When it comes to work from home policies, normal is a moving target

Posted on March 14, 2022 by Chris Chmura

This article was originally published in the Richmond Times Dispatch on March 14, 2022. 

I’ve noticed more people in town lately. Restaurants are fuller at lunchtime, more cars are on the road, and more people are out walking about. We’re nowhere near pre-Covid levels, but the increased activity is a nice sign that we are moving back to normal.

When it comes to work from home policies, normal is a moving target. Of course, most service workers that interact with customers can’t work from home, but many office workers can do so productively.

How widespread are work from home policies? Chmura’s real time intelligence job postings provide some insight. The pandemic has brought about a proliferation of remote work for some occupations. We compared the number of ads in 2019 that specifically allowed working remotely to those in 2021 that allowed remote work.

For example, there was a 798% increase in job ads between 2019 and 2021 that specified the job could be performed remotely. The two-year growth rate for the top ten occupations in the nation that allow work from home is shown below:

+798% Customer Service Representatives

+539% Software Developers

+90% Sales Representatives of Services, Except Advertising, Insurance, Financial Services, and Travel

+630% Computer and Information Systems Managers

+479% Insurance Sales Agents

+301% Computer User Support Specialists

+339% Computer Systems Engineers/Architects

+407% Management Analysts

+440% Human Resources Specialists

+178% Medical and Health Services Managers

Those sharp growth rates seem to match up with anecdotal information, but it only tells part of the story. The reality is that the jobs allowing remote work represent only a small percentage of total available jobs. Perhaps more important is the percentage of ads that mention allowing work from home. Of those occupations shown in the list above, 10% or less were able to work from home in 2021: computer user support specialists, human resource specialists, and medical and health services managers. Insurance sales agents are associated with the highest work from home ads at 34% followed by customer service representatives at 23% and software developers at 20%.

Trends are similar in Virginia and the Richmond metro area. However, the importance of the information technology industry in Northern Virginia likely caused computer-related occupations to surface in five of the top ten work from home occupations for Virginia in 2021. Only three of the top ten work from home occupations were computer related in Richmond.

In both Virginia and Richmond, customer service representatives were first in the top ten list of ads offering work from home and had the highest mention of work from home in ads at 28% and 25%, respectively.

These findings are similar to the Bureau of Labor Statistics household survey regarding “employed people who teleworked or worked at home for pay at some point in the 4 weeks preceding the survey specifically because of the pandemic.” In February 2022, 13.0% of employed people teleworked because of the pandemic, down from 15.4% in the previous month and down from a peak of 26.4% in July 2020.

Clearly, the trend of working from home is on the decline in recent months as the fear of pandemic eases.

With the currently tight labor markets where employers are offering more flexibility to attract workers, it’s likely to remain higher than pre-Covid levels, and that may become a new normal.

This blog reflects Chmura staff assessments and opinions with the information available at the time the blog was written.