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One Unexpected Benefit from the Coronavirus Emergency

The COVID-19 Coronavirus is upending daily life across the globe and people everywhere are wondering when normalcy will return.

Hundreds of major employers have instructed their workers to work remotely from home to reduce the spread of infection.  This worldwide health emergency may be the major event that makes remote working more accepted as a common business practice.

Besides the benefit of suppressing infection, even occasional telecommuting can provide huge positive impacts on personal and municipal transportation costs, time saved, and even the environment.

We partnered with Intel on a study to look at the savings that can accrue if only half of a metro area’s workforce worked from home just one day a week.  It was surprising to see the effects of even this modest use of telecommuting.

In our study, the Washington DC metro area showed the greatest potential savings from telecommuting.  It has one of the highest percentages of white-collar workers in the study, plus the daily commute is one of the most time-consuming and costly in the United States.

A single Washington, DC office worker who teleworks just one day each week can see savings of $488 in transportation costs, and $2708 in time savings each year.  If only one-half of the area’s office workforce teleworked just one day each week, we estimate local annual savings of $177 million in personal transportation costs (including 38 million gallons of gasoline) and 21.8 million hours of time worth nearly $1 billion.  The combined savings of the 80 metro areas in the study total over $30 billion annually.

“Our study highlights those places which have the greatest potential to benefit from telecommuting.  Fuel prices, crowded highways, and security concerns all combine to make telecommuting increasingly important in today’s world,” said BestPlaces president Bert Sperling.  “Our analysis shows that working from home even one day a week can have a huge beneficial effect for the employees, companies, and the entire community.”

“And this doesn’t even consider the savings for highway maintenance, new road construction, and mass transit additions,” said Sperling.  “Plus, there’s the advantage of reduced pollution, and congestion is reduced, thereby providing a benefit to those which are still commuting.”

Life will return to normal after the Coronavirus emergency, but a lasting legacy may be a greater acceptance of telecommuting.  The result is likely to be a cleaner environment, reduced wear on roads and mass transit, and cost savings and improved quality of life for workers.

Here are the cities which will see the greatest gains from telecommuting.

Very large metro areas

  1. Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV
  2. Boston-Cambridge-Newton, MA-NH
  3. Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell, GA
  4. Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, IL-IN-WI
  5. San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA

Large metro areas

  1. San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA
  2. Baltimore-Columbia-Towson, MD
  3. Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, CO
  4. San Diego-Carlsbad, CA
  5. Indianapolis-Carmel-Anderson, IN

Medium metro areas

  1. Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, CT
  2. Raleigh, NC
  3. Hartford-West Hartford-East Hartford, CT
  4. Austin-Round Rock, TX
  5. Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, CA

Small metro areas

  1. Boulder, CO
  2. Colorado Springs, CO
  3. Anchorage, AK
  4. Akron, OH
  5. Columbia, SC


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