When COVID-19 hit and businesses were forced to shut down, many employees made the shift to working from home. Nationally, the share of people working entirely from home rose from around 8% in February to 26% in May. While there are many workers who are not able to work remotely, for those who are able, there are indications that work-from-home arrangements could become permanent. The increased prevalence in working from home could have a big impact on the homebuyers’ housing preferences, with growing demand for dedicated home offices and larger backyards.
Before the pandemic, a very small share of Virginians worked from home. According to the 2018 Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, about 5% of Virginia’s workforce worked either 100% or the majority of the time from home. In 2018, the work-from-home rate was somewhat higher for female workers—5.52% of females worked from home compared to 4.58% of males.
The likelihood that someone works from home depends a lot on the type of job he or she has. Occupations with the highest rates of working from home include medical transcriptionists, web developers and graphic artists, and technical writers and editors. Some sales jobs also have relatively high shares of people working from home as well. And some jobs in agriculture, including family farming, are classified as “work-from-home” jobs.
The share of workers who work from home varies significantly across Virginia. In general, places with high working-from-home rates include relatively rural communities, as well as localities with large numbers of workers in professional and technical services occupations.
Share of Workers That Work Regularly from Home by County/Independent City (2018)
|Falls Church city (tie)||7.8|
|Lexington city (tie)||7.8|
Source: U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey
For example, in rural Richmond County located on the Northern Neck, an estimated 12.8% of workers regularly work from home (i.e. work either 100% from home or the majority of the time from home). Northampton and Westmoreland counties also have relatively high rates of working from home. These small communities have higher shares of agricultural workers, as well as a fair number of residents operating home-based businesses.
Work-from-home rates are also relatively high in communities with high shares of workers in professional and technical services jobs, such as computer programmers, analysts, accountants, and researchers. For example, in the City of Williamsburg, an estimated 8.3% of the workforce worked regularly from home in 2018. The work-from-home rates were 7.9% in the City of Fredericksburg and 7.8% in the City of Falls Church.
It is too early to tell whether the widespread teleworking that has been precipitated by the COVID-19 pandemic will be permanent. Some companies will maintain work-from-home options even after the public health risk abates. Others have already begun working on plans for bring workers back into the office. However, there will undoubtedly be an impact on the housing and location choices that working individuals and families will make in the months to come.