The New Normal: Trends in Telecommuting Influence Transportation, Employment, & More

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MTI researchers examine how shifts in telecommuting patterns influence behavior related to transportation, and how this affects land use and emissions
September 16, 2022
San José, CA

Telecommuting, which enables employees to perform job tasks remotely at home, increased significantly early in the COVID-19 pandemic, representing a major societal shift that has reshaped the family, work, and social lives of many Californians. New Mineta Transportation Institute (MTI) research,“TELE-commuting” during the COVID-19 Pandemic and Beyond: Unveiling State-wide Patterns and Trends of Telecommuting in Relation to Transportation, Employment, Land Use, and Emissions in California, uses surveys and interviews to investigate changes in telecommuting, how it affects people’s behavior related to transportation and employment, and how it will affect changes in land use and emissions (esp. from commuting).

The findings from this research reveal that:

  • Telecommuting has been widely adopted and is likely to continue for at least three years (note: the three-year time frame is a reflection of the way questions were framed), and there is an inverse relationship between staying at home and transport usage (i.e., the more people stay at home, the less they need and thus use public transit).
  • Work-from-home is more widely available now after COVID, but there are positive and negative impacts to employees (e.g., more flexibility but feelings of isolation) and employers (e.g., reduced costs of hiring but more difficult collaboration), and it also often affects local communities that rely on business profits related to office activities.
  • In terms of land use, telecommuting may motivate companies/organizations to rethink their strategies of reducing, consolidating, or rearranging office spaces.

“Our interviews suggested that telecommuting policies were not commonly designed and implemented until COVID,” explain the study’s authors. “Additionally, regression analyses showed that telecommuting practices have been influenced by COVID-19 related policies, public risk perception, home prices, broadband rates, and government employment.”

Overall findings suggest that fewer cars on the road in general and during commute hours in particular would lead to a reduction in emissions, but public transit usage also declined during the pandemic due to stay-at-home orders. The findings from this study can be used to inform statewide and regional policies to help adapt to new patterns of telecommuting, but further studies are needed to explore the relationship between telecommuting and emissions.


At the Mineta Transportation Institute (MTI) at San Jose State University (SJSU) our mission is to increase mobility for all by improving the safety, efficiency, accessibility, and convenience of our nations’ transportation system. Through research, education, workforce development and technology transfer, we help create a connected world. Founded in 1991, MTI is funded through the US Departments of Transportation and Homeland Security, the California Department of Transportation, and public and private grants, including those made available by the Road Repair and Accountability Act of 2017 (SB1). MTI is affiliated with SJSU’s Lucas College and Graduate School of Business.

This research was conducted as part of the California State University Transportation Consortium (CSUTC). Tianjun Lu, PhD, is the Principal Investigator of the study and an Assistant Professor in the Department of Earth Science and Geography at California State University, Dominguez Hills. His academic research and interests focus on transportation planning, air pollution exposure assessment, data analytics, and community engagement. Jian-yu (Fisher) Ke, PhD, is an Associate Professor in the Department of Information Systems & Operations Management at California State University, Dominguez Hills. His academic research and interests focus on global supply chain management and manufacturing strategies. Fynnwin Prager, PhD, is an Associate Professor of Public Administration at California State University, Dominguez Hills and Co-Director of the South Bay Economic Institute. His academic research and interests focus on transportation systems and the policy and economics of disasters. Jose N. Martinez, PhD, is an Associate Professor of Economics at California State University, Dominguez Hills and Co-Director of the South Bay Economic Institute. His academic research and interests focus on international migration, labor economics, econometrics, and time series forecasting.

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Dr. Hilary Nixon
MTI Deputy Executive Director
O: 408-924-7560

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