May 29, 2024 - News

Washington has one of the highest work-from-home rates

Illustration of a house with a keyboard and mouse

Illustration: Natalie Peeples/Axios

The Evergreen State is home to more than a million remote workers, leading some businesses that relied on a now-dwindling weekday downtown presence to pivot to the suburbs.

Why it matters: The presence of high-paying tech jobs has long been a boon to Washington's economy, but this new era of remote and hybrid work is reshaping downtowns, office parks and the suburbs.

By the numbers: About 37% of the state's nearly 4 million working people do so from home at least one day per week, according to a recent Federal Reserve article.

  • Nationwide, just over 15% of workers do so primarily from home, per the federal report.
  • Other states with high percentages of work-from-home employees, according to the Fed, are Maryland (40%), Colorado (39%), Massachusetts (38%), Oregon (35%) and Minnesota (34%).

State of play: While there are signs that in-office work is increasing locally and nationally, it remains something of a tug-of-war between employers and employees.

  • Amazon began to require employees to return to the office at least three days a week last year, while Microsoft has adopted a flexible policy that includes on-site, hybrid and remote work.
  • City of Seattle workers in the executive branch have been required to work on site at least two days a week since November 2022, but other departments set their own expectations, spokesperson Callie Craighead told Axios.
  • Workers who support the City Council were told last month they would soon be required to return to the office four out of five days per week.

Case in point: Amazon said there were 2.4 million more visits to Denny Regrade between May 2023 and April 2024 compared to the same period before it implemented its return-to-office policy.

Between the lines: The trend is bad news for the owners of Seattle office towers with vacancy rates that keep rising, the banks that lent them money and the businesses that catered to those workers.

  • Seattle policy and business leaders say there is opportunity to move from a worker-based economy to one that serves the city's growing population, with more late-night shopping, eating and drinking options.
  • There have also been conversations around converting office buildings to badly needed housing, but the task has proved more difficult and expensive than first imagined.
  • A Moody's Analytics report released in April determined that only about 14% of Seattle's office properties are suitable for conversion to housing.

What we're watching: Some businesses and restaurant operators are chasing remote workers to the neighborhoods and suburbs where they live.

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