Before March 2020 remote work in California government was a rare luxury reserved for a small segment of the workforce.
Now, the ability to telecommute is a privilege available to about half of state employees. The share of workers ineligible for remote work has dropped close to 10 percentage points since the state first started tracking telework in October 2021. More than a third of state workers are still remote-centered, according to the latest available data from July of this year.
Departments and agencies submit telework data to the Department of General Services, which maintains a publicly available online dashboard.
The Sacramento Bee analyzed the 21 months of available work-from-home data. Here are some key takeaways, plus two searchable databases where workers can see how their departments compare to others.
More state workers teleworked in July 2023 than in October 2021
Not every agency reports data every month, so it’s difficult to talk comprehensively about trends in teleworking. To make comparisons, The Bee isolated 102 departments that reported data in both October 2021 and July 2023. Those entities represent almost 80% of state worker ranks.
The number of employees eligible for telework increased by about 17% over that time, and the number of employees actually teleworking increased by about 22%. The large majority of the growth in teleworking took place from late 2021 through late 2022. Growth in teleworking has been more modest throughout 2023.
Looking at the state’s 25 largest departments, 21 reported telework data in both October 2021 and July 2023. Of those large departments, 15 reported increases in the number of employees teleworking.
In the following four large departments, at least 90% of employees engaged in telework in July 2023:
▪ California Department of Tax and Fee Administration
▪ State Water Resources Control Board
▪ Department of Social Services
▪ California Air Resources Board
The fastest increase in teleworkers at large departments came at the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, commonly known as Cal Fire. The department had only 155 teleworkers in October 2021. In July of this year, that number had increased to 771.
In contrast, the California Highway Patrol saw the fastest decrease in teleworkers among large departments. The department had 486 telecommuters in October 2021 compared to 412 this past July.
Remote-eligible employees are working fewer days from home
Although a greater number of state workers are taking advantage of telework, those telecommuters are each spending fewer days working from home, The Bee’s analysis showed.
Out of the 102 departments that The Bee isolated, 79 saw a decline in the percentage of days that eligible employees worked remotely.
Thirty-seven departments saw eligible employees telework at least 80% of their workdays in July. An 80% telework rate roughly translates to working at least four days a week from home.
That number is down from October 2021, when 52 of those departments saw eligible employees remote work at least 80% of work days.
Those statewide trends hold up among the state’s largest 25 departments, too. Nineteen of the 21 departments that reported data in both October 2021 and July 2023 saw a decline in the percentage of days eligible employees teleworked.
Three of those large departments saw eligible workers telecommute at least 80% of work days in July of this year — an indication that those employees worked at least four days a week from home. In October 2021, there were five departments whose employees worked at least 80% of work days from home.
The Bee’s numbers are in line with online tallies compiled by the Department of General Services.
DGS data shows that the percentage of eligible employees working five days a week at home peaked at 54% in March of last year.
By July 2023, only 37% of eligible employees were teleworking five days per week, according to DGS.
Meanwhile, the percentage of workers telecommuting three days a week rose from 10% last March to 21% in July of this year.
Eligible workers spent an average of 3.73 days working from home in March last year. By this July, that number fell to 3.41, although the decline occurred largely in 2022. Average days worked at home in 2023 have been relatively flat.