In a November survey, half of full-time workers in America reported working from home more often due to the pandemic, plus an additional 21% who said their habits hadn’t changed. Only 6% said they were working remotely less often.
An increase in remote work is one of the pandemic shifts likely to stick, for those who are able to. Is commuting a thing of the past?
In the Ipsos Coronavirus Consumer tracker, we’ve asked about driving and commutes several times since the lockdowns began. In a survey from November, nearly 30% of adults said they were driving less than they were before the pandemic began, compared to 18% who said they were driving more. But we assume we’ll get back in our cars. We might even miss them. Working professionals anticipate their overall driving will increase (33%) or stay the same (54%) once a vaccine is widely available, compared to times before the pandemic.
We don’t, however, miss commuting.
Before the pandemic, about three in four working adults commuted to work by car alone. One in 20 took public transportation—a figure that is much higher in cities with robust transit systems like New York and Chicago. For urban residents, commute times of 40 minutes to an hour a day are typical.
Ipsos asked working adults specifically about commuting in surveys fielded in July and August. One in three (33%-37%) employed adults thought their commutes would change when they could return to work. By December, however, that number had dropped to 26%, perhaps as some workers started returning or settled into new routines of working at home.
So how would those commutes change? Interestingly, nearly half (45%) of those who expect their commute to change anticipate driving more often. Since most people were driving to work to start with, we suspect that increase is partially due to public transportation users who feel that cars will be a safer bet.
A quarter of people who said their commute will change anticipate less commuting due to continued working from home. The economics of driving once every week or two versus driving every day are very different.
Has technology, such as wide use of broadband internet and video conferencing, finally enabled us to be more efficient and enable us to work less as they promised decades ago? Time will tell, but my bet is finally a big yes.