How Working from Home Could Change the Post-Pandemic Future of Travel

Research Team: Brian D. Taylor (lead) and Samuel Speroni

UC Campus(es): UCLA

Problem Statement: The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the number of persons working from home in California, which will likely have profound future implications for the environment, travel, public finance (e.g., public transit revenues, local tax base), transit operations, residential and commercial land use in addition to differential impacts based on individual workers by gender, parental status, and much more. Prior to the pandemic, only about five percent of the U.S. labor force worked primarily from home, despite four decades of predictions by transportation analysts that large-scale “telecommuting” was just around the corner. Yet between February and April of 2020, the share of the labor force working from home skyrocketed to well over 50 percent in response to public health orders designed to contain the pandemic. While no one expects the share of those working from home to remain that high as the pandemic recedes, there is considerable debate among experts on just how many workers will return full-time to employment sites, how many will split their working hours between home and a work site, and how many will remain working at home permanently. The answer to this question has enormous consequences for owners and developers of commercial and residential property, and transportation planners of all stripes.

Project Description: This research will review the well-established and substantial pre-pandemic literature on working from home and travel as well as the nascent but rapidly growing literature on working from home and travel during the COVID-19 pandemic to develop plausible future location/travel scenarios regarding home/work location choices, commuting, and transportation mode usage, together with their policy implications. This review may be augmented with data on travel patterns during various stages of the pandemic, if available. This research will help decision makers better understand the travel implications of these changes, and their effects on both transportation systems and the environment.

Status: In Progress

Budget: $15,000

Project Partner(s): Caltrans