Extreme weather effects on the world of work
The World of Work
As many of us in the United States are experiencing severe weather conditions at the moment, including heavy snowfall, blizzards, strong winds and all kinds of debilitating conditions, it behooves us to consider what will be some of the long-term effects on the world of work and on the workplace because of the changing nature of the earth’s climate and local weather systems.
First of all, it is not a new trend that telecommuting policies and telecommuting benefits are already or are becoming more important. For years telecommuting trends have been on the rise and at this point most if not all organizations have some kind of telecommuting policy where they allow their employees to work remotely, oftentimes from home, on certain days. Of course, this precludes days where there is inclement weather or disaster.
But as climate change takes a much bigger role in the way that we live our lives, there is a chance that telecommuting policies will be overtaken by complete remote work policies. In other words, there is a chance that the workplace will become so tele-organized that all work will become remote work. Right now, remote work policies do not dominate the weekly work schedule for the majority of US or global firms. Employees are still expected to show up to a physical office at least most of the week. In a climate where getting to work could be a hazard in its own right, how will telecommuting policies adapt to remote working conditions and needs? Will companies start asking their employees to be willing to die to get to work? Or will they buckle under the insurmountable pressure to make work safer?
Gone are the days where talking of going “green” and/or protecting the environment would get you ridiculed and laughed at home, work, or school. Today, considerable investments in green and clean energy are made on a global and national scale. Companies have even taken to using what they claim to be green and clean energy products in order to better market their services to a more eco and environmentally aware audience.
As weather patterns and climate become more extreme however, I wonder how much more of an effect environmental considerations will have on the workplace. Will certain policies that will include environmental awareness as part of compensation and bonus plans for employees start to take shape? Will environmental consideration be given in the smallest and least important projects that companies undertakes on a daily basis? Will managers consciously make hiring decisions based on the appearance of environmental friendliness on their prospective job candidates? And will top talent decide to choose companies that show environmental awareness more than others?
To say the least, considerations for the environment will become more and more important as extreme weather conditions and changes in climate take a stronger hold on society and on the world of work, but it’s not entirely clear what or even how much of an effect it’ll be..
You might’ve noticed that gas(oline) prices are at a record low at the moment. In fact, gas prices are so low they remind of my days as a teenager living in the Mid-west, where gas was even cheaper than the East and West Coast of the United States. And yet, with record low prices, we’ve seen stock market volatility in the energy sector the likes of which we haven’t seen in a very long time (yes I know there is a number of things at play, still.)
Of course, gas is not the only product that is affected by oil prices but that volatility and uncertainty in energy markets, combined with uncertainty in how weather and climate will be changing over the next few decades, might just be strong enough effects to contribute to the changing workplace significantly.
Will there be greater consideration of the cost and availability of energy for projects that previously would have had nothing to do with the use of energy. For example, as you sit down with your team to discuss a new project timeline, will you give consideration to when to start said project based on the price of a certain oil commodity such as gasoline, because in that stage of the project a lot of driving has to be done? Or perhaps you’ll take advantage of low gas prices and schedule that part of the project for when prices are at their lowest.
It’s Already Happening
Yes, all these trends are already happening and have been happening for years, so in some ways this article is not really contributing anything new. But it serves as a good reminder of what could be taking place as the extreme weather conditions that we are seeing become more extreme. Remember, climate change is not just about global warming and rise in temperatures as well as sea levels. Climate change makes extreme weather conditions more extreme. The spikes get spikier. The highs get higher and the lows get lower. In some ways, one might argue that climate change creates more uncertainty than ever before, and with general uncertainty, policy uncertainty becomes more likely.
What would a world of work, jobs, and careers with extreme tele-commuting environmental, and energy policies look like?
While you stay snuggled in during the blizzard(s) of 2016 feel free to give that topic full consideration.