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SAN DIEGO (CNS) – Nearly half of all San Diego County businesses were able to offer the ability to telework during the COVID-19 pandemic, an increase of 20% from pre-pandemic figures, a San Diego Association of Governments study revealed Friday.

After the pandemic, that number is expected to decline to 40%, according to the study.

The SANDAG Transportation, Regional Planning, and Borders committees met virtually Friday to discuss the results of the report, led by SANDAG staff and True North Research. It surveyed employees and businesses throughout the region to gain a better understanding of how the pandemic has altered remote work practices and policies, and expectations for the post-pandemic period.

The report found remote work policies and practices changed dramatically in response to the pandemic and also found changes were not equal across different industries, occupations or by employee demographics.

“We found that most businesses believe remote work will be less prevalent following the pandemic than at its peak,” said Antoinette Meier, SANDAG director of mobility and innovation. “With that said, more employers have considered telework as a viable option.

“As we continue planning for a faster, fairer and cleaner transportation future for everyone, teleworking will be studied to determine its impact on how and when people travel throughout the region,” Meier said.

Research findings in the report and described in Friday’s presentation include:

  • 27% of businesses overall reported they offered the ability to work remotely pre-pandemic. This increased to 47% during the pandemic and is expected to decrease to 40% post-pandemic;
  • Post-pandemic, businesses do not expect that all employees will work remotely or that those that may continue working remotely will do so for most of the week; and
  • Jobs that can be done at home are typically higher-wage professions. More than 90% of architects, engineers and those working in the sciences have the option to work from home, while just 9% of individuals working in health care support or maintenance and repair services are able to telework.

Travel behavior in the future is a key factor for consideration when forecasting data for the SANDAG 2021 Regional Plan. The regional plan incorporates telework as a strategy to help achieve greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets, congestion reduction and vehicle miles traveled in the region.

In order to increase telework rates, broadband connectivity and home Internet access must increase, the report found. Connectivity was found to be a barrier to teleworking for both businesses and employees — data show that 23% of low-income households are not benefitting from a broadband subscription and 20-40% of students in many local districts lack home Internet access.

Earlier this year, SANDAG formed the Regional Digital Divide Taskforce with the goal to bridge the gap between those who do and do not have access to high-speed Internet, known as the digital divide.

SANDAG offers telework assistance through its iCommute Program to assist employers in formalizing long-term telework and remote work initiatives.

SANDAG is the San Diego region’s primary public planning, transportation and research agency. It is governed by a Board of Directors composed of mayors, council members and supervisors from each of the region’s 18 cities and the county government.

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