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Remote working vital post lockdown to keep air pollution low, with 87% of workers wanting to continue to do so

A new survey* by The Business Clean Air Taskforce (BCAT), which includes Philips and ENGIE, has uncovered that working remotely is both achievable and welcomed by the public. Off the back of the survey, charity Global Action Plan is urging the continuation of remote working as an option post lockdown to prevent a second spike of Coronavirus, keep the streets free for key workers and air pollution down.


Almost 1 in 5 * commutes by car could be avoided if employees continue to work remotely as we emerge from lockdown. The survey, commissioned by charities Global Action Plan and Guy’s and St. Thomas Charity on behalf of the Business Clean Air Taskforce (BCAT), finds that:   


  • 87% of those currently working from home would like to continue to do so to some degree - which means that post-lockdown we could have 17 million regular remote workers versus just 10.8m pre-lockdown.
  • Of the 19.5 million who have been working from home during lockdown, 41% were previously not allowed to do so.
  • While remote working is not suitable for all professions and is not welcomed by everyone, allowing employees the option to work from home when it suits them can improve wellbeing, with 54% of lockdown homeworkers saying they are less stressed and 65% are happier not to deal with rush hour.  


To avoid a surge in air pollution and the health issues it causes, Global Action Plan is encouraging businesses to embrace remote working fully for all employees it suits, as workplaces begin to open. This is the most immediate action companies can take to prevent employees from defaulting to driving to the office and clogging up the streets for those who must work on site. 


Maintaining lower levels of air pollution could also help the recovery and prevention of a second spike in Coronavirus, which have been linked. 


The survey also finds that: 

  • 72% of the public believe clean air is more important now because coronavirus can affect people’s lungs.
  • 74% of the public want businesses to do more to improve air quality in their recovery. 


Analysis of Breath London Data by Environmental Defense Fund Europe shows that air pollution significantly decreased after confinement measures went into place, with notable reductions during weekday commuting hours. Across Greater London, NO2 pollution decreased around 25% during the morning commute (8-11am) and 34% in the evening (5-8pm). 


The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “Here in London, we have already made great progress in improving air quality over recent years, and this has been accelerated further during the coronavirus lockdown. But cleaner air should not just be temporary. As the Government starts to ease lockdown measures, our challenge will be to eradicate air pollution permanently. Continued working from home, where possible, is now vital for allowing essential journeys on public transport to be made safely. But alongside our ambitious new plans to enable more walking and cycling, the longer-term effects of more remote working will mean even more improvements in air quality and help us tackle the ongoing climate emergency.” 


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