The 2020 COVID-19 pandemic has radically changed the nature of work in the United States. Essential workers and many who could work from home retained employment, while tens of millions whose work was in person or on-site were thrown into unemployment. Travel, of course, was radically curtailed because of stay-at-home orders, dropping as much as 90 percent at times. The long-term effects of these sudden shifts are uncertain.
Even before the pandemic, major generational, demographic, economic, and cultural shifts in the U.S. were already altering the nature of work and travel. As a result of these long-term shifts, the number of workers who usually worked from home and those who could sometimes work from home had already been rising, enabled by new technology, the demands of digital workers, and the working retirement of many baby boomers. In addition, new digital platforms enabled workers to directly contract with customers and employers for short-term contract work (gigs).