Teleworking has been widely perceived as a more sustainable mode of working for knowledge workers compared to the status quo of commuting to centralized offices because of its reduced dependency on transportation and centralized office space. However, the situation is far more complex than would appear on the surface, when the scope is expanded to include home office energy use, the Internet, long-term consumer choices, and other so-called rebound effects. Few studies have quantified home, office, transportation, and communications energy or GHG emissions implications of telecommuting simultaneously. To make progress in answering the question of whether telecommuting results in less energy use and greenhouse gas emissions than conventional centralized office working, this paper reviews results and research methods of primarily quantitative studies of any and all four domains that consider operating energy and/or greenhouse gas emissions. The results ultimately show that this problem is complex, and that current datasets and methods are generally inadequate for fully answering the research question. While most studies indicate some benefit, several suggest teleworking increases energy use – even for the domain that is thought to benefit most: transportation.

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Energy and Buildings
Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering

O'Brien, W, & Yazdani Aliabadi, F. (Fereshteh). (2020). Does telecommuting save energy? A critical review of quantitative studies and their research methods. Energy and Buildings (Vol. 225). doi:10.1016/j.enbuild.2020.110298