The Traffic Group

Preparing for the Future of Work

More than 60% of U.S. employees with jobs that can be done remotely are working from home by choice, a new Pew Research Center survey finds.

We are dealing with a new normal as it relates to working from home. The speed of the transformation in the work setting caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has been rapid. Remote work, which has existed in some form or another since at least the 1950s, has grown rather slowly over the decades. The only thing missing to move working from home was a catalyst which arrived in March of 2020. Prior to the pandemic, just 5% of hours that were worked in the United States were remote as of 2018. This share of working from home is expected to be 28% of all working hours after the pandemic subsides, which is a remarkable fourfold increase in a very short stretch of time.

These trends can only be estimated. Despite widespread vaccination in the United States, the pandemic remains a public health crisis.

While there are indications that in-person work is returning in some sectors, many employers have yet to require workers to return to a corporate office space. In fact, our experience and discussion with federal agencies, such as the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the Veterans Administration (VA) indicate that working from home may very well be the norm going forward. Both government and private sector employees are re-examining the need to increase, decrease, or keep the amount of office space they currently occupy.

Traffic counts from every jurisdiction in Maryland, based on the work that our firm has conducted, indicate that changes have already occurred in a fairly dramatic way.

The Eno Center for Transportation, a non-profit, independent organization based in Washington, D.C, indicates that the societal shift is not just a simple magnification of existing trends with a bit less traffic during rush hours and a few more virtual meetings, but rather a wholesale reconfiguration of mobility.

The long-term direction and magnitude of remote work’s impacts on travel demand are entirely uncertain. Per the New York Times, “About a third of workers in the U.S. hold jobs that economists say could be done remotely.”

In fact, discussions that The Traffic Group had with large employers indicate that there is a desire to allow work from home in order to reduce traffic congestion during peak periods and reduce the overall demand for office space.

And, as Stanford University economics professor Nicholas Bloom told NBC, “The idea of a full return is dead.”

While working from home may increase from 5% as it was in 2018, to 20%-25% in 2022, surveys of employees indicate that a larger percentage, 40-50%, may have a desire to work from home and may end up pushing their employer to allow working from home. Even working one day a week reduces peak hour driving by 20% weekly for every employee that works from home on that particular day.

We have repeatedly heard the phrase “the new normal” and, indeed, we are living it and will continue to experience aspects as we move out of the pandemic.