential journeys on public transport to be made safely. But alongside our ambitious new plans to enable more walking and cycling, the longer-term effects of more remote working will mean even more improvements in air quality and help us tackle the ongoing climate emergency.”