Companies in Szeged reacted quickly to the global coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and subsequent lockdown measures. Several IT companies had already introduced the home office to their workers before, allowing a smooth transition to home-working conditions. There were a number of employers where the introduction of new processes, such as digitalisation was brought forward to enable home working. The transition from office environments was generally achieved in either in stages – and was dependant on existing technological conditions.
However, switching completely to remote working 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 the physical workforce is significant. In these cases – to protect employees and to reduce the possibility of contamination, precautionary hygiene measures were introduced (masks and disinfectants were distributed and required), and to make the employees’ mobility safer, e-scooters were offered for purchase 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 who also required online access for schooling). There were cases (e.g. in software development) where the lack of personal contacts made the work processes longer.
Everyday personal commuting habits also dramatically changed for those employees who had to commute (regularly or occasionally) to their workplaces during the pandemic. Changes to personal commutes is clearly visible in the diagram above. The diagram shows 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.
With regard to the easing of lockdown measures, many companies plan to keep some of the new measures in place, such as the introduction of (at least partial) working from home, disinfection of the rental company bikes, or in the case of Szeged's 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. During the pandemic companies supported individual modes of mobility, however, 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.