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

Principal Investigator(s):

Xinyi Qian, Associate Extension Professor, UM Extension

Co-Investigators:

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 US 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. Researchers 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 was 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 temporary shift to telecommuting and subsequent workplace policy change, and (3) differences among geographic areas, employer sizes, and industry types.

This project employed a mixed-method approach by using both focus groups and surveys. Researchers conducted 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 informed the development of the employer and worker surveys. The two surveys generated 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 benefits 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.

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Project details: