Working Papers

Work from Home – How Good is it for the Environment?

Centre for Policy Research

April 15, 2022

The COVID-19 pandemic led to a large-scale global experiment on work from home (WFH). WFH is expected to continue, albeit at a smaller scale, in the post-pandemic world. WFH is commonly considered to be an energy saving measure that can help reduce office travel related energy demand and energy use in offices. This article presents a framework to analyze the various direct and indirect energy use changes that WFH can potentially induce. We discuss the different long-term structural and behavioral changes from WFH, which will ultimately define energy consumption patterns. We conclude the energy savings and the related environmental impacts are ambiguous. An illustrative analysis has been performed to quantify the direct air quality impacts of work from home adoption in the Delhi region. The results show modest reductions in the levels of PM2.5 emissions, and point to the underlying uncertainties that have the potential to highly amplify or diminish the environmental benefits. The article highlights the need for in-depth multi-sectoral study of the various WFH related energy use changes over both the short- and the long-term. Such an assessment will be key to designing effective policy measures to support work from home as an environmentally beneficial practice.