While employers, by-and-large, remain uncertain about the percent of their workforce that will continue to permanently telework, the Snapshot shows full-time telework positions are likely to increase which could have big impacts on our region’s economy and future growth.

On September 14, 2020, the Greater Washington Partnership released the Capital COVID-19 Snapshot (“Snapshot”), capturing insights from more than 430 unique employers taking part throughout the Capital Region of Baltimore, Washington, and Richmond that collectively employ over 275,000 residents. The Snapshot found that, on average, close to 20 percent of all employer respondents have all staff teleworking full-time in September and only half of the workforce is expected back at worksites in early 2021. Not all that surprising, telework ‘commutes’ for the survey respondents grew exponentially since March 2020, with the Snapshot showing growth in telework use by more than 400% over the past six months. This means hundreds of thousands of the more than 5 million workers in our region are not using the transportation system for their commutes. This in turn will lower demand and economic activity in activity centers throughout the region — creating positive and negative impacts for various sectors.

A looming question: what is the projected change in full-time-telework? After an in-depth analysis of Snapshot survey responses, the findings are in and, similar to the Snapshot data , roughly a third of employers remain uncertain, but for those with a plan in August, more than 20 percent of the workforce could be teleworking full-time indefinitely. If true throughout the region, this would represent a 15 percentage point increase compared to the roughly 5 percent of the regional workforce that teleworked full-time prior to COVID-19¹.

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Like the Snapshot survey, uncertainty is the name of the game with close to a third of employers responding in August that they are “Not Sure” about shifting a share of their workforce to permanent telework schedules. Of those who supplied an estimate, more than fifty percent said they expect at least 10-percent of their workforce to go remote permanently.

Larger companies, those with more than 5,000 employees, provided higher estimates for the share of their workforce they expect to shift to a permanent telework schedule. If this trend holds, the impact on the economic health of employment centers could be quite significant for the Capital Region. Uncertainty about telework practices is also higher among larger companies. While 35 percent of small employers are unsure about permanent telework predictions, close to half of the large employers are too uncertain to provide an estimate.

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While the Capital COVID-19 Snapshot survey is not designed to make estimates for all 370,000+ businesses in the region, it provides valuable analysis on how employers are planning to return employees to worksites and expected rates that employees will return or shift to telework schedules. If permanent telework grows as large as estimated in the Snapshot survey our region would have major changes in demand for transportation, real estate, retail, lodging and entertainment, among countless other sectors of our economy.

The Greater Washington Partnership will continue to further analyze the potential impacts from emerging reopening scenarios presented by the Capital COVID-19 Snapshot and encourage those interested in exploring this work to reach out to help us support the region in better understanding this evolving situation. We can all work together to plan accordingly for a future that supports our recovery efforts and future growth.

Find out more at https://greaterwashprt.wpengine.com/capital-covid-snapshot/

Footnote: U.S. Census American Community Survey, 5-Year 2014–2018, Means of Transportation to Work by Age, B08101.