Sep 25, 2023 - News

Remote work declines from pandemic peak in the D.C. area

Data: U.S. Census Bureau. Chart: Axios Visuals
Data: U.S. Census Bureau. Chart: Axios Visuals

More D.C.-area employees worked remotely last year than much of the country, but the trend dipped sharply from a peak in 2021, per new census figures.

Why it matters: Remote work continues to hurt downtown D.C.'s economy, but workers favor the flexibility and savings — in both time and gas/transit money.

By the numbers: More than a quarter of the D.C. metro workforce said they "worked from home" in the last week when surveyed recently — the 6th-highest rate of any city, and higher than any state.

  • But it's a drop from the 33% share of remote workers in 2021.

Zoom out: Overall, 15% of the U.S. worked from home last year — but the numbers are much higher on the East and West coasts and in other large metro areas.

  • Nationwide, the share of people working from home declined by less than 3 percentage points between 2021 and 2022, according to the census figures.

What we're watching: Federal workers. President Biden in August called for his Cabinet to "aggressively execute" plans for federal employees to work more in their offices this fall after years of working remotely, according to an email sent to every Cabinet member and obtained by Axios.

  • It's Biden's most overt push yet to get federal employees to return to their offices.
  • The feds have so far not heeded the wishes of Mayor Muriel Bowser for an across-the-board return to the office of three days a week.

The solution for empty office buildings in many big cities is more likely to come from ambitious redevelopment projects — converting office towers into residential buildings and central business districts into mixed-use neighborhoods.

  • Yes, but: That work is complex, difficult, and extremely expensive.

What's next: D.C.'s office-to-residential pivot hit a snag recently after some downtown projects were put on pause, according to the DowntownDC BID.

  • But new projects appear to be cropping up. A developer filed plans last month to convert an office building off Massachusetts Ave. in Dupont Circle into residential units.

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