Remote Work’s Impact On Utah Air Quality

Remote work Utah
Photo by Peter Amende on Unsplash

Researchers have observed remote work’s impact on the environment as with fewer automobiles on the road, Utah has seen a significant improvement in air quality.

Commuter traffic accounts for 40% of all hazardous pollutants released into the air along the Wasatch Front, according to the Utah Division of Air Quality (DAQ). 

Bryce Bird, the Division’s Director, claims that the improvement in air quality was “quite noticeable” during the start of COVID-19 pandemic. 

As life began to go back to the pre-pandemic ways at the end of 2020 and into 2021, the air quality began to return to its previous hazardous levels too.However, by the end of 2020, overall emissions had decreased by 15% from the previous year. 

While the pandemic was – and continues to be – a big disturbance to daily life, knowing that remote work may have a good impact on the environment has been a significant lesson. 

Working from home might become even more widespread and crucial to ensuring good air quality if Utah’s population continues to rise (the state is expected to gain about 2.2 million citizens in the next 40 years), according to Bird. 

At some time in the future, it may even become mandatory for businesses to provide the option of remote employment. That is already the situation for some Utah employees. In fact, Utah is also among one of the best states for remote workers.

Senate Bill 15, signed by Governor Spencer Cox in March 2021, allows state workers to work from home on days when the DAQ declares a “mandatory action day” or when roads are judged too unsafe due to snowfall or other weather conditions.

The DAQ has also declared Wednesday, as well as the rest of the workweek, to be mandatory action days, owing to the present inversion that is affecting the Salt Lake Valley. 

Around 5,000 state employees, including many in Bird’s own department, are eligible for teleworking. While he concedes that working from home has its drawbacks, he and his team are nevertheless able to do their tasks to a high standard. He believes that many other Utah firms are in the same boat. 

There is currently no law requiring any public-sector employer to offer the option of remote work. However, as the state collects data on air quality and evaluates the performance of its own teleworking pilot programme, it’s not out of the question that a mandate may be implemented in the future.

Air quality action statuses are currently more of a notification and request for most Utahns, according to Bird. 

Still, keeping off the roadways is strongly advised, especially while the inversion effect is in force, trapping the worst of the emissions.

“It’s very important to reduce carbon emissions and reducing vehicle trips is an important part of that strategy.”

Bryce Bird, Director, DAQ

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