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Pandemic Expected To Bring Increase In Remote Work, But Not Huge Shift

 June 28, 2021 at 9:06 AM PDT

Speaker 1: 00:00 Many people have been working remotely for the past year or so. And now that things are opening back up only 10% of surveyed San Diego businesses expect the bulk of their staff to work remotely three days a week or more. Why is that the pandemic proved working remotely can be done. So why aren't more employers offering that kind of flexibility. Joining me to answer that question is Antoinette Myer. SANDAG is director of mobility and innovation. Antoinette. Welcome. Thank you. Happy to be here. Yeah. So during the pandemic shut down, there was talk about how remote work would change the way we worked for good, but your findings show that businesses don't expect such an immediate change. Tell us about that. Well, Speaker 2: 00:42 I would say that there's definitely going to be a change. We're going to see more remote work than we ever saw prior to the pandemic. However many employers are anticipating that a large portion of their workforce will return to the opposite at least on a part-time basis. So prior to the pandemic, you know, 68% of employees had never worked from home. And then during the pandemic, we saw more than half of employees that we surveyed were working from, from home, moving into the future. There will still be a large percentage of employees that work from home, maybe one to three days a week. Um, but there is an expectation by employers that employees will return to the office, um, on an occasional basis this Speaker 1: 01:23 Week. And, and, and analysis by tech investors came out that said, San Diego has more remote friendly jobs than any other startup city in the state. How does that fare with what SANDAG found? I Speaker 2: 01:35 Think those results are actually consistent with our surveys. So, you know, it varied a lot by industry and occupation. And the industry is the tech industry. That was part of the survey you referenced, definitely has more remote options. Um, you know, I think, um, Sorento valley, we saw there were higher rates of telework happening before the pandemic, um, during the pandemic and expectations for the future are higher than you see in some of the other occupations where telework just isn't as easy of an option for employees, but Speaker 1: 02:05 10% of surveyed businesses expected the bulk of their staff to work remotely three or more days per week. Speaker 2: 02:12 Right. That is correct. But if you break it down by industry, you see that professional technical scientific services, those, all those, all of those industries expect to have higher rates of teleworks when you look at all employers in the region, yes. 10%. But when you actually look specifically at that industry or those industries, um, you see higher expectations for telework in the future. And Speaker 1: 02:38 What about sectors that are less likely to offer remote work? Talk to me about those. Speaker 2: 02:43 Yeah. So looking at the service industry, so food service, healthcare support, um, repair services, transportation services, all of these are, you know, occupations that can't really be done from home. When you look at the San Diego region, our shows that while on average, we have more tele workable jobs than other parts of the country. We about 39% of occupations that are considered telework double, um, in our region. But that's, you know, that is 61% of occupations that can't be done at, at home. When you think about, you know, industries in our region that are critical, like hospitality and tourism, those, those are not jobs that can be done easily at home. So there's definitely a limit on telework in, in our region. Speaker 1: 03:28 Yeah. And for those particular sectors, you know, they're there for obvious reasons, um, the option to work remotely isn't available, but in talking to employees and employers, was there anything that surprised you in terms of, of some, uh, places and establishments that well that will not offer remote work? Um, I don't know that Speaker 2: 03:48 It was particularly a surprise. I think, you know, prior to the pandemic, we had talked to employers about teller. We have a program that promotes telework to employers in the region as a way to reduce traffic congestion and employers prior to the pandemic. And clearly this didn't change during the pandemic. Many of them feel like they really need to see their employees working to believe that they're working to believe that they're being productive and not distracted by, you know, other activities. And so that's what we heard through our survey, as well as that, while employees felt like they were much more productive working from home, that the quality of their work was better when they were working from home employers didn't have the same perception. Um, so I wasn't so surprised by the results even after having, you know, more experience a year and a half, those having, you know, their, almost their entire workforce remote most of the time. And it seems that, you know, employers still feel that way. Does Speaker 1: 04:40 That, how does the idea that employees can't be trusted to manage their own time, sit with employees? Speaker 2: 04:48 Um, I think that's certainly impacts employees, morale. You know, many employees felt like they were working harder and longer hours at home. If you think about, you know, when your, when your office is maybe right next to your bedroom, it's really easy to just jump online, to take calls when you're not commuting to work and home from work, you may start your day earlier and end your day later. And so people were getting burnt out, putting in a lot of hours. So then to hear from managers like, oh, I don't feel like you were quite as productive. Um, you know, when you were working from home or the quality of your work, wasn't that good, that can certainly impact, you know, employee morale. What did employees Speaker 1: 05:23 Say about what they liked about remote work? Speaker 2: 05:25 Well, there's a cost savings for employees, um, and, and employers reported that too. So that was an area of similarity. Um, employees reported better work-life balance, um, greater job satisfaction. Um, so those, those are the, those are the key reasons that employees like to work from home, but both employers and employees agree that teamwork is difficult. Communication and coordination is difficult. So, um, there are some areas where both employers and employees have similar opinions about telework. It's just the, and the performance. Um, that seems to be an area where there's some differences of opinion. Speaker 1: 06:02 You know, if venture capital backed companies are embracing remote work, as the analysis by tech investors found, do you see them setting a trend in the future for companies who aren't as open to that concept? Well, you know, Speaker 2: 06:14 It's a very tight job market right now. It's really difficult to recruit and hire talent employees have more options, and they're looking for, you know, the best offers in terms of salary and benefits. So if companies start to see that they're going to attract and retain more qualified candidates and that their competitors are offering remote work as a benefit, I think that will definitely be a factor that influences them. Speaker 1: 06:37 Yeah. And did businesses indicate whether or not they expect to offer more remote work options down the line as a, is it trending that way, but at maybe a slower pace than initially expected? Speaker 2: 06:49 Yeah, absolutely. So we still have 40% of companies that are saying they are, they intend to offer remote work to at least one of their employees one day per week. So that's, that's much bigger than what we saw before the pandemic. And it's about 27% of employers that offered telework, but it's not going to be offered to every single employee and it's not going to be every day. In most instances, Speaker 1: 07:12 Work opportunities vary among certain demographics. Can you talk to me about Speaker 2: 07:16 That? Yeah, absolutely. So telework, um, was definitely a much more prevalent among higher wage earners and professional services. So, um, employees that work in tech or architecture, engineering, um, are much more likely to have the ability to telework. And these are higher wage jobs. We found that households earning over a hundred thousand dollars a year, did more telework, lower income earners working in the service industry like food service. For example, transportation, healthcare support had far fewer opportunities to telework. We also saw in terms of race and ethnicity, telework was much more prevalent among white and Asian professionals than Hispanic and black professionals. Are there Speaker 1: 08:01 Some ways in which remote work helps close the wage gap or bring equality or equity between men and women in the workplace? Speaker 2: 08:08 Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. I think, you know, one of the reasons that, um, we are embarking on a digital equity strategy and action plan here at SANDAG is because having broadband access is opportunity. It's access to jobs, it's access to services, it's access to education. There's a digital divide in the region right now. So in terms of equity, you know, expanding affordable high quality broadband service is going to be essential. Um, I also think in terms of equity in the workplace, you know, with greater work-life balance and more flexibility in your schedule, it's obviously going to be easier for parents, right? And generally women have a lot of the responsibility when it comes to childcare and picking up dropping kids off, getting them to their after school activities. So certainly the ability to work remotely allows for women to balance those activities balance, being a parent and doing their job. I've been speaking Speaker 1: 09:07 With Antoinette Meyer. SANDAG is director of mobility and innovation. Antoinette, thank you so much for joining us. It was a pleasure. Thank you for having me.

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Forty percent of companies say they will offer remote work to at least one of their employees, one day per week. Prior to the pandemic that was 27%.
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