Telework and the Pandemic: Before, During, and After

Research Lead: Jean-Daniel Saphores (lead) and Md. Rabiul Islam

UC Campus(es): UC Irvine

Problem Statement: Driven by public health concerns and enabled by advances in communication technologies, the Covid-19 pandemic led to an unprecedented shift to telework (telecommuting), lifting the reluctance of many employers to give up direct supervisory control. When stay-at-home restrictions were in place, this contributed to drastic reductions in vehicle miles traveled (VMT) and energy use from household travel and a stark improvement in air quality in some previously heavily polluted areas of California. As the pandemic came to a close with the increasing rate of vaccinations, road congestion began to increase steadily. This raised questions like: what was the impact on commuting of the stay-at-home orders for Californians, to what extent is the shift to telework permanent, and what are the implications for VMT and the emissions of various criteria pollutants and greenhouse gases?

Project Description: To understand the extent to which telecommuting may increase because of the pandemic, this project will analyze a unique dataset on commuting and telework collected during a May-June 2021 random survey of Californians conducted by IPSOS, a multinational market research and consulting firm, on behalf ITS-Irvine. The researchers will quantify changes in VMT and in the resulting emissions of air pollutants and greenhouse gases. Quantifying recent changes in telecommuting is important to update sustainable community strategies and how much telecommuting can contribute to the state meeting its ambitious GHG reduction targets.

Status: In Progress

Budget: $76,966

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