Returning to the office is ‘wildly more expensive’ today than in 2019—here’s how much people are spending

The majority of workers have returned to the office five days a week, and they are paying a significant price for it. According to a recent report from Owl Labs, 66% of workers will be back to full-time in-office work in 2023, a substantial increase from 41% in 2022. The survey, which gathered responses from 2,000 full-time U.S. workers in June, also revealed that 26% are adopting a hybrid work model, while only 7% remain fully remote.

The report further emphasizes the financial burden of returning to the office. On average, employees spend $51 per day when attending the workplace, which includes $16 on lunch, $14 on commuting, $13 on breakfast and coffee, and $8 on parking. Additionally, workers with pets incur an average of $20 per day on pet care. Full-time office workers are spending an estimated $1,020 every month, while hybrid workers spend an average of $408 per month on in-office attendance.

The CEO of Owl Labs, Frank Weishaupt, highlights that working from the office has become significantly more expensive since the pre-pandemic era. This increase in cost is a contributing factor to the preference for hybrid work models. To encourage more in-person attendance, the report found that the most desired work perk among hybrid employees is having their commuting costs covered (38%), surpassing other benefits like free food, child-care subsidies, or relaxed dress codes.

The time and expense associated with commuting are major considerations for workers like Yannique Ivey, a 27-year-old tech consultant. Ivey only goes into the office a few times a month due to the hour-long rush hour commute and the $20 daily parking fee in downtown Atlanta. However, she takes advantage of the flexible work hours and the free catered lunch offered on her in-office days, maintaining an 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. schedule.

In light of these findings, Weishaupt suggests that companies should consider covering employees' commuting costs as a means to remove a significant barrier to returning to the office. By offering this financial support, employers can attract employees back and facilitate the transition to in-person work.  

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