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A new survey from the University of Southern California and the California Emerging Technology Fund reportedly looked into Californians’ feelings about remote work, remote learning, and telehealth after more than a year of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. What the researchers have found is that the hesitancy about each of these practices have been swept away.
According to a recent Gallup poll, roughly 33% of U.S. workers said they had shifted to working completely from home by Oct. 2020, down from 51% in Apr. Compared to 2019’s annual total, national vehicle miles travelled were only down about 15% in 2020.
Hernan Galperin, the study’s lead researcher and an associate professor at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, reportedly said in a statement: “Now we’re seeing a seismic shift in the way people want to work, learn, and manage health visits among those who have broadband access. Those changes give us a real opportunity to cut congestion and carbon emissions.”
The survey found that 42% of current, full-time remote workers want to keep working from home. Another 21% who also want to keep working from home said they are willing to go into the office one or two days a week. Of those surveyed, only 17% said they want to go back to their workplaces five days a week.
However, it turned out the opportunity for telecommuting was not evenly distributed among workers. People between the ages of 18 and 34 were found to be the least likely to be able to work from home, with the perk being most available to people earning $60,000 or more a year. Moreover, college-educated women were most likely to be able to work from home, according to the survey.
On the distance learning front, one-third of Californians 18 or older said they took an online class or training during the pandemic. Two thirds of those surveyed said they would continue distance learning if they have the opportunity. Furthermore, telehealth also increased during the pandemic, with just over half of respondents saying they’re able to access their healthcare by phone, smartphone or computer. However, usage was also uneven in this area: people of color were less likely to use telehealth services, while seniors 65 and older used it the most. The survey also found that Los Angeles County showed the lowest level of telehealth participation at 46%.
The survey also found that wider adoption of telecommuting, telehealth, and distance learning could drastically impact traffic across California. More than half of the respondents expected to cut their commute at least once a week after the pandemic, while 70% who used telehealth services anticipate cutting their medical-related car trips by at least half after the pandemic.
However, a 2018 study that found that policies that promote telecommuting may indeed increase, rather than decrease, people’s travel demand, regardless of the size of the MSA. Teleworking’s impact on VMT can have major implications for the environment, because in the U.S., transportation is the biggest source of greenhouse gases. Moreover, more cars on the road could implicate more car accidents. In Los Angeles, car crashes are reportedly the fourth leading cause of premature death, ahead of homicides, strokes, and lung cancer.