The study highlights the tangible additional expenses associated with returning to the office, especially at a time when the economy remains uncertain.
The post-pandemic era has brought with it a profound shift in work dynamics, with many employees now finding themselves in a hybrid work model. This flexible approach, encompassing a blend of in-person and remote work, offers newfound convenience and flexibility for employees. However, a recent study by video conferencing firm Owl Labs reveals a surprising downside: returning to the office can cost you an average of $51 per day, compared to the $15 per day that hybrid workers spend while working remotely. These findings illuminate the financial burden that comes with resuming in-person work and pose questions about the future of office work in a post-pandemic world.
The study, conducted in June, surveyed over 2,000 full-time workers, with 27% of respondents identifying as hybrid workers. These individuals find themselves navigating the challenges of working in the office occasionally, either by choice or due to company mandates. While the allure of in-person work might include expectations of increased productivity, collaboration, and boosted employee morale, the financial implications are substantial. For those returning to the office, the daily expenses quickly add up. On average, employees spend $8 on parking, $13 on breakfast and coffee, $16 on lunch and $14 on commuting. If they have pets, the additional cost can soar to $20 per day. This financial toll appears to be a significant motivator for many employees, with 29% of hybrid and remote workers expressing a desire for a pay increase if they have to return to the office full-time.
Kayt Racz, senior manager of global content at Owl Labs, emphasized in an email to Business Insider that the financial cost of going into the office can be burdensome for many workers. Moreover, Racz anticipates that these costs will continue to rise over time, driven by factors such as inflation and an increasing cost of living. Interestingly, the study reflects the ongoing debate surrounding the future of office work, as companies like Amazon, Google, and Meta are requiring employees to return to the office.
While some business leaders remain convinced that in-person work fosters productivity and collaboration, many employees have developed a preference for remote work. One of the primary reasons employees prefer remote work is the avoidance of costly, time-consuming, and mentally draining daily commutes. For some workers, the allure of remote work is so strong that they would even consider quitting their high-paying jobs or taking substantial pay cuts of up to $35,000 a year to remain out of the office.
It's not just the commute that's expensive; after years of working from home, some individuals report that the costs of work attire and cosmetics are also accumulating. To incentivize employees to return to the office, the study suggests measures like company reimbursements for commuting costs, providing free or subsidized food and beverages and offering on-site daycare services. The financial impact of returning to the office becomes even more pronounced when considering the expenses associated with pet care. Employees with pets are likely to spend around $71 per day, making the idea of going back to the office even more financially challenging. This data underscores the critical importance of supporting employees to offset these in-office costs.
According to the survey, 94% of workers would be willing to return to the office if their employers offered financial support to bridge the gap. Most of these employees expect their employers to cover commuting costs and provide subsidized meals, snacks, and coffee to offset the financial burden of in-person work. As companies continue to announce return-to-office mandates, the level of worker compliance varies. A growing number of U.S. executives believe that remote work and hybrid options will persist and grow in the coming years. It remains to be seen how companies will adapt to these changing dynamics while addressing the financial concerns of their employees.