Mineta Transportation Institute (MTI) released its latest research titled "'TELE-commuting,' during the COVID-19 Pandemic and Beyond: Unveiling State-wide Patterns and Trends of Telecommuting in Relation to Transportation, Employment, Land Use, and Emissions in California," which used surveys and interviews to investigate changes in telecommuting.
According to MTI, the findings reveal that:
- Telecommuting has been widely adopted and is likely to continue for at least three years (note: the three-year time frame is a reflection of the way questions were framed), and there is an inverse relationship between staying at home and transport usage (i.e., the more people stay at home, the less they need and thus use public transit).
- Work-from-home is more widely available now after COVID, but there are positive and negative impacts on employees (e.g., more flexibility but feelings of isolation) and employers (e.g., reduced costs of hiring but more difficult collaboration), and it also often affects local communities that rely on business profits related to office activities.
- In terms of land use, telecommuting may motivate companies/organizations to rethink their strategies of reducing, consolidating, or rearranging office spaces.
“Our interviews suggested that telecommuting policies were not commonly designed and implemented until COVID,” said the study’s authors. “Additionally, regression analyses showed that telecommuting practices have been influenced by COVID-19 related policies, public risk perception, home prices, broadband rates, and government employment.”
MTI said the overall findings suggest that fewer cars on the road in general and during commute hours, in particular, would lead to a reduction in emissions, but public transit usage also declined during the pandemic due to stay-at-home orders. The findings from this study can be used to inform statewide and regional policies to help adapt to new patterns of telecommuting, but further studies are needed to explore the relationship between telecommuting and emissions, according to MTI.