Opinion: How working from home could kick-start local economies while reducing emissions


Photo credit: iStock.

By Anders Lorenzen

In the wake of the lockdown which many countries have put in place due to the coronavirus outbreak, there has been a surge in people working from home where that is possible. 

While a lot of attention has been focused on the negative aspects, e.g. lack of connection with other humans, let us focus on the huge positives it could bring and how it could boost local economies. 

If anything positive derives from COVID-19, once the world has recovered, then it could be the way people have adapted to working from home. This could have both societal and environmental benefits.

When we travel to work we leave our communities and have less time to invest locally.  During an enforced lockdown we are urged to stay in as much as possible, though we might from time to time use local shops, cafes and restaurants rather than chains for food needs. 

But by working from home also outside a lockdown situation, those opportunities to spend locally will only increase. It will give us more time now and then to work out of cafes, meet new people and perhaps colleagues, girlfriends, boyfriends etc for lunch, dinner, drinks and so on. 

More local people using public spaces could persuade local authorities and local businesses to invest in them and therefore make them much nicer.  It might even lead to some streets becoming pedestrianised and could be a welcome boost in moving away from a car-culture

If people are not commuting back and forth every day to work, they would have extra time to invest in their communities.  They might even start growing and selling their food locally or creating other local community projects (for example, local history classes and visits, learning a foreign language, learning to play a musical instrument, repairing tools, equipment, bicycles, singing in a choir, car-sharing groups).

We would put less pressure on the public transport system, have fewer cars and buses on the roads and it could reshape how we eat and get our food. We should invest in localism and on a daily basis re-organise how we travel, eat, drink and enjoy ourselves which could also drastically reduce emissions. It might also make us review how we travel long distances and how much. If we invested in our local communities we might not be desperate to take one weekend break after the other.

It would be much better for our mental health. Such a change would give us more time in our day-to-day lives, which we might invest in those activities or support those initiatives we have always been thinking of doing, but have never found the time for.

We should use the coronavirus crisis situation to evaluate the future of our communities and our streets and invest in them. The opportunities are many, and present many environmental benefits, cleaner air, reduced emissions, less noise, all of which makes us happier and creates safer communities. What’s not to like?

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