An energy crisis, rapid inflation and an uncertain economic times ahead: Consumer Price Index data strengthens the argument for remote working as a way to control costs and reduce energy use

People and businesses are increasingly focusing on controlling costs and figuring out ways of doing well in the face of the uncertainty rising inflation rates is causing. 

What if you could do well and do good at the same time? We think you can, by going remote.

For many people, as Ibec points out, this is the first time in their adult lives that rapidly increasing inflation rates have been a major concern. It is also the first time in history that remote working has been as widespread or as viable an option for either employees or businesses. 

The CSO’s Consumer Price Index data shows the largest increase in almost 40 years: prices have risen by more than 9% in the year to June 2022. 

We’re driven by practical idealism at Grow Remote. Building a sustainable, robust remote working system is worth doing for the benefit of people, profit and the planet. And, if something is worth doing, it’s worth doing when faced with obstacles (like now, when recessions loom worldwide), not just when major forces happen to accelerate our mission (such as the pandemic). 

The new CSO data underlines that the rising cost of energy is the main driver of the current wave of inflation and economic uncertainty; over the past year electricity costs have risen by 40.9%, gas by 57.2%, home heating fuel by a shocking 115.4%. Diesel is up by just over 50%, petrol by 43.8% and overall transport costs have increased by more than 20%. 

Major, global forces that almost no one can do anything to counteract are at play. What we can do, as business owners and as individuals, is collaboratively take a long-term view of how to respond. We believe that a key part of that response is to show that businesses can unlock the power of remote working to not only weather the storm of inflation, but do well AND do good. 

In May this year, the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment published the findings of an in-depth evaluation of the impact of remote working, including an overall finding that remote working is likely to have a net positive impact on the Irish economy and society.

Specifically, it found that remote work could have a major positive impact on individual and household cost savings, and that companies can make significant cost savings by “downscaling” expensive city centre offices – and this is on top of the improved employee productivity remote working brings – with potential monetary benefits for companies in the region of €1,500 per employee per year. 

A note: in terms of the public purse, the report’s authors are less certain and advise ongoing monitoring and measurement of the impact of remote working as more data becomes available. Some commentary from the US says that remote working could “assist” the Federal Reserve by exerting downward pressure on wage inflation; we suggest that research is needed to see if this is reflective of the situation here in Ireland. 

Beyond cost-saving measures, and fundamentally reducing energy usage in the face of a looming energy crisis, remote working has net positive benefits for the environment. Government experts estimate that remote working has the potential to save almost 165,000 tonnes of CO2 a year, provided that no secondary effects offset it. We explore this in more detail here

Remote working should also improve labour market access and outcomes for people with disabilities and significant caring responsibilities; however care must be taken to ensure that remote working does not become gendered to the detriment of the female workforce, or that workplace provision for employees with disabilities is negatively impacted by the widespread adoption of remote work. 

But, transitioning to a remote workforce is a major ask for companies. It is not without risk or challenges. We must support businesses to do remote really well, de-risk the transition, and make Ireland the best place to work and employ remotely. Businesses should be supported financially by Government to invest in the transition, but the jobs they subsequently create must be advertised without location so that anyone, anywhere in Ireland can access decent employment. 

We will all reap the benefits of a thriving remote ecosystem.