Vaccines, schools, and employee sentiment are driving reopening plans and decisions to bring employees back.
The Greater Washington Partnership is committed to catalyzing solutions and fostering unity.
The Partnership works to bring people, organizations, and jurisdictions together to make the Capital Region – from Baltimore to Richmond – one of the best places to live, work, and build a business. In September 2020, we published the results of the first Capital COVID-19 Snapshot, designed to increase regional information and data sharing, so employers, both large and small, could make more informed decisions about reopening, and so public agencies could better understand when employees are expected to return to their offices and worksites. The first Snapshot told us that employers were adopting a phased approach to reopening and on average did not expect most of their workforce back on site until Summer 2021, among other findings which can be found here.
The second Capital COVID-19 Snapshot was conducted between November 11-December 11, 2020 with 172 unique employers participating from the Washington, Baltimore, and Richmond metro areas. Along with an update of employer reopening plans, the Snapshot includes the Transit Tracker with data provided by regional transit agencies and a new Back to Work Barometer through a partnership with Kastle Systems - both regularly updated with the newest data.
Since August, employers have delayed the phased approach to reopening their worksites by about three months.
Although very few expect their workforce will telework full time, the majority expect most of their workforce to telework 1-2 days per week after the pandemic.
Most employers (75%) are not planning to make changes to their real-estate or office footprint in the next 12 months.
Close to half of the respondents rated employee mental health, loss of collaboration, and loss of organizational culture as top areas of concern for how the COVID pandemic is affecting their workforce.
Only 1% of respondents expect most of their workforce to telework full time after the pandemic.
Most employers indicate that rapid testing and improved ventilation systems are the top solutions that can make workplaces safe in future pandemics.
The level of confidence in transit agencies’ ability to provide safe transportation, limit crowding, ensure passengers wear marks, and provide sanitary vehicles has grown since August.
The Greater Washington Partnership is a first-of-its-kind civic alliance of CEOs in the region, drawing from the leading employers and entrepreneurs committed to making the Capital Region— from Baltimore to Richmond—one of the world's best places to live, work and build a business. The Partnership is committed to fostering unity and catalyzing solutions. We are stronger and more successful when aligned with our many exceptional partners throughout the Capital Region. This is especially true for the Capital COVID-19 Snapshot. Thank you to the following partners for collaborating on this effort to ensure the Capital Region has a strong, safe recovery.
The health and safety of our regional workforce comes first.
Based on responses in November and early December, on average, employers with plans expect that 63% of their employees will return to the worksite by summer 2021, a drop of nearly 10% compared to responses received in August. By fall 2021, three-quarters (76%) of the workforce are estimated to be back at worksites, on average across respondents. Decision-makers must continue to prioritize the health and safety of workers and their families. By collecting and widely disseminating this information, leaders across organizations will be able to learn from each other and apply best practices to their operations.
Share of Workforce Expected Onsite Over the
Next Year (Results from Winter Snapshot)
Q: As of today, what percentage of employees reporting to this location do you expect to be commuting to/from this location on a typical workday during the upcoming months?
Average % across Respondents of Employees Returning to Worksites
|By Organization Size
|Very Small (50 or Less)
On average, 29% of respondents’ workforce is expected to be physically at their worksites in winter 2021 (January – March).
When asked in August, employers assumed 49% of their workforce would be on site during this same time period. Delayed plans to return to worksites reflect the course of the pandemic. As the number of those infected has increased over the past few months, employers’ expected timelines for returning staff to worksites have shifted back.
Smaller organizations are more likely to have a larger share of their workforce back at the worksite. Organizations with less than 25 employees expect one-third of their workforce to be onsite in winter 2021. Organizations with more than 1,000 employees only expect 15% of their workforce onsite on average.
The pandemic has also significantly impacted the number of people visiting worksites or using services on a typical workday. Organizations who reported onsite visitors (i.e., students, clients, customers, patients, etc.) on average only expect about 1/3 as many onsite visitors in January 2021 as before the pandemic.
Drivers of Reopening
Decisions & Future Resiliency
Biggest Driver for Decisions Regarding When to Bring
Employees Back to Worksites
Q: Which of the following is the biggest driver for your organization’s decisions regarding when to bring employees (and/or students, clients, etc.) back to worksites? (Please select up to 3)
Vaccine availability and employee sentiment are the biggest drivers for decisions regarding reopening.
Most employers (6 in 10) are closely watching vaccine availability and distribution to make reopening decisions.
Employers are also relying on employee sentiment and personal health concerns. Across respondents, 34% of the workforce, on average, face COVID-19 related personal challenges that complicate their return to the worksite. These challenges include lack of childcare, immunocompromised or elderly family members, and lack of access to safe and affordable transportation.
Most Concerning Ways COVID-19 Has Disrupted Workplaces
Q: Thinking about how COVID may have disrupted your services and impacted interactions at the workplace, which of the following is MOST concerning to your organization? (Please select up to 3)
Human capital and employee mental health are top concerns for employers.
About half of employers are concerned with how the pandemic has disrupted their workplace's organizational culture, impacted employee mental health, and led to loss of collaboration. These factors were more concerning to employers than productivity and loss of revenue.
Solutions to Make Worksites More Resilient
Q: Which of the following solutions would most help your worksite(s) be resilient in the face of pandemics? Please select up to 3.
Availability of rapid testing is the number one solution that would make worksites more resilient in the face of pandemics.
Since the start of the pandemic, employers have worked to mitigate the risk of viral spread by adjusting their procedures on and off worksites. Thinking about resilience in relation to future pandemics, employers felt rapid testing that delivers results at the point of care and improved ventilation systems or sensors to measure the concentration of the virus in the air would be most helpful.
The Future of Worksites
Most employers do not plan short-term changes to the real estate footprint.
While most employers are not planning to invest in more real-estate or reduce their real-estate presence in the short-term, plans vary by organization size. Of the large employers (1,000+) who responded, thirty percent say they plan to reduce their real-estate/office footprint with more permanent telework policies and flexible work arrangements.
Do Employers Plan to Make Changes to Their Real-Estate Presence in the Next 12 Months?
Q: Assuming the size of your workforce remains the same, which statement best describes your organization’s plans for reducing/expanding worksites or workspace in the next 12 months
Share of Employers Who Are Planning to Reduce Real-Estate Presence in the Next 12-Months
Very few employers expect all their workforce to telework full time after the pandemic
While 58% of employers reported that most of their workforce is teleworking full time during the pandemic, only 1% expect all their workforce to telework full time after the pandemic. Half of respondents expect their workforce to telework some of the time (1-2 days/week) after the pandemic.
Employers’ Estimates of Workforce Teleworking Now vs. Post COVID-19
Employers’ Estimates of Workforce Teleworking Some of the Time (1-2 days) after the Pandemic
Employers’ Estimates of Workforce Teleworking Now vs. Post COVID-19
Commuting to Worksites
Employers do not expect many employees to use transit for commutes in the near-term
We know that the plan to reopen the Capital Region's economy safely must be phased and gradual, including employee commutes. Prior to March 2020, more than 60% of employees at respondent worksites commuted by private vehicle, 25% by transit, and less than 10% teleworked daily. Respondents to this survey estimated that 41% of employees are teleworking, 43% are commuting by car, and only 7% are using public transportation.
While 58% of employers reported that their workforce is completely teleworking full time during the pandemic, only 1% expect all their workforce to telework full time after the pandemic. Half of respondents expect their workforce to telework some of the time (1-2 days/week) after the pandemic.
Average Commute Mode Reported by Employers in Winter 2020
Confidence in Public Transit is Improving
Employers are growing more confident with their public transit systems’ ability to implement safety measures. Compared to the COVID-19 Summer 2020 Snapshot, the share of employers responding “somewhat confident” has increased by at least 10% across each safety measure. The majority of employers say they are at least “somewhat confident” agencies will be able to ensure passengers wear masks, provide sanitary conditions, and limit crowding.
Q: Approximately what percentage of employees commuting to this location will be using the following modes of transportation as their primary means to get to/from work in January 2021?
Employer Confidence in Local Transit Agencies Ability to Ensure the Following
Q: How confident is your organization that local transit agencies will be able to ensure the following
Share of Employers At Least "Somewhat Confident" in Transit's Ability to Ensure...
Perceived Risk of COVID-19 Transmission by Venue (1 = Most Risky, 6 = Least Risky)
Q: Rank the following venues in terms of perceived risk of COVID-19 transmission from 1 - most concerning to 6 – least concerning
Transit Tracker and
Back to Work Barometer
The Partnership intends to update the Transit Tracker and Back to Work Barometer regularly as the region continues to reopen, so that all public and private decision-makers and residents have access to regular, timely, and actionable information. As we work together to reopen the region safely, the Partnership encourages all employers and residents to do their part to help slow the spread of COVID-19 by following public health officials' guidance, wearing masks, and observing social distancing guidelines until it is safe to reopen.
Capital COVID-19 Transit Tracker
Working in partnership with the region’s transit operators and the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (MWCOG), the Greater Washington Partnership and EY have created the Capital COVID-19 Transit Tracker. The tracker is intended to help employers and employees make decisions about whether and how to safely use transit. The tool allows the region to better understand the ridership and capacity limitations of the Washington Area's WMATA Metrorail System, Virginia's Railway Express, Richmond's GRTC Bus System and summaries of service from commuter rail and bus transit providers around the region
Capital Region Kastle Back to Work Barometer
Kastle Systems and the Greater Washington Partnership have teamed up to provide the Capital Region Kastle Back to Work Barometer for the Baltimore, Washington, and Richmond metro areas. To view the national Kastle Back to Work Barometer visit www.kastle.com.
Aggregating key card, fob, and KastlePresence app access data, the Kastle Back to Work Barometer provides insight into the rate of return to offices. While the data are only a sample of total Kastle customers, the barometer can help business owners, elected officials, and transit agencies have a better sense of the rate of return to offices across the Capital Region since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Charted percentages are based on daily unique authorized user entries in each market relative to a pre-COVID baseline.
We will NOT fully reopen our office, nor lift limited office access protocols, until enough of the country has been vaccinated to reach herd immunity.
We will not ask employees to return to the office until local school systems return to in-person learning/teaching.
It would be great to learn about what is working. There is a serious lack of resources on what is working to effectively open offices and keep employees and their families safe.
Vaccine availability is really the primary driver. Transit concerns, office exposure, etc. tend to go away if staff are sufficiently protected.
Capital COVID-19 Survey points to continued uncertainty.
The Greater Washington Partnership sends a special thanks to our front-line workforce that are keeping the region safe during this global health pandemic. We also thank our public and private sector partners, especially the transit agencies, business organizations, and individual employers who helped to disseminate the survey and share their data. We encourage everyone to do their part by wearing masks, social distancing, and adhering to the guidance of public health officials. We look forward to continuing to work together to share more relevant and timely information so we can make the Capital Region one of the best places to live, work, and build a business during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.
Summer 2020 Capital
PDF Format, 8.9 MB
Survey Sample Characteristics
172 employers (875 worksites) from various industries are represented in the survey. Together these organizations employ roughly 139,000 people in the Capital Region (full time, part-time and contracted workforce). The results from the Employer COVID-19 Snapshot Survey reflect the opinions and assumptions of employers who responded to the survey and should not be used to generalize to the entire Capital Region.
Responses were collected via an online survey managed and hosted by EY, under the supervision of the EY research team. Responses were collected between November 11, 2020 through December 11, 2020. Survey respondents were sought from email subscriber lists of The Greater Washington Partnership and more than 15 partner organizations, including MWCOG, WMATA, MDOT, NVTA and NVTC, and local Chambers of Commerce. Partner organizations supported this effort by promoting the survey through their network of employers and subscribers. The survey was also promoted through social media using both targeted ads and online posts on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook Employer groups. Responses were sought from employers, public and private, of any size with worksites located in the Capital Region, which includes, Washington, Baltimore, and Richmond metro areas. Respondents included C-suite-level leaders and decision-makers involved in reopening plans and activities. The first and second round of the Snapshot survey have different samples of respondents. Comparisons between the two surveys reflect changes in the survey sample’s average sentiment and should not be used to generalize to the entire Capital Region.
*Please note: Out of 64 organizations listed as having multiple sites in the Capital Region, a third indicated that not all sites follow the same work policies.