Telecommuting during COVID-19: How does it shape the future workplace and workforce?

Principal Investigator(s):

Xinyi Qian, Associate Extension Professor, UM Extension


Project summary:

During COVID-19, many employers asked their employees to telecommute, in order to comply with stay-at-home orders. In fact, a number of businesses, both in the U.S. and other parts of the world, have decided to allow employees to telecommute permanently (if employees choose to do so). This is the first time in history that we are witnessing a temporary shift of a large portion of the workforce to telecommuting. We argue this unprecedented time provides a unique opportunity to assess the impact of telecommuting. Telecommuting relates directly to transportation demand and pattern, congestion mitigation, population migration, as well as the sustainability, livability, and prosperity of communities. Therefore, many government agencies, including those of transportation, have inherent and long-term interests in understanding the impact of shifting the workforce to telecommuting. The objective of this research is to assess the impact of temporarily shifting the workforce to telecommuting on: (1) workplace policy changes and support related to telecommuting, (2) population migration as individual employees react to the temporarily shift to telecommuting and subsequent workplace policy change, and (3) differences among geographic areas, employer sizes, and industry types. The project will employ a mixed-method approach, by using both focus groups and surveys. The researchers will conduct focus groups with employers and human resource professionals, to generate in-depth data related to telecommuting. Focus group outcomes, insights from past literature, and suggestions from MnDOT and the TAP will inform the development of the employer and worker surveys. The two surveys will generate data on the impact of telecommuting on productivity as well as future workplaces and the workforce, from the perspectives of both employers and workers. This research will immediately benefit transportation agencies in Minnesota, by providing data-driven, evidence-based insights for both short- and longer-term transportation planning and congestion mitigation on both state and local levels.

Project details: