The future of offices

As COVID-19 continues to keep employees working at home, there is a looming change as to how people use office spaces.

We can begin to see a future where people are spending two or three days working from home and only commuting to an office the other half of the week. This ultimately will result in fewer emissions because of the significant reduction in commuting trips.

However, this is not a one-size-fits-all solution for the future of work. Some people may have stressors at home, and some may prefer to be around people and colleagues and not have to consistently get on Zoom. As this New York Times article explains, “Offices will need spaces for specific tasks like focused work, team brainstorming, client presentations and employee training. And they will need to be more focused on individuals, even if these people work for a large company.”

Experts predict that workers will have flexibility in the use of office space and that working will become more dynamic than ever. Some large employers may start to locate additional offices in the suburbs near downtown headquarters. It is likely that the headquarters will continue to be the most important hub, but employees won’t be expected to be there all day every day. As offices begin to decentralize and employees are expected to be at the office less, employees can live closer to satellite offices and be able to walk or bike. This will overall create a better work-life balance for employees.

That’s not the only benefit. According to the EPA, emissions from the transportation sector makes up just over a quarter of the United States’ annual emissions. With shorter commutes, active commuting (like biking, walking or using public transit) becomes a much easier and more convenient option for getting to work.

Increased active commuting means emissions from the transportation sector will begin to decrease. Active commuting also has been shown to improve health outcomes, not only because of reduced air pollution but because of the mental and physical health benefits associated with biking, walking and even taking public transit.

These changes in the way we work will allow cities to change up the way they provide transportation services. With citizens living closer to their office, reaping the health benefits of active commuting, and/or not commuting to the office as often, our communities will become healthier and more sustainable.

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