More than two and a half years after the onset of the pandemic, many companies are doing their best to incentivize workers who were able to do their jobs remotely to pile back into offices and other on-site facilities. But among the 70 million or so U.S. workers who can do their jobs remotely, which amounts to roughly 56% of full-time employees across the country according to Gallup, workers are even more resistant to coming back on-site now than they were a year ago.
Earlier this year, 59% of Americans with the ability to work remotely were doing so most or all of the time, up considerably from the 23% who did so before the pandemic, per data from Pew Research. And while some companies have embraced remote work, others are still trying to find ways to get employees back at their desks.
But there’s a good reason so many people are still evidently resistant of returning to the office: Coming into work every day isn’t cheap.
In fact, in-person work costs workers approximately $45 per day when accounting for commuting and meals, according to survey data released last week by Owl Labs, a company that makes hybrid workspace tools. Owl Labs’ data, sourced from a survey of 2,300 full-time U.S. workers, also finds that the extra daily costs of in-person work add up to $863 per month, twice as much as the $432 per month spent working remotely.
Rising prices in recent months have also inflated costs, making it even more expensive for workers to make the trek back into offices or physical workspaces. The survey data shows that the major daily expenses include nearly $15 in commuting costs per day, plus another $30 for meals. While there may be ways for some workers to blunt those costs (packing a lunch, etc.), there is a clear financial incentive for remote workers to continue doing their jobs from their homes or other places of their choosing. Simply put: The costs of in-person work really add up.
Those costs are likely one of the driving forces behind many workers’ evident willingness to quit their jobs if forced back into the office every day. Almost one-third of workers said they’d leave their employer if they’re made to return to in-office work every day, per a 2021 study from McKinsey.
For workers trying to make the case to their employers that they should remain remote, there are some salient points to be argued: Remote jobs give employers access to a larger talent pool, for one, and the ability to potentially cut costs by not having to provide a physical workspace for employees. In that sense, remote work can reduce costs for both employers and employees.
Whether employees enjoy working remotely or in-person, it’s hard to ignore the financial realities of the increasing price of commuting. Given that the median salary in the United States during the second quarter of 2022 was a little more than $54,000 per year, the ongoing tug-of-war between employers and remote workers may have a lot less to do with the ability to stay in one’s pajamas all day and a lot more to do with the hefty costs of returning to the office.