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Open Access Publications from the University of California

(re)Awakening to the benefits and climate impacts of telework during COVID-19

  • Author(s): Curtis, Matt
  • et al.

Global CO2e emissions have declined during the COVID-19 shutdown. Much of the decline is due to reductions in transportation, a portion of which is attributable to increasing telework. This capstone explores the impacts of increased telework, both during the shutdown, and more importantly following the COVID-19 crisis, on climate action goals in San Diego and California. Passenger vehicle emissions make up significant portions of overall greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) in San Diego and California. Nearly 85% of San Diego workers commute to their jobs alone in their vehicle. The project provides a brief history of telework, then explores various factors which make telework successful, including organizational support, job type, employee attributes, work environment, and organizational processes. Second, the GHG emissions impacts of increasing telework (reduced employee commutes) for one company in San Diego post-COVID-19 are calculated. Third, potential company cost savings and individual employee benefits are calculated. Fourth, assumptions are made about post-shutdown industry sector telework levels using bureau of labor and statistics data, pre-shutdown telework estimates, as well as industry surveys conducted, and public statements made by corporate figures, during the shutdown. Finally, overall reductions to GHG emissions due to increases in telework calculated for San Diego and the state of California, and a comparison is made against San Diego and California 2030 GHG emissions reduction targets. The company I used for the project is Illumina, Inc. headquartered in San Diego. The research conducted during this project found that the potential reduction to GHG emissions from various industry sector increases in telework post-shutdown are significant, approximately 10% of projected San Diego GHG emissions in 2030. California is projected to miss 2030 GHG reduction targets by approximately 25MMTCO2e; however, this research found that increases in telework could reduce the projected 2030 GHG excess over target by 32%.

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