'Wildly more expensive': Workers with in-office jobs spend about $31 per day that they wouldn't working from home — here's what employers need to start doing now

'Wildly more expensive': Workers with in-office jobs spend about $31 per day that they wouldn't working from home — here's what employers need to start doing now
'Wildly more expensive': Workers with in-office jobs spend about $31 per day that they wouldn't working from home — here's what employers need to start doing now

Companies are clamoring for employees to don their button-downs and return to the workplace after isolation measures from the COVID-19 pandemic proved many folks can do their jobs just as well in sweatpants behind their computer screen.

About 66% of full-time workers now say they’re in the office five days a week, a drastic jump from 41% last year, according to a recent report from video-conferencing company Owl Labs.

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The report shows just over a quarter of workers are hybrid, while 7% say they’re fully remote.

But there’s a significant cost to returning to the office — with hybrid workers saying they spend $51 each day on average when they go into work, $31 more than if they were doing their job from home.

“There’s no question” working from the office is "wildly more expensive” today than it was before the pandemic, Owl Labs CEO Frank Weishaupt told CNBC.

The latest survey from social-media management company Buffer on the global state of remote work shows that 98% of respondents would like to work remotely (partially or fully) for the rest of their careers with 11% of respondents saying remote work is "better for me financially".

Here’s why employees are forking over more funds when they go into work — and what experts say employers need to change if they expect their workers to come into the office on a regular basis.

Why it's more expensive to work in the office

It’s clear that there’s an additional price tag to working from the office that you wouldn’t have to pay up for from home. And thanks to persistent inflation, these costs are only increasing.

For example, food-away-from-home costs ballooned by 6% in September compared to the same month last year, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data.

And gas prices surged nearly 11% from July to August this year, in part due to the global oil supply crunch. Although the latest consumer price data for September shows these prices have cooled, they remain 3% higher compared to the same month last year.

According to CNBC, in-person workers are coughing up approximately $1,020, while hybrid employees are spending $408 per month on office attendance.

Herex are the average costs that hybrid workers face each day:

  • $16 on lunch

  • $14 on commuting

  • $13 on breakfast and coffee

  • $8 on parking

Plus, workers with pets spend an additional $20 each day on average on pet care.

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What can employers do?

It’s not that Americans don’t want to show up to the office at all — in fact, the majority of hybrid workers say they feel equally or more productive in a hybrid environment. But many don’t want to be forced to go in full-time.

Some employees may even look elsewhere for work — with a third being driven to consider a job change by having more flexibility around where they do their jobs and the hours they work.

Around 40% say company policies like being required in the office at certain days and times or being mandated to be in the office full-time would cause them to reject a job offer.

The U.S. labor market has remained resilient, with 150,000 jobs added in October. Even though quit rates have slowed since last year, some sectors, such as education and health services, are still struggling with a worker shortage.

So if employers want to retain their workers, they will need to adapt their hiring practices and employee policies.

If they were no longer allowed to work remotely or hybrid, 3-in-10 employees surveyed said they would expect a pay bump to offset the costs. But there are other options for employers to draw workers back to the office as well.

“If [the employer’s] desire is to get employees back into the office, there are triggers,” Weishaupt told CNBC. “Are you going to help offset the cost of my commuting? If you’re trying to attract somebody back into the office, you might consider that as a supplement that you can handle.”

Aside from offsetting commuting costs, some hybrid workers would like to see subsidies or onsite options for child care or elder care.

And, of course, there are the free (or subsidized) food and drinks.

There are other things employers can provide, such as greater privacy at the office, like having dedicated offices instead of open concept spaces or more meeting rooms. And a quarter of those surveyed said they would be enticed to go in if they could wear whatever they wanted.

For now, however, many employers are not actively listening to workers' wishes: A separate survey by Eagle Hill Consulting found nearly 70% of employees have not even been asked about their remote work preferences.

That survey also showed that over half of respondents preferred remote work for "deep thinking" and work tasks such as research but more than 80% said they prefer going into the office for team building tasks and onboarding new employees.

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This article provides information only and should not be construed as advice. It is provided without warranty of any kind.

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