Remote work has declined in Wisconsin after spiking during the COVID-19 pandemic, but office vacancies remain elevated in the state’s largest city and its suburbs.
From 2021 to 2022, the state saw an 11 percent decrease in the number of people working remotely, from 437,295 to 387,700, according to a recent study from LLC.org.
Both Madison and Milwaukee have seen about a 20 percent decline in the number of people working from home, according to the report. Madison’s remote workforce declined by 22 percent from 40,253 to 31,385 people. Milwaukee’s has declined by 19 percent from 40,265 to 32,627.
Despite the decrease, remote work nationally remains higher than it was before the pandemic. In September 2023, the average U.S. worker reported spending 3.8 days each month doing their job remotely, down from 5.8 days in 2020 but up from 2.4 days in 2019, according to Gallup.
As of 2023, Forbes reported that 12.7 percent of full-time employees worked from home, while 28.2 percent worked a hybrid model.
Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce President Zach Brandon said the decline in remote workers noted in the LLC.org report isn’t surprising, but he doesn’t expect remote work to return to pre-pandemic levels anytime soon.
While remote work has decreased in Wisconsin, it hasn’t necessarily led to offices brimming with activity in the greater Milwaukee area.
From the final three months of 2021 to the same period in 2022, office vacancies in southeast Wisconsin increased slightly from 15.3 percent to 15.8 percent, according to reports from the Commercial Association of Realtors Wisconsin. By the end of 2023, office vacancies in southeast Wisconsin increased to 17.7 percent.