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Working from Home: Quantifying Economic and Environmental Impacts and Opportunities

November 10, 2021 @ 10:00 am - 11:00 am

Location: via Zoom, NUI Galway
Galway, Ireland

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Government and public health responses to the COVID-19 pandemic required employees to work from home where possible. Over a period of a year and half, working from home became the new norm for a considerable number of employees and organisations in Ireland and across the world.  As we look to the post-pandemic landscape, it is clear that working from home will continue to be a significant part of that landscape.  Organisations are developing hybrid and flexible working policies which include some time in the office and some time working remotely in a hybrid format.  

The Working from Home: Quantifying Economic and Environmental Impacts and Opportunities webinar presents findings from travel and commuting data gathered in the NUI Galway and Western Development Commission national remote working survey during COVID-19.  The webinar brings together multidisciplinary insights to assess environmental and economic impacts and opportunities from working from home.  

The event is relevant to organisations, individuals and policy makers interested in understanding economic and environmental impacts of hybrid, remote, distributed and flexible working.  Much discussion and debate to-date focuses on the employment and HR issues regarding the COVID-19 impact on how and where we work.  This webinar extends the debate to examine broader economic and environmental issues and opportunities.

Professor Alma McCarthy will provide an overview of the working from home opportunities and challenges for employees and employers from the national remote working survey data.  

Dr Eoghan Clifford will outline the overall change in transport patterns during the recent COVID-19 pandemic including an outline of pre-COVID-19 travel patterns, lockdown travel patterns and potential travel patterns post-pandemic based on stated preferences for remote working in the national survey. He will outline potential impacts that remote working could have on transport emissions based on data from the NUI Galway/WDC national remote working survey. He will also present a breakdown of potential savings from different sectoral and regional analyses. 

Dr Tom McDermott will discuss economic implications of a shift to increased remote working. Survey respondents indicate a strong preference to continue with flexible and remote working beyond the pandemic. The perceived value of attending the office appears to have declined dramatically. This shift in work practices offers potentially large economic and environmental gains. Alongside the potential emissions reductions, an increase in remote working could also bring substantial productivity gains for the economy, particularly in the form of reduced time spent commuting. However, the gains are contingent on behavioural responses to the new norm, and need to be weighed against concerns about unequal access to and benefits from remote working. A range of complementary policy interventions may be required to ensure the potential gains from remote working are realised and unintended negative effects kept to a minimum. 

Professor John FitzGerald will act as discussant and reflect on economic and climate related policy implications of the findings presented in the webinar.  He will draw on his experience and work on the Climate Change Advisory Council and Ireland’s carbon budgets to inform the discussion. 

The event coincides with the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow November 2021.  


About the Speakers:

Professor Alma McCarthy is Head of J.E. Cairnes School of Business & Economics and Professor of Public Sector Management at the National University of Ireland, Galway. Her research interests include public sector leadership and human resource development, training, work-life balance, and 360º feedback. Her research has influenced national civil service talent development policy and the Government’s national remote working strategy.  She is a Chartered Member of the CIPD, the American Academy of Management, the Society for Industrial and Organisational Psychology, and served as elected Vice-Chair and Chair of the Irish Academy of Management. 

Dr Tom McDermott is the Galway University Foundation Lecturer in the Economics of Climate Change and Development at the J.E. Cairnes School of Business and Economics at NUI Galway, and a founding member of the newly formed Centre for Economic Research on Inclusivity and Sustainability (CERIS) at NUI Galway. His research interests are at the intersection of environmental and development economics, with a particular focus on the economic and social impacts of extreme weather events, how societies and economies adapt to a changing climate, and how environmental issues overlap with urban and spatial planning. He has previously consulted for the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, and the Irish Government — including contributing a background paper for Ireland’s first statutory National Climate Change Adaptation Framework (2018).

Dr Eoghan Clifford is a Senior Lecturer in Civil Engineering at the School of engineering in NUI Galway and a Chartered Engineer. He is a visiting Research Fellow in AIT. His research interests include sustainable transport, life cycle assessment and water and wastewater infrastructure and has been technical Director or Coordinator of a number of EU projects. He is an Executive Board member of the Community University Sustainability Board at NUI Galway. He was on the advisory panel of the 2018 Engineers Ireland State of Infrastructure in Ireland report and is a member of the International Water Association working group on Climate Smart Utilities.  He is currently a board member of An Meitheal Comhshaol and Muscular Dystrophy Ireland.

Professor John FitzGerald is a member of the Climate Change Advisory Council which was established to advise government departments and agencies on the actions required to decarbonise the Irish economy by 2050.  He was Chair of the Council from 2016 to 2021. John is an Adjunct Professor in UCD.  He is Research Affiliate at the ESRI, became a member of the Royal Irish Academy in 2011, and he is an Honorary Fellow of GMIT and TCD. He is former President of the Association d’Instituts Européens de Conjoncture Économique, of the Irish Economic Association, and of the Statistical and Social Inquiry Society of Ireland. He was a member of the Commission of the Central Bank of Ireland, of the National Economic and Social Council and of the board of the Northern Ireland Authority for Energy Regulation.  John is a former research professor at the Economic and Social Research Institute.