Telework, Hybrid Work and the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals: Towards Policy Coherence
- Goal 1. End poverty in all its forms everywhere;
- Goal 2. End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture;
- Goal 3. Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages;
- Goal 4. Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all;
- Goal 5. Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls;
- Goal 6. Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all;
- Goal 7. Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all;
- Goal 8. Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all;
- Goal 9. Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialisation and foster innovation;
- Goal 10. Reduce inequality within and among countries;
- Goal 11. Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable;
- Goal 12. Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns;
- Goal 13. Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts;
- Goal 14. Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development;
- Goal 15. Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss;
- Goal 16. Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels;
- Goal 17. Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalise the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development.
“RQ—How has the link between telework and sustainability outcomes been explored in the academic literature, and what does it represent in terms of risks or opportunities for achieving sustainability goals?”
1.1. The Obvious Impacts of Telework during the COVID-19 Pandemic
1.2. Telework Maturing as an Innovation
1.3. Private Benefits
1.4. Economic Benefits for Business
1.5. Telework Is Here to Stay
- Key factors that have thus far influenced the prevalence of telework are associated with previously limited management and staff confidence of being able to productively work from home, employers’ limited adoption of IT systems and policy frameworks to support telework, and a previous lack of awareness of the benefits of working from home [10,11]. Having a positive experience of working from home is the strongest predictor of wanting to work from home in the future [9,49], and the dominant experience for most of those who have now worked from home is that it has indeed been a very positive experience [9,49,50,51].
- As many workers and employers have overcome previous negative perceptions and barriers to telework [50,51], with many employers now encouraging their staff to continue working from home , this means that from a behavioural change perspective, we can expect many more people to want to work from home, and many more to have employers that allow them to do so. This is reinforced by many surveys that indicate large proportions of working populations embracing some level of telework as their preferred mode [9,10,50,52,53].
2. Materials and Methods
2.1. Review Approach
- Identify research question (see Section 1);
- Identify relevant studies (see Table 1);
- Study selection (see Table 1);
- Identify whether a chosen article makes a contribution that connects telework with any of the SDGs (see Table 1);
- Charting the data (see Section 3.1);
- Collating, summarising, and reporting (see Section 3.2);
(“telework” OR “work from home” OR “flexible work” OR “remote work”) AND “sustainab *”
- Only include articles published in English;
- Include articles from all years;
- Journal articles and conference papers (but no book chapters, or working papers, etc.);
- Articles in press, and those which have been accepted for publication but not yet assigned to a journal volume/issue, were also included to capture the most up-to-date research in this area;
- Any discipline area;
- No articles were excluded based on the quality ranking of the journal.
2.2. SWOT Analysis
- Strength: something that gives telework an advantage over other ways of working, such as a mechanism by which telework helps to achieve SDGs and generates value for individuals, organisations, the environment, and/or society.
- Weakness: the opposite of strength, and something that makes telework less likely to help achieve SDGs and that detracts from the value generated by the practice.
- Opportunity: factors or strategies to be considered that can help increase the chances for telework to help achieve SDGs and generate private or social value, i.e., to either promote strengths, limit weaknesses, or reduce risk.
- Threats: issues that pose risks that could potentially lead to reduced value and an undermining of efforts to achieve SDGs. Threats are risks that require mitigation.
3. Results and Discussion
3.1. Descriptive Analysis
3.2. Range of SDGs Linked to Telework
3.3. Links between Telework and the UN Sustainable Development Goals
3.3.1. SDG 3: Good Health and Well-being
- 3.3. By 2030, end the epidemics of AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and neglected tropical diseases and combat hepatitis, water-borne diseases and other communicable diseases
- 3.4. By 2030, reduce by one third premature mortality from non-communicable diseases through prevention and treatment and promote mental health and well-being
- 3.5. Strengthen the prevention and treatment of substance abuse, including narcotic drug abuse and harmful use of alcohol
- 3.6. By 2020, halve the number of global deaths and injuries from road traffic accidents
- 3.9. By 2030, substantially reduce the number of deaths and illnesses from hazardous chemicals and air, water and soil pollution and contamination.
3.3.2. SDG 4: Quality Education
- 4.3. By 2030, ensure equal access for all women and men to affordable and quality technical, vocational and tertiary education, including university
- 4.5. By 2030, eliminate gender disparities in education and ensure equal access to all levels of education and vocational training for the vulnerable, including persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples and children in vulnerable situations
3.3.3. SDG 5: Gender Equality
- 5.B. Enhance the use of enabling technology, in particular information and communications technology, to promote the empowerment of women
- 5.5. Ensure women’s full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision-making in political, economic and public life
3.3.4. SDG 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth
- 8.5. By 2030, achieve full and productive employment and decent work for all women and men, including for young people and persons with disabilities, and equal pay for work of equal value.
- 8.8. Protect labour rights and promote safe and secure working environments for all workers, including migrant workers, in particular women migrants, and those in precarious employment.
3.3.5. SDG 9: Build Resilient Infrastructure, Promote Inclusive and Sustainable Industrialisation and Foster Innovation
- 9.1. Develop quality, reliable, sustainable and resilient infrastructure, including regional and transborder infrastructure, to support economic development and human well-being, with a focus on affordable and equitable access for all.
- 9.4. By 2030, upgrade infrastructure and retrofit industries to make them sustainable, with increased resource-use efficiency and greater adoption of clean and environmentally sound technologies and industrial processes, with all countries taking action in accordance with their respective capabilities.
3.3.6. SDG 10: Reduce Inequality within and among Countries
- 10.4. Adopt policies, especially fiscal, wage and social protection policies, and progressively achieve greater equality.
3.3.7. SDG 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities
- 11.1. By 2030, ensure access for all to adequate, safe and affordable housing and basic services and upgrade slums.
- 11.2. By 2030, provide access to safe, affordable, accessible and sustainable transport systems for all, improving road safety, notably by expanding public transport, with special attention to the needs of those in vulnerable situations, women, children, persons with disabilities and older persons.
- 11.B. By 2020, substantially increase the number of cities and human settlements adopting and implementing integrated policies and plans towards inclusion, resource efficiency, mitigation and adaptation to climate change, resilience to disasters, and develop and implement, in line with the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015–2030, holistic disaster risk management at all levels
3.3.8. SDG 12: Ensure Sustainable Consumption and Production Patterns
- 12.2. By 2030, achieve the sustainable management and efficient use of natural resources.
- 12.A. Support developing countries to strengthen their scientific and technological capacity to move towards more sustainable patterns of consumption and production.
3.3.9. SDG 13: Take Urgent Action to Combat Climate Change and Its Impacts
- 13.2. Integrate climate change measures into national policies, strategies and planning.
4. Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats
- One area that warrants further investigation is telework’s capacity for offering skilled employment to people living in isolated communities who may have previously been excluded from numerous opportunities due to geographical distance. Advances in this area could contribute to a greater globalisation of labour and address the inequalities that currently exist within and between countries.
- Similarly, further research is needed into the role of flexible work initiatives, and how these can be designed to support different work-life choices and circumstances. This line of investigation could examine the role of telework in supporting lifelong learning, and in offering more employment opportunities to people with disabilities, new parents, carers, or anyone excluded from current employment opportunities due to the requirement of being physically present during work hours.
- Future research could also investigate telework’s potential to comprehensively promote sustainable urban forms and regionalisation, encourage improved human health and environmental sustainability, achieve productivity and innovation increases, and act as the focal point for smart city technology and transport solutions.
- The potential impact of telework on water and energy use, in terms of diurnal and spatial patterns of use, and the net impact on the requirements for water and energy infrastructure, are still somewhat unclear. Strategic investment in infrastructure is likely to be required to support and promote resource efficiency and the effective delivery of urban services, in future scenarios in which telework is more common.
5. Knowledge Gaps
Institutional Review Board Statement
Informed Consent Statement
Data Availability Statement
Conflicts of Interest
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Moglia, M.; Hopkins, J.; Bardoel, A. Telework, Hybrid Work and the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals: Towards Policy Coherence. Sustainability 2021, 13, 9222. https://doi.org/10.3390/su13169222
Moglia M, Hopkins J, Bardoel A. Telework, Hybrid Work and the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals: Towards Policy Coherence. Sustainability. 2021; 13(16):9222. https://doi.org/10.3390/su13169222Chicago/Turabian Style
Moglia, Magnus, John Hopkins, and Anne Bardoel. 2021. "Telework, Hybrid Work and the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals: Towards Policy Coherence" Sustainability 13, no. 16: 9222. https://doi.org/10.3390/su13169222