Survey: Remote work less available for LGBTQ+, minorities

Mar 17, 2023, 10:48 AM | Updated: Mar 20, 2023, 9:12 am

Remote work...

According to a new survey, you will have a harder time getting the opportunity to do remote work if you are part of the LGBT+ or underrepresented minority communities in Seattle. (Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

Remote work in Seattle is less available for employees from the LGBTQ+ community and underrepresented minorities.

These are among the many findings from a new survey by Commute Seattle, a non-profit that helps identifies ways that people can make their commutes and life in the city better. The survey polled more than 64,000 commuters.

“What we’ve noticed from the data, is that remote work actually exacerbates existing inequities in general,” said Lamis Ashour, a research assistant and Ph.D. candidate in the Urban Design and Planning Department at the University of Washington.

Big ideas for the city from the head of the Downtown Seattle Association

“There’s a positive correlation between availability and adoption of remote working income levels,” Ashour said. “With education, the higher degree that you have, your chances of working remotely are higher.”

Ashour said the poll revealed a pattern that a higher percentage of people from the LGBTQ+ community reported that remote work is unavailable to them for two main reasons: It’s either that their worksite does not allow them to work remotely or the nature of their job cannot be done remotely.

“It does have a lot of equity implications that might be alarming.”

The survey did not go deep enough to determine why LGBTQ+ and minorities had a harder time getting offered remote work, but Ashour is confident it is true.

“There are definitely correlations that lead into another, but we would have to go deeper to draw a causal effect,” she said. “So, for example, they could also be members with lower income. And that translates into the nature of their work or the worksite that they work with.”

Big ideas for the city from the head of the Downtown Seattle Association

In other poll findings, time, flexibility, and cost are the three most critical factors for general commute mode choice.

“What we saw from the survey is that the top factors of what determines how people get around, whether for work or for other trips that they do, is getting from A to B as quickly as they can, the convenience of that way of getting to work plus the cost of it,” Kirk Hovenkotter, head of Commute Seattle, said. “And if we can make biking and walking as cost-effective and easy for people to get into work, that’s going to make it an easy option for them to take that mode, not just for that home-to-work trip, but for other trips that they take on a regular basis to healthcare to the grocery store or school pick up and drop offs.”

The survey also led to indirect conclusions on the make-up of a new downtown.

“I think the survey really showed that people who live in apartments and condos are more likely to walk and bike and take transit and are less likely to remote work or drive alone,” Hovenkotter said. “And people who live in single detached homes are more likely to drive alone to work or remote work. And it shows the demand that if we can build more housing in walkable neighborhoods, and transit-rich neighborhoods, not only makes our city more affordable but also provides ways that make it easier for people to walk and bike and take transit to work.”

The survey also concluded:

Public transit was the most commonly used commute mode before the pandemic, as over 40% of respondents indicated that they used it as the primary commute mode before March 2020. That said, public transit and rideshare took the largest hit since the pandemic outbreak, dropping by over 60%. Only 3% of respondents indicated they engaged in remote work before the pandemic. This percentage has increased by over 15 times than pre-pandemic rates.

About 60% of the city center’s 320,000 workers were commuting to their jobs on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and a majority on Thursdays.

The poll also found a majority of people in the suburbs commute in single-occupancy cars.

“We know that, on average, car ownership in Washington state costs the average person over $10,000. A year of transit passes only about $1,200 a year,” Hovenkotter said. “And that’s even less if your employer subsidizes it for you. Providing subsidized transit passes and easy ways to walk and bike for people who are coming into the city from all over the region is a key way to make Seattle a more affordable place to get around.”

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Safety in the city was also found to be an important consideration for workers. 16% of employees cited it as a general factor for their mode choice, and 27% of employees who drive alone indicated it as a reason for their mode choice.

More respondents indicated concerns about crimes or safety-related issues that were more important than concerns about COVID-19 or lack of hygiene in their travel decision-making.

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Survey: Remote work less available for LGBTQ+, minorities