How Many People Can Keep Working From Home?

Published: Wednesday, July 21, 2021 - 2:53pm

An economic development analyst has created a national model to better understand remote work opportunities across the United States.

In 2017-18, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated 29% percent of workers across the United States could work from home and 25% did so at least occasionally.

Chris Worley, with Fourth Economy Consulting, incorporated various data for counties across the country and said, depending on what industries make up a county, anywhere from a quarter to one-third of all employees could work remotely.  

“For example, those working in food and accommodation industries are unlikely to work remotely while many in finance and insurance may have the ability to do so,” he said.

Worley doesn’t expect remote work levels to return to last year’s record high levels, “But I think there are going to be companies that do make the switch into full remote because like mine they said, ‘We can do it.’ So there’s going to be a baseline of those companies and there’s going to be a huge swath of companies that are going to adopt some sort of hybrid model.”

He analyzed data for downtown Pittsburgh and found in May 2020 it had 50% less primary workers than before the pandemic. In May 2021, downtown Pittsburgh still had 25% fewer primary workers than pre-pandemic.

On the commercial real estate front, Worley said many people are trying to understand the dynamics of what the demand shift will be. Worley said some spaces will change to accommodate desk sharing for hybrid workers and some office buildings may be converted to residential.

He shared his information during a Wednesday webinar hosted by the U.S. Census Bureau.