The COVID-19 pandemic induced dramatic changes in all our lives. To avoid personal contacts, most companies introduced working from home. However, it was not possible everywhere. The SASMOB project teamed up with Magyar CIVINET to organise a virtual roundtable discussion about the impacts of the pandemic on workplace mobility among large employers in Szeged (Hungary), and also monitored the induced measures via an online survey.
Companies in Szeged reacted fast to the pandemic situation and subsequent lockdown. Several IT companies have already introduced home office to their workers before, hence their transition was smoother: the necessary infrastructure was given. There were a few employers where the introduction of new processes, such as digitalisation was brought forward because of the situation. The transition happened either in one or more steps – depending mostly on the technological conditions. Switching completely to remote work was not possible in every case: there are public institutions where it is legally limited, and there are companies e.g. in manufacturing where the share of physical workforce is significant. In these cases – to protect the employees and to reduce the possibility of contamination –precautionary hygiene measures were introduced (masks and disinfectants were distributed/ensured), and to make the employees’ mobility safer, e-scooters were offered purchased within the project), car usage was promoted temporarily, and modified working hours were introduced.
The process of creating new work schedules was most frequently hindered by technological problems, such as limited bandwidth, or the introduction of digital education (hence having children around in many households to be taken care of). There were cases (e.g. in software development) where the lack of personal contacts made the work processes longer.
The everyday commuting habits have dramatically changed also by those employees, who had to commute (regularly or occasionally) to their workplaces during the pandemic period as well. It is clearly visible on the diagram, that there has been a significant or moderate increase especially in the use of private means of transport (single-occupancy car use and cycling) while the use of carpooling and public transport decreased.
Figure: The changes in mobility habits of employees who were going to work during the pandemic situation as well
Speaking about the awaited post-pandemic situation, companies plan to keep some of the new measures in place, such as the introduction of (at least partial) working from home, the disinfection of the rentable company bikes, or in the case of the university shifting certain courses online. Even though working from home is not going to be dominant, one or more days per week are seen as realistic after the crisis. While during the pandemic companies are supporting the individual modes of mobility, it will be important to return to the use of public transport afterwards, as without its significant share, the city cannot operate efficiently and sustainably.
For more information, visit the project website.