Working from Home and Travel: What Does the Future Hold?

Research Team: Brian Taylor (lead), Susan Pike, Samuel Speroni, and Fariba Siddiq

UC Campus(es): UC Davis, UCLA

Problem Statement: The COVID-19 pandemic transformed the American work landscape. Before March 2020, the majority of workers (about 95%) worked outside of their homes most of the time. In the spring of 2020, due to stay-at-home orders and new online video-communication technologies, over half of workers started working from home. Although many aspects of life have returned to pre-pandemic norms, remote work is a notable exception. As of May 2023, approximately 58% of U.S. companies now permit employees to work from home at least part of the week, indicating that remote work is here to stay. While it was hoped that telecommuting would significantly reduce vehicle travel, traffic congestion, and transportation emissions, research suggests that working from home is not associated with reduced vehicle travel. This is because home-based workers tend to swap fewer commute trips for more household-related trips, and when they do commute to work, they often live farther from their workplaces. However, the surge in remote work during and after the pandemic raises questions about the relevance of pre-pandemic research on this topic.

Project Description: This project aims to address the following questions: i) Does pre-pandemic research on who works from home, in what occupations, and how they travel still hold today now that many more work from home? ii) How have commute mode shares, durations, and departure times changed, and how do these changes relate to working from home? iii) What types of neighborhoods have hosted the largest and smallest changes in traffic and transit use, and does the ability to work from home explain these patterns? This project builds on the researchers' recent synthesis of remote work and travel, as well as their studies on transit and vehicle travel during the pandemic. It will analyze national and California data from the Public Use MicroSample to understand the demographics of those working from home and changes in commuting post-pandemic. Additionally, it will use vehicle and transit movement data from StreetLight to examine neighborhood-level changes in vehicle travel and transit use, exploring their correlation with the ability to work from home.

Status: In Progress

Budget: $100,022