How many more people are working from home?
A look at six Louisiana metros
The share of workers who worked primarily from home increased steadily in Baton Rouge during the 2010s, rising from 2.5% of all workers in 2011 to 3.5% in 2019. Just two years later, in 2021, that share had risen to 8.3% of all workers, a big jump brought on by factors that most notably include a global pandemic.
According to the most recent Census estimates, over 31,000 workers across the Baton Rouge Metro forego a daily commute and instead work from their kitchen or home office. That’s more than double the 13,800 who enjoyed a work from home arrangement in 2019.
While the pandemic upended the way we work, the number of people working from home was already trending up, increasing by nearly 50% in Baton Rouge from 2011 through 2019. This trend is visible across Louisiana metros like Alexandria, Lafayette, Lake Charles, and New Orleans.
In New Orleans, 12.2% of all workers reported working from home in 2021. This puts our neighbors to the southeast well above other Louisiana metros in terms of people working from home, but the work from home rate in the Crescent City does not come close to that of tech hubs like Austin (32.3%), San Francisco (35.1%), and Seattle (30.6%). Even peer metros like Birmingham (13.7%) and our major metro neighbor Houston (15.5%) have higher rates of work-from-home arrangements than New Orleans.
Often implicit in the question “are more people working from home?” is the question “are fewer people driving to work?” Census data says yes, while traffic data from the Louisiana Department of Transportation & Development (DOTD) adds some valuable context.
According to estimates from the Census Bureau, about 30,000 fewer Baton Rouge workers reported driving to work in 2021 compared to 2019. Despite rates of working from home trending up and rates of commuting to an office trending down, there are still almost 11 times as many Baton Rougeans driving to work than working from home.
Even those working from home still need to hop on the road at some point during the day. While commuting may be down, the number of cars on the road is up. Traffic counts available from DOTD show that, while the total number of vehicles on the road fell in 2020, there were more vehicles traveling through critical junctures in 2021 than there were in 2019.
These figures show that, while work from home policies can help reduce the number of daily commuters, they won’t, in isolation, meaningfully reduce overall traffic in Baton Rouge. Local infrastructure initiatives like the I-10 widening project and the new Mississippi River South Bridge have great potential to help alleviate these traffic issues, and they’re long overdue.
When it comes to working from home, COVID accelerated a trend that was at least a decade in the making, and this flexibility is highly valued by workers. McKinsey notes that the ability to work remotely was the third most-important thing for workers seeking a new job last spring (after pay and advancement opportunities). It may not be the holy grail that solves Baton Rouge’s traffic issues, but workers will continue to seek out opportunities that allow them to work from home. All the things we love about working from home - unmuted Zoom participants, home-brewed coffee, and pets that just won’t leave us alone while we try to send that last email – aren’t going away anytime soon.
Thanks for reading BR By the Numbers! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.