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General, Travel & Culture, World Trends

Is Remote Working Sustainable?

April 5th 2021

Tagged: Covid-19, Sustainable Travel, Travel, volunteer, Volunteering Abroad

For the lucky, the Monday – Friday routine is not only a paycheck but a way to find active fulfilment. For others, Monday brings an undesired responsibility to society. However you feel about your job, it is likely that over the last 12 months your ways of working have changed for better or worse. As separation has been enforced upon everyone, with social distancing becoming our recent past, present and future, remote working has established itself as a standard operating procedure for many companies.

The question remains as to whether remote working is a beneficial job perk that is giving us more freedom, or a gen-Z zeitgeist that is contributing to the existential threat of climate change and having a detrimental effect on society.

Benefits of Remote Working

Lower Gas Emissions

One of the major pros to the remote working argument has to be that of the potential environmental benefits. As we swap our motorway commutes for a tired stumble to the bedroom desk or downstairs office, it is easy to see how global greenhouse gas emissions could be positively impacted. Global Workforce Analytics estimates that working from home half of the week can reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the US alone by 54 million tons a year. It is therefore safe to assume that never having to step foot in an office again could have some major environmental benefits.

Reduced WasteEnvironmental volunteers cleaning the beachVolunteer Maldives | Marine Conservation | Working Abroad

From water cooler cups to the endless supply of office printing paper, there is scope for remote working to have an enormous impact on the commercial waste output. All of a sudden there is little need for most physical paper documents and even less use for plastic cups and packaging on your lunch break, meaning employers can drastically reduce the appalling amounts of paper and plastic consumed.

Productivity & Performance

If an employer cannot watch over its employees, does the job get done? It can be difficult for organizations to trust that remote workers are working productively and responsibly. However, recent data from Stanford’s two-year study showed that remote workers not only displayed a boost in productivity equal to a full day of work but also fewer sick days and a 50% decrease in employee attrition.

Freedom & Flexibility

Something that we all value in our lives is flexibility and with the development of remote working we finally have the ability to manage our hours according to our own chronotype or productivity sweet spot, we are no longer tethered to major cities and with options like the digital nomad visa, becoming an ever-popular way to immigrate it opens up a literal world of exploration. We can even spend more time surrounded by those who matter in the comfort of home. Altogether it is easy to understand the appeal of such freedom and flexibility, which is why it generally remains the most attractive aspect of remote working.

Volunteers enjoying the Hermosa sunsetVolunteer with Turtles | Volunteer Costa Rica

Better still, this extra freedom in working hours means you have a greater ability to find time to volunteer! Flexible working hours mean that you can arrange your schedule and volunteer in different capacities during the day, especially if you don’t work full time.

However, there are still ways you can help if you’re restricted by time or movement. You could get involved in virtual fundraising, social media campaigns or even help with some volunteer blog writing, so why not see what you can do? There is no reason why 2021 can’t be the year to start making a difference. If your new flexible working allows you more time to volunteer, contact us and we will be sure to find something that suits you!

Drawbacks of Working from Home

Increased Energy Usage

It’s easy to see how working from home could be considered environmentally friendly. However, scratch under the surface and the conclusion becomes a little less clear. Energy management in buildings such as offices often tends to be a little more sophisticated than that of an average house, meaning that an entire workforce heating its home has a greater energy usage than the same workforce all located in a single heated office.

Although death and taxes are infamously considered the only two certainties in life, it is starting to feel as if we can add trivial video meetings to that list. As the novelty of zoom conferences wears off, it’s easy to be oblivious to the costs of such meetings. Statistically, one hour of an ultra HD video call creates 2.8 kg of CO2 per participant. This is roughly equivalent to driving ~10 miles (depending on your car, surface, fuel, etc).

Promotes Excessive TravelCovid masks an impact of remote workingTravelling and Corona mask

Prior to 2020, it is unlikely that you had heard of a digital nomad. The term refers to remote workers who move from country to country working without any fixed base. This seemingly glamorous lifestyle has become the dream scenario for a modern generation that idolises travel bloggers and jet-setting influencers. Although many of these salaried explorers are very environmentally aware, there are others that make the most of their freedom, travelling non-stop and leaving in their wake a chasmic carbon footprint.

However, if you are a digital nomad and find the time to volunteer while abroad this will be a great benefit to many conservation projects around the world, that rely on volunteers like you! If you are someone that travels a lot, you can also try to practice slow travel, using more sustainable modes of transport to try and reduce your carbon footprint!


Many of the systems and organisations that we belong to and attend to, play an important role in forming our community. That social unit in which we share commonalities with others is generally considered hugely important to developing our relationships and a deeper sense of belonging. In a completely remote office, it is not only difficult to develop that same sense of community and camaraderie but also that face-to-face interaction is lost and a company’s culture is difficult to get across to its nomadic employees.


We often rely on our surroundings and situation to satisfy our social requirements. Replacing a bustling office culture or tight-knit workforce with a more solitary way of working can be a shock to the system. Although, for many, this slightly more introverted workplace offers a buffer from the social stresses, for others the lack of interaction involved with remote working has become a common complaint and can lead to an isolated and lonely existence. Such an issue can even potentially lead to more serious mental health issues such as depression.

One of the greatest benefits of volunteering abroad on our projects is you’re never alone. You can meet new friends from across the globe, learn from professionals, or even integrate yourself into a family home! If you’re feeling lonely volunteering will be a great way to connect with other people, once we return to some sort of normality.

Unplugging from WorkConservation Volunteer group in New ZealandConservation Volunteer New Zealand | WorkingAbroad

There are few causes of anxiety more common than that work-related stress. Tight deadlines, demanding clients and working overtime can all take their toll on employees. Another of the main struggles involved with remote working is the inability to unplug from work and switch off. Many of those forced into working from home during the pandemic were left to set up make-shift offices in their bedrooms and living rooms in an invasion of privacy by the very duties they were once able to escape. The lines between home and work have started to blur, meaning that the ability to disconnect has become increasingly difficult and is a major reason why many struggle with this newfound flexibility.

One of the best things you can do is to try and find time to relax or allocate some time to try something different from the everyday. Using holiday time to volunteer, for example, gives you the chance to do something completely out of the ordinary while gaining a sense of pride in doing something great for the planet.

What does the Future Hold for Remote Working?

As we appear to regain the initiative in the fight against COVID-19, we are likely to see many people who are temporarily working remotely, return to a familiar structure and way of working. However, for millions of the global workforce, they have been offered newfound freedom that will be impossible to retract.

Remote working offers enormous benefits to not only those who can adapt to such a change but also to the very world we live in. It has the scope to help slow climate change, alter the way society works and how organisations interact, whilst removing anxiety-inducing words like ‘commute’ from our everyday vocabulary.

Although some questions surrounding the sustainability and efficiency of remote working remain there is no doubt that challenges like communication, isolation and alternative energy expenditure will rise up the priority ladder as organisations move toward this new paradigm. It may not be for everyone but for many, it is the future.

If working from home has got you ready to see the world then why not apply for one of our incredible conservation projects and volunteer opportunities for 2021. In doing so you will be providing help for a meaningful cause with a sustainable approach!

Written by WorkingAbroad blogger Barnaby Bourton

About the Author

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Blog articles about our volunteer projects, the wider world and from volunteers in the field are shared here for everyone to get inspired and learn more about wildlife conservation topics, volunteering abroad and much more.