Remote work and the SDGs

April 27, 2020
5 min read
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Remote work simply means your work does not require commuting to a physical office. Some call it telecommuting (working outside your employer’s office) or working from home. Work flexibility is growing, especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Flexible work was an idea driven largely by working parents, especially mothers, who no longer felt they should have to choose between caring for their family and having a fulfilling career. With digital technologies, it is not impossible to work on the same project with team members in different cities or countries. With a good internet connection and a laptop, you are good to go.

The shift to remote work is not only relevant to the health measures during COVID but valuable to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Working from home contributes to ensuring healthy lives and promoting wellbeing for all. With remote work, employees can be more intentional about their diet. There is no need to rely on fast-food restaurants for lunch or brunch. More time can be spent exercising, spending time with family and friends- which are drivers of a healthy mind and body. Also, there could be a lower rate of road accidents as fewer people will be commuting to work. Globally, approximately 1.25 million people die each year as a result of road traffic crashes, and many more are injured.

One path to achieving gender equality and empowering women and girls could be remote working. Remote work is a pathway to promoting shared responsibility within households. As time and energy are saved from commuting to work, men who work remotely can share in household responsibilities. This can help shift perceptions about household responsibilities and ease the burden of domestic responsibilities on working-class women. Women can have more time for themselves which can reduce anxiety and stress and promote better well-being. Additionally, the digital gap can be improved as women will have to use information and communication technologies when working remotely.

Remote working also contributes to making human settlements safe, inclusive, and resilient. Reducing the need to work from office spaces makes it easier for people to have access to safe and affordable housing. There will not be a need to live close to the city or in urban locations where the majority of offices are located. This can contribute to reducing overcrowding in urban areas and strengthen the link between rural and urban communities.

Additionally, companies can support sustainable production and consumption patterns with remote work. Many companies have a huge number of employees who do not need to be in the office every day. Businesses can save more financial and operating resources. This can enable companies to also provide improved work benefits for employees to advance decent work and economic growth. Working from home can also help reduce carbon emissions as people will commute less. Even when the disturbing effects of global warming attack Mother Earth, remote workers can continue with their work. This makes the economy resilient and reduces risk to individuals.

As COVID-19 has pushed many companies to go remote, many companies are assessing the need for an office. From a sustainable development perspective, remote work is a cultural shift that can contribute towards Agenda 2030.

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