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Remote working backed to bring big emissions cuts

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Allowing employees who commute by car to switch to remote working three days a week would avoid two tonnes of carbon emissions for every three participants over a year.

With 1.1 million commuters in cars before the pandemic and a carbon saving of 670kg each, yearly savings from limiting office use could be almost 750,000 tonnes.

Ireland’s annual emissions are about 60 million tonnes, and must be halved by 2030.

The analysis was carried out by Trinity College Dublin and remote working company NoCo, which is working with Enterprise Ireland to coordinate a national network of 7,500 remote working spaces.

“There’s more work to be done on the environmental impacts, and Trinity are looking at how energy is used when people work remotely,” said Brian Moran of NoCo.

“But overall, there is a benefit to the environment and for climate change if people are not getting into their cars to get to work every day, and that just adds to the arguments for remote working.”

About 80pc of workers said they believed it was possible for their employers to introduce hybrid working post-Covid and 70pc said they would even relocate if they could work remotely.

However, for most, home was far from ideal, with 85pc experiencing wi-fi issues, 84pc lacking adequate space or equipment and 78pc saying they felt isolated.

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The Government has pledged to invest in remote working hubs with desk space and IT support as part of its strategy.

It has also promised legislation to give workers the right to ask employers to allow them to work remotely.

However, with the return to offices ramping up, no legislation is ready. The Department of Enterprise said a working group was examining it.

“It is expected the Tánaiste will seek cabinet approval for the draft heads of bill in quarter four of 2021. It is his intention to progress this Bill as quickly as possible,” it said.

Mr Moran said that even without legislation, the tide had already turned and many employees and companies had remote and hybrid working firmly on their agenda.

“The larger corporates who take their talent attraction strategies very seriously are already moving in this direction because the lack of flexible working could be a deal-breaker in trying to recruit and retain staff,” he said.

The Trinity research found that while 59pc of commuters had to leave home before 7.30am to get to their office, 76pc could leave after 7.30am to get to a remote workspace.

Half said they would consider getting an e-bike if they could work remotely, 14pc said a pushbike would be an option and 15pc would think about getting rid of their car.

Even public transport users would avoid 2.19kg of emissions each in a year of three-day remote working.

Professor Brian Caulfield of Trinity said: “Our research clearly shows remote working hubs may play an even more substantial role than we thought in reducing carbon emissions in the transport field from commuting.”


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