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New Work From Home Data Shows Disparities

As we settle into a new normal, it is undeniable that COVID-19 transformed the way we work and do business. Data from the Census Bureau’s 2021 American Survey indicates that the number of people working from home tripled between 2019 and 2021, from about 6% to 18% of workers, or roughly 9 million to 27.6 million people.

Among metro areas, the Bay Area had the highest percentage of remote workers, with about 35% of its workforce primarily working from home. The Census Bureau attributes this to the information and technology sectors that make up a large part of our workforce.

“Here at home, I feel like I can just roll out of bed, take a shower, get my coffee and go right to my desk versus having to spend a lot of time commuting”, says Antonia DeMichiel.

DeMichiel is a disability specialist for a Bay Area university, who works from home three days a week.

Professor Steven Davis coauthors a monthly poll for the U.S. Survey of Working Arrangements and Attitudes, along with other researchers from Stanford, the University of Chicago and Instituto Tecnologico Autónomo de México, their findings highlight vast disparities across demographics and earnings.

Davis said that when they looked at who gets to work from home, it’s sharply rising with earnings and with education because the kinds of jobs that well-educated professionals, scientific, technical workers have, those jobs lend themselves to remote work much more than somebody who works in factories.

They also found that although women generally have a stronger desire to work remotely, men, specifically White men, are more likely to be given that option. So, it is no surprise that the 2021 Census Data shows in San Francisco, out of 200 thousand people working from home, more than half, 53% were White, 28% were Asian, 10% were Hispanic, and only 3% were black.

Enrique Lopez Lira, the director of the Low-Wage Program at the UC Berkeley Labor Center, said that women and workers of color were affected more severely by the pandemic because they are overrepresented in industries that pay low wages, where they had to work on-site and risk their health during the pandemic.

The latest S.W.A.A. results showed that currently 13% of employees are still fully remote, 58% work full-time on site, and 29% are in a hybrid arrangement—And employers surveyed say they plan to keep their workers at home 2.3 days per week on average.

For this to happen, technology that supports collaboration at a distance plays a crucial role. Davis said that Google and Zoom are investing heavily—and that the share of patent applications related to remote work ‘doubled’ in just the six months between January of 2020, and July.

But Davis also acknowledged that there is a difference in perception about how productive workers are when they are not in the office. Employees believe to be more productive when working from home, but employers think their workers are not as productive when the telework.

Remote workers are also saving time and money by staying home.

Davis said this new work arrangement is largely a good thing except for some challenges for central cities. Their research shows, people who work from home naturally spend less of their money in central cities, which is hurting many support businesses, reducing commercial property values, sales tax revenues, and public transit revenues.

NBC Bay Area asked DeMichiel if she would ever consider working on-site five days a week again? “Absolutely not…I know deep down in my bones that I will never work five days a week in the office ever again,” she confirmed.

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