A new study from the University of Sussex Business School shows that hybrid work may not provide the positive environmental impact it once was believed to have had.
According to the new research, while remote workers in England traveled less often to the office, they did travel further each week compared to office workers due to them living further away from their workspace.
Using data from the English National Travel Survey, researchers discovered that those who worked remotely three or more times a week lived an average of 4.1 miles further from their workspace, while those who worked remotely once or twice a week lived an average of 7.6 miles further.
“Our study finds that remote working can have unintended consequences that offset the potential travel and carbon savings. If you only commute a couple of days a week, you may choose to live further from your workplace,” said Steven Sorrell,Professor of Energy Policy in the Science Policy Research Unit (SPRU) at the University of Sussex Business School. “And if you work at home during the day, you may choose to take additional trips – perhaps to pick up some shopping or simply to get out of the house. We must consider these possibilities when estimating the contribution of teleworking to carbon targets.”
Additionally, hybrid workers who came into the office around three to four times a week took 14.9% less commutes, but traveled 10.9% further than daily commuters.
Hybrid workers were also found to travel for non-work related reasons more often, with full-time remote workers taking 7% more non-related trips by car. This may negate the energy savings that were associated with hybrid and remote work.