A University of Sussex Business School study suggests that a permanent switch to hybrid work after a pandemic may not have the same environmental benefits as originally thought.
The Study that examined data on 269,000 people in EnglandResearchers found that remote workers were more likely to travel longer distances than office workers between 2005 and 2019.
It was found that those who work from home at least 3 times per week live 7.6 miles farther from their workplace than those who don’t.
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While those who worked from home only once or twice per week were on average 4.2 more miles away from their work place than those who worked in an office, they also lived on average 4.2 more miles.
Steven Sorrell, professor of energy policy in the Science Policy Research Unit at the University of Sussex Business School, said that remote working could have “unintended consequences” which might offset any reduction in carbon emissions.
“If you only commute a couple of days a week, you may choose to live further from your workplace. 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,” he explained.
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The study, which examined approximately 3.6 million trips, found that households with at least one remote family member had a higher weekly travel average.
The average distance that households with remote workers traveled each week was 22 miles more than those without remote workers. This was mostly due to public transport and not cars. This may be due to the fact that remote workers are more likely to encourage other household members and encourage them to travel more.
The study also revealed that remote workers traveled an average of 9 miles farther on average than workers based in offices, and 8 percent more trips were not work-related.
While public transport was the most common mode of travel, remote workers made 7 percent more trips to work by car, while irregular remote workers drove an average of 4.44 miles per week.
“A combination of residential relocation, induced non-work travel and the influence on the travel patterns of other household members offset the benefits of fewer commutes,” said Bernardo Caldarola, lead author of the study and also a professor at the Science Policy Research Unit, who suggested changes to public policy could “encourage more sustainable residential and travel patterns” among remote workers.
Caldarola said that while the study suggested a connection, a causal relationship between remote work and travel patterns was not established. More research is needed to investigate the issue.