In response to the outbreak of COVID-19, Portland Metro has seen an increase in telecommuting. Policymakers, public health officials, and employers began asking workers to work from home as part of social distancing in mid-March. On March 23rd, Governor Brown ordered all non-essential workers to stay home. With schools and daycare centers closed, many workers have increased caregiving needs keeping them home. Others are caring for sick family members.
The ability to work from home varies across industries and occupations. Many service, retail, and manufacturing workers are unable to perform the essential duties of the jobs from a distance. To get a sense of which workers and industries will have the easiest time adjusting to telecommuting we looked at workers who worked from home or had the option to work from home prior to the outbreak. The Bureau of Labor Statistics conducts an annual work from home survey. The industries with the largest share of workers who could, and did, work from home were Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services, Finance and Insurance, and Information. In these industries slightly more than 45% of workers do work from home and more than 50% of workers reported they could work from home. When we apply the national rates by industry to employment in the Portland Metro, twenty-seven percent of workers are in the could work from home category and more than a fifth of workers did work from home. Workers with higher levels of educational attainment are more likely to be able to work from home. This could bode well for many people in our region. Portland Metro has high levels of educational attainment. Forty-five percent of adults 25 years or older in Portland Metro have a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared to thirty-two percent nationwide.
For many employers, this is their first experience with telecommuting. Companies are developing new processes and investing in technology to help workers do their jobs remotely. While many employees are anxious to get back to their offices, it’s possible we’ll see higher levels of telecommuting remain higher after the pandemic has ended.