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Remote Work Gap Between San Antonio and Nation Continues to Grow

Companies are still trying to get their workers back into offices across the nation, while the percentage of San Antonians working from home continues to decline. By comparison, more than twice the share of workers are still remote in Austin.

The gap between the percentage of San Antonians working from home and those in other major cities is getting wider as remote work across the state and nation continues to decline from pandemic-era highs.

In San Antonio and across the U.S., more people are still working remotely than before the COVID-19 pandemic upended workplaces beginning in 2020. But while the rates are still relatively high, out-of-office work is trending downward, according to U.S. Census Bureau survey data for 2021 and 2022.

That's true for San Antonio, which already has a below-average rate of remote workers to match its dominant industries.

"In San Antonio, tourism, hospitality, health care, education, the military, defense contracting and manufacturing are some of the leading industries," said Mike Ramsey, executive director of workforce development for the city. "Those areas are not as likely to offer remote work in those positions."

After falling for two years, the percentage of San Antonio's workforce that did their jobs from home was 13.6 percent in 2022, down from 15.1 percent in 2021, according to Census data. That means 97,710 locals weren't going to an office.

That put the city 143rd out of 344 metro areas by percentage of their remote workforce, according to analysts with financial adviser SmartAsset.

Across the U.S., 15.2 percent of workers were remote in 2022, down from 18 percent in 2021. Texas' statewide rate was 14.5 percent, down about 2 percent.

Texas Metros

At 12.5 percent, the percentage of remote workers in Houston was below the San Antonio and statewide averages. That made its remote workforce about 140,000 strong. Dallas clocked in with 16.4 percent of its jobs, or about 110,000 workers, being done from outside the workplace.

Tech hubs across the country, including Austin, host a larger percentage of remote workers. In that city, 30.7 percent workers — 181,680 people — were fully remote.

"Computer information, finance sectors, accounting, marketing, project management — these are areas that are more likely to have plentiful opportunities to have remote work options," Ramsey said. "From that perspective, those jobs that are higher, volumewise, in San Antonio don't offer it as much."

But the state's highest rate of remote workers was found in Frisco, outside Dallas. A whopping 39.7 percent of its workforce, or about 40,000 people, were working from home in 2021. That was the nation's second-highest rate, behind Cary, N.C.

"We have five Fortune 500 corporate innovation and R&D centers, twice the national average of tech talent, and robust wireless infrastructure to support this innovation ecosystem," said Gloria Salinas, the vice president of the Frisco Economic Development Corp. "During the age of remote work, people can work anywhere they want and they are choosing Frisco."

The Census Bureau collects the data through a question about average commute times to get the office. In San Antonio, the average travel time is about 25 minutes. That's up about two minutes from the year before.

But that means the way the question is posed could make it difficult for those in the large segment of hybrid workers to answer fully. Hybrid employees often still travel to the office, but not five days a week.

Hybrid in S.A.

Gallup's current workforce poll shows about 52 percent of employees in the U.S. fall under the "hybrid" category in jobs that could feasibly be done remotely. The polling surveys at least 100,000 people.

That's what life has been like for Frost Bank's headquarter office employees since workers began coming back on site after pandemic restrictions. Those trends haven't changed much in the past year among the 1,800 local employees whose jobs can be worked off site, said spokesperson Bill Day.

About a third of those local workers are permanently remote; a third work hybrid; and a third are on-site at the Frost Tower and Westover Hills data center full time.

"I'm one of the workers where it depends on my schedule," Day said. "I did an interview with the media this morning from my office and now I'm doing one from my house."

Others at Frost work set a schedule of days they're expected in the office and days they can work from their home.

USAA, the San Antonio finance giant and insurer, started requiring its hybrid workers to be in the office four days a week last January.

Valero Energy Corp., which owns a large campus on the Northwest Side, asked its employees to come back to work in June of 2020 — way ahead of most other employers.

Since the pandemic, Whataburger's 534 corporate employees typically work four days in the office.

Gallup's polling shows that 6 out of 10 people with jobs that can be done remotely would prefer a hybrid schedule.

(c)2024 the San Antonio Express-News. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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