COVID-19 has had a huge impact on the economy and on individuals. Pictures of ‘ghost town’ business districts are vivid proof of both of these impacts. The CBI’s Carolyn Fairbairn has called for a rapid return to office work to help boost the parts of the economy that supported people based in offices. This may seem to make economic and social sense but it won’t help us face the next, even bigger crisis: climate change.
The COVID-19 crisis has led to a reduction in carbon emissions. The reduction is nowhere near the scale needed to address climate change but it is a good start. We can help embed some of the improvements by recognising but the way we were working was unsustainable. There is a huge impact on the climate from construction and operating office buildings. There is also a huge impact from of people travelling to work in offices.
If we go back to moving everybody into offices a long way from their home, then we have lost a huge opportunity to improve not only the environment but also people’s working lives. This is awfully hard on people who work in companies that support office workers and has considerable impact on the owners of office buildings. Unfortunately for them, it is the kind of change that we need to make for us all to live better lives in future.
So please, don’t rush back to work in an office. Recent experience has shown that many businesses can be successful with far fewer people in the office. Let’s grasp the opportunity to help maintain a planet capable of providing the resources we need for long term economic and social prosperity.
by Martin Gibson