Telecommuting and the Open Future

Research Team: Jae Hong Kim (lead), Alex Okashita, and Harold Arzate

UC Campus(es): UC Irvine

Problem Statement: The COVID-19 pandemic has generated renewed interest in how telecommuting can alter the workings of our cities and regions, but there is little guidance on how to align planning practice with the new reality. Shelter-at-home policies forced businesses to rapidly develop a telework infrastructure to continue their operations to the extent possible. In the wake of the pandemic, the prevalence of telecommuting has become the new normal, although this varies across industries. New questions arise from this rapid technological adoption. How will telecommuting growth affect our cities? Should planners be worried about telecommuting growth? How should planners deal with this proliferation?

Project Description: This report synthesizes the research on telecommuting and its consequences to help planners better understand what effects may occur from the proliferation of telecommuting and what lessons can be drawn from research findings. Emphasis is on the broad relevance of telecommuting to many domains of planning, including housing, land use, community development, and inclusive place-making, while attention is paid to changes in travel demand, vehicle miles traveled (VMT), and greenhouse gas emissions. The research suggests that telecommuting can occur in a variety of ways, and its impacts are largely dependent not only on the type/schedule of telecommuting but on the built environment, transit accessibility, and other amenities/opportunities the location provides. The varying impacts reported in the research can be seen as an encouragement for planners to actively create a better future rather than merely responding to the rise of telecommuting. Given the breadth of telecommuting’s impacts, systematic coordination across various planning domains will be increasingly important. This report also calls for collaboration across cities to guide the ongoing transformation induced by telecommuting not in a way that leads to more residential segregation but in a way that provides more sustainable and inclusive communities.

Status: Completed

Budget: $24,362

Policy Brief(s):