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A person prepares for work with laptop and coffee (via Clay Banks/Unsplash)

There has been no shortage of thinkpieces about how the COVID-19 pandemic has changed workplaces, from the waning demand for office space to widespread staffing deficits as workers reevaluated their goals and working conditions.

One trend that may be here to stay is the growing acceptance of remote work, with many people who can telework saying they would do it all or most of the time, if given the option.

While available, detailed data on remote work is limited, about a third of workdays are now being done from home, a decline from the height of office shutdowns in 2020 but well above pre-pandemic levels, The Washington Post reported in August.

According to the Post, remote work has been most prevalent in white-collar sectors, like finance and technology. Northern Virginia, including Fairfax County, is among the places with the highest remote-work rates.

Though many offices have reopened, commuting remains down in the D.C. region. In Virginia, 35.9% of businesses increased telework during the pandemic, and 64.7% of them intend to stick with it after the pandemic, the Northern Virginia Regional Commission says based on federal labor statistics.

Has the pandemic changed where or how you work? If you have the option to work remotely, are you taking advantage of it, or do you prefer going to a physical workplace?

Photo via Clay Banks/Unsplash

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D.C. region price increases over the last decade for basic needs (via Fairfax County)

Sufficient health care, college degrees, and homeownership are becoming increasingly unattainable for Fairfax County residents with low to moderate incomes, a new report finds.

Late last month, Fairfax County released its “Needs Assessment” study, which comes out every three years with data on the current economic conditions in the county and the impact those conditions have on residents.

The report paints a pretty harrowing picture in light of the pandemic and recent inflation, particularly for lower-income residents. Low to moderate incomes are generally defined as those earning 60% or below the area median income. In 2021, that number was $77,400 for a family of four.

Just in the last year, those living on a limited income are having more trouble affording basic needs, as rising cost-of-living expenses mean lower-income households are spending more than they did in the past.

“Fairfax County residents with moderate to low income may have little to no money remaining after covering essential expenses, such as food and housing,” the report says. “This limits a household’s ability to build savings and restricts economic competitiveness.”

According to the report, household incomes have not kept pace with rising costs of essential expenses over the past decade.

In Fairfax County, the median household income has gone up about 21% since 2012. However, food, housing, and transportation all have risen more in that timeframe. Most notably, health care costs have risen by a whopping 41% in the last decade.

“Longer-term, health care costs have increased the most over 10 years, which may present challenges for residents who do not have health insurance coverage,” the report says.

As a result, the lowest-income households in the county are spending much more on health care, percentage-wise, than other income brackets.

The lowest 20% of households by income are spending nearly 29% of their expenses on health care, while those in the middle are spending between 15% to 17%.

Consumer prices have also gone up more in this past year than at any other point in the previous four decades. Tuition and child care now cost nearly 4% more than last year, housing more than 5%, health care 7%, and food 8%, according to the report. Read More

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