Coronavirus cases in the U.S. have continued to rise in recent weeks, in turn causing federal, state and local governments to urge their constituents to stay home and practice social distancing. Many companies, in turn, have implemented ongoing work-from-home policies that allow employees to keep socking away their earnings in their savings during this uncertain moment. But the shift to remote work has been uneven, highlighting the disparity between those who can seamlessly continue business as usual from their laptops at the kitchen counter and those unable to perform their job functions from afar.
In this study, SmartAsset uncovered the occupations and cities where the most and fewest workers are able to work from home. Specifically, using the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) Job Flexibilities and Work Schedules survey along with Census Bureau data, we estimated the percentage of each city’s workforce that can work from home. For details on our data sources and how we put the information together to create our final rankings, check out the Data and Methodology section below.
- Less than one in three American workers can work from home. In the BLS’ most recent Job Flexibilities and Work Schedules survey, 24.80% of respondents reported working from home at least occasionally. Just a slightly higher percentage of respondents (28.80%) reported that they may work remotely if needed.
- A large divide between white-collar and blue-collar workers. The ability to work remotely tends to be much higher in white-collar occupations than in blue-collar ones. More than half of the workers in the white-collar occupation of management, business & financial operations and more than 40% of workers in the white-collar occupation of professional & related jobs (i.e. engineers, lawyers, teachers, healthcare practitioners, etc.) are able to work from home. By contrast, less than 10% of workers in all blue-collar occupations are able to work from home.
- Work from home capability varies greatly by city. Arlington, Virginia and Sunrise Manor, Nevada rank as the cities where the most and fewest people can work from home, respectively. We estimated that almost 40% of the workforce in Arlington can work from home, while less than 17% of the workforce in Sunrise Manor may have that capability.
Who Can Work From Home?
The percentage of workers who work from home at least occasionally and who have the ability to work from home varies by occupation. The table below shows the percentages of workers who do work from home and workers who could work from home, according to the 10 defined BLS occupations. The percentage of workers who work from home includes individuals who do so regularly, for part of the workweek or only periodically.
Cities Where the Most People Can Work From Home
Using the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Job Flexibilities and Work Schedules survey along with Census Bureau data, we calculated the percentage of workers in each city who could work from home based on the city’s occupational breakdown. Below we discuss the five cities where the most people can work from home.
1. Arlington, VA
A large percentage of the workforce in Arlington, Virginia is involved in two white-collar occupations: management, business & financial operations and professional & related jobs. According to BLS data, 60% of management, business & financial operations workers and more than 42% of all professional & related workers can work from home, so many Arlington workers have that ability. We estimated that 39.23% of the total Arlington, Virginia workforce can work from home, the highest percentage for this metric across the 200 largest U.S. cities.
2. Frisco, TX
We estimate that about 36,100 of the almost 93,900 workers in Frisco, Texas can work from home. Though Frisco has the third-largest sales workforce of the 200 largest U.S. cities and only about one in four sales workers can work from home, many of its workers are also involved in management, business & financial operations, an occupation in which many workers are able to work from home. In 2018, 29.17% of workers in Frisco were part of that occupation, the second-highest percentage in our study.
3. Bellevue, WA
According to 2018 Census data, about two-thirds of employed persons in Bellevue, Washington worked in the following two occupations: management, business & financial operations and professional & related jobs. These occupations are most conducive to remote work, according to BLS data. Overall, we estimate that more than 38% of the Bellevue workforce can work remotely, if needed. Based on BLS data showing the percentage of workers who can work remotely in each occupation, we project that nearly 51,900 of the roughly 136,700 workers in Irvine can work from home.
4. Irvine, CA
Irvine, California has the largest percentage of white-collar employees in its workforce across all 200 cities in our study. According to Census data, 85.29% of workers are involved in the following four occupations: management, business & financial operations; professional & related jobs; sales; and office & administrative support. Subsequently, using responses from BLS’ Job Flexibilities and Work Schedules survey, we found that nearly 51,900 of the roughly 136,700 workers in the city can work from home.
5. Washington, D.C.
Many workers in the nation’s capital can work remotely. Of the total workforce – about 381,000 people strong – almost 142,500 individuals, or 37.40%, can work from home. Washington has the fifth- and eighth-highest percentages of workers in the occupations of management, business & financial operations and professional & related jobs, respectively. It also has the smallest production workforce (0.51%), an occupation where only 4.40% of employees can work from home.
Cities Where the Fewest People Can Work From Home
In some cities, working from home is possible for fewer workers. Here is a look at the cities where the smallest percentages of the workforce can easily work remotely.
1. Sunrise Manor, NV
Part of Clark County, Sunrise Manor, Nevada is located just east of Las Vegas and is one of the cities we identified as most likely to be affected by a COVID-19 recession. In 2018, Sunrise Manor had the largest service workforce of the 200 largest cities in the U.S. More than one in three workers were part of the service occupation, in which only about 6% of workers can work from home. Overall, we estimate that roughly 16% of Sunrise Manor’s total workforce can work remotely.
2. Paterson, NJ
In Paterson, New Jersey, 64.50% of workers are employed in blue-collar occupations: service; farming, fishing & forestry; construction & extraction; installation, maintenance & repair; production; and transportation & material moving. Most workers in those occupations are unable to work from home. As such, we estimate that less than 17% of Paterson’s total workforce can work remotely.
3. Salinas, CA
Part of Monterey County, Salinas, California has a workforce that is largely involved in jobs where working from home is not possible. In 2018, Salinas had the second-largest farming, fishing & forestry workforce as a percentage of its total workforce (12.90%) compared to all 200 cities in our study. Additionally, less than 19% of the workforce worked in management, business & financial operations or professional & related jobs.
4. San Bernardino, CA
More than 15% of the workforce in San Bernardino, California is involved in natural resource, construction and maintenance occupations, which include: farming, fishing & forestry; construction & extraction and installation, maintenance & repair. Additionally, more than 18% of the workers in San Bernardino are part of the transportation & material moving occupation. With a large majority of workers in those four occupations unable to work from home, we estimate that more than 80% of the total San Bernardino workforce is unable to work remotely.
5. Ontario, CA
Ontario, California is located about 35 miles east of Los Angeles and ranks as the fifth U.S. city where the fewest people can work from home. Since the city has substantial installation, maintenance & repair and transportation & material moving workforces, occupations in which few workers are able to work from home, less than one in five workers in Ontario may work remotely.
Data and Methodology
Data for this report comes from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) 2017-2018 Job Flexibilities and Work Schedules survey and the Census Bureau’s 2018 1-year American Community Survey.
To find the cities where the most and fewest people can work from home, we estimated a total number of workers who could work from home in each of the 200 largest U.S. cities, using the percentage of people in each occupation nationwide who reported they could work from home to the BLS and the occupational breakdown in each city from the Census Bureau. We divided the number of workers who could work from home by the total workforce to see the percentage of each city’s workforce with the capability to work from home. We then ranked cities from highest to lowest, according to that percentage.
BLS data is unavailable for the occupation of farming, fishing & forestry, so we estimated the percentage of workers in that occupation who can work from home by averaging that figure for the two most related occupations: construction & extraction and installation, maintenance & repair. All workers, both full-time and part-time, were included in both BLS and Census data.
The BLS survey is for the years 2017-2018 and may not account for some unprecedented changes during the COVID-19 pandemic. With the fast spread of the virus, there have been drastic changes in how people work. As such, work-from-home options may be more available for some workers than they previously were, resulting in the possibility of higher percentages in each occupation than reported in the BLS survey.
Tips for Making Smart Financial Decisions During a Recession
- Boost your emergency savings. One of the best ways to prepare for the unknown is to have an emergency fund. Though typical financial wisdom suggests you should have savings that can cover three months’ worth of expenses, six months’ may be a better figure to shoot for during a recession.
- Work on your budget. If you are able to work from home, it might not be a bad idea to spend some time looking at your budget as your expenses may have changed. Our budget calculator can help with this. Beyond letting you see how much you spend each month and what sixth months of expenses would look like, you can see how cutting back on discretionary expenses can increase your savings rate.
- Consider talking to a financial advisor about how to ride out a financial downturn. Finding the right financial advisor that fits your needs doesn’t have to be hard. In fact, you can do it all online and over the phone. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with financial advisors in your area in 5 minutes. If you’re ready to be matched with local advisors who will help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
Questions about our study? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo credit: ©iStock.com/ake1150sb