CSUS - Work from home

More Elk Grove residents began working from home since the COVID-19 pandemic began. 

Editor’s note: This story is a continued collaboration between the Citizen and California State University, Sacramento’s journalism program. This fall, students contributed stories on subjects that impact Elk Grove community members. They are being taught by Philip Reese, a Sacramento Bee reporter and an assistant professor of journalism.

 

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, thousands of Elk Grove residents eliminated their commute and started working from home.

In 2021, about 27% of Elk Grove workers usually worked from home, about five times the rate that worked from home in 2019. Those percentages equate to 20,830 Elk Grove residents working from home in 2021, compared to 5,400 residents working from home in 2019, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

David Lang, a professor of economics at California State University, Sacramento, said, “the pandemic created a situation where at first people had to work from home to keep their jobs.”

Many workers became accustomed to working from home. Employers learned that some jobs didn’t need an office space and could save the company money by not having to pay for office spaces.

“In cities like Elk Grove that traditionally have many residents that commute to work in places like Sacramento, there will likely be an even higher percentage of residents that work from home than the U.S. average,” Lang said.

Lang also added that Elk Grove has relatively affordable housing prices compared to cities in the Bay Area. Many residents from the Bay Area relocated to Elk Grove once their job moved into a virtual format.

 The Bay Area experienced a 45% decrease in new residents from March 2020 to September 2021, according to a University of California study. The number of people moving out of the Bay Area increased about 21%.

Several employers in or around Elk Grove now allow their workers to work from their residence at least part of the week.

Christopher Jordan, director of strategic planning and innovation for the city of Elk Grove said the city has increased work-from-home opportunities for its employees.

“The city has a hybrid program with up to two days a week for jobs that qualify to work from home,” Jordan said.

One reason so many people choose to work from home could be that Elk Grove lacks sufficient office spaces. Jordan said the city has plans for more office space. Project Elevate is designed to  incorporate retail, dining, entertainment, office and residential uses into one area making it an ideal place for office companies to work from.

One of the major employers of the Sacramento region is SMUD, which employs Elk Grove residents. Sarah Sciandri, a supervisor of corporate communications for SMUD, said the public utility was lucky to already have a remote work program before the pandemic.

“Some of the most immediate positive impacts we hear from our employees who have an opportunity to work from home has been the appreciation for not having to commute, which I would anticipate means fewer cars on the road in Elk Grove,” Sciandri said.

SMUD has a combination of full-time, hybrid and remote jobs and plans to evolve as their company but also the workforce does.

Sciandri said that SMUD had to make sure their employees had the right equipment, proper technology and were in an ergonomically safe environment during the pandemic.

The shift to work from home also highlighted the importance of broadband infrastructure in places like Elk Grove.

Peter Christiansen, a staff writer at HighSpeedInternet.com said, “I think it highlighted the importance of metrics like upload speed and latency, which made connections like DSL and satellite even less viable long-term solutions for a lot of people.”

The company provides data about the top internet providers in Elk Grove with Xfinity as top residential provider, Comcast Business for business and T-Mobile for top mobile provider.

Some Elk Grove residents said they were happy with their new work-from-home arrangements while others were not too pleased.

Marika Campo, a full-time small business owner from Elk Grove, experienced economic hardship due to the pandemic. She worked for a women’s clothing store in Elk Grove and she was temporarily laid off during the lockdown.

“At the beginning of the pandemic, I had no idea if I would be returning to work in a few weeks or a few years,” Campo said.

She started making masks to sell online, and she saw there was a demand for masks nationwide. “I posted my masks online, just thinking a few friends would buy a mask or two,” Campo said. “I had no idea that making masks in my bedroom would start an entire business.”

She now works out of her Elk Grove home full-time as a small business owner. Campo still sells masks in addition to handmade pillows, sculptures, stuffed animals and more on Etsy.

Joshua Black, a former Elk Grove resident, previously worked as a data analyst for a small trucking company.

“I didn’t have the best home environment,” he said. “It was either work from home and be miserable or be out in the streets getting into stuff that I had no business getting into.”

Before the pandemic, he looked forward to going to work every day since it was an escape for him.

“It was tough to be at home all the time not knowing when I would be able to leave,” Black said.

He stayed with the trucking company until May 2021 since he relocated to Washington where he now has a hybrid work schedule in a better living situation.