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A Systematic Review of the Energy and Climate Impacts of Teleworking

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Abstract

Information and communication technologies (ICTs) increasingly enable employees to work from home and other locations (‘teleworking’). This study explores the extent to which teleworking reduces the need to travel to work and the consequent impacts on economy-wide energy consumption, with clear implications for climate, energy, and environmental policy. Methods/Design: This review assesses how changes in working practices are associated with different forms of teleworking, including the use of different ICTs, various commuting/travel options, and different working spaces such as offices, cafes, libraries, and homes. To do so, it conducts a review of more than 9,000 published articles. Review results/Synthesis: Overall, the review finds that 26 out of 39 relevant studies indicate that teleworking causes a reduction in energy use, and only eight studies indicate that teleworking leads to an increase (or only a neutral impact) on energy use. The main source of energy savings is via the substitution effect whereby teleworking leads to lower average vehicle distance travelled by those who telework either part of the week. The studies estimated that potential reductions in energy consumption as a result of reduced commuting travel could be as high as 20%. Other studies suggest possible energy savings through lower office energy consumption. Discussion: Despite the generally positive verdict on teleworking as an energy-saving practice, analysis reveals that there are numerous uncertainties and ambiguities about the actual or potential benefits of teleworking. These relate to questions about exactly what proportion of workers or frequency of teleworking is needed to bring a net reduction in energy use through avoided work travel. They also relate to questions about the extent to which teleworking may lead to unpredictable increases in non-work travel and home energy consumption that end up outweighing any gains from reduced work travel.
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Dates and versions

hal-03192905 , version 1 (08-04-2021)

Identifiers

  • HAL Id : hal-03192905 , version 1

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Andrew Hook, Victor Court, Benjamin K Sovacool, Steven Sorrell. A Systematic Review of the Energy and Climate Impacts of Teleworking: Cahiers de l'Economie, Série Recherche, n° 133. 2020. ⟨hal-03192905⟩
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