As COVID-19 cases rise again, it’s unclear if delta variant cases will send employees back to work from home

(Hawaii News Now)
Published: Aug. 2, 2021 at 3:58 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Whether it was loved or hated by employees, working from home became second nature to a lot of Americans in 2020. According to data from the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development, about a third of all working Americans started working from home shortly after the pandemic hit.

The numbers show that Alaska was on par with those rates, showing that 35% of Alaskan households had at least one person working from home in the last quarter of 2020. That’s about 89,000 households.

Research Analyst Liz Brooks pointed out that there are some significant findings when looking at the data of working from home collected last year, like who had the easiest time making the transition.

Basically, the more money an individual makes the more likely they have a job that’s easier to do from home.

For example, U.S. Census Bureau survey data shows that 64% of people in Alaska who made more than $200,000 annually were working at home last year. Of people who made less than $25,000 annually, only 11% worked at home.

“People with higher education levels tend to be in occupations that are easier to transition to home,” Brooks said. “People who have lower education tend to be in occupations that are difficult to transition to home.”

As far as working from home continuing to be a factor in the workplace moving forward, Brooks said it’s hard to speculate.

On the one hand, companies have the ability to save money on overhead costs with smaller workplaces, and employees generally like the flexibility of working at home. On the other, Brooks said it’s all about how successful an operation is while at home.

She said she doesn’t think saving on overhead costs will be a huge deciding factor in how companies proceed, however, many are considering keeping teleworking options to some degree.

In recent months, the state’s data shows that work from home rates have been declining since May 2020. However, there was a spike in working from home during the holidays when there was a spike of COVID-19 cases.

As far as the most recent surge with the delta variant, Brooks said it’s hard to tell what will happen to work from home.

“We did see work from home rise during the holidays when case counts were rising. But the difference is now we have access to a vaccine. So I don’t know how that is going to change the algebra,” she said.

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