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

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The majority of workers say they're back in the office five days a week, and they're paying up for it.

In 2023, 66% of workers say they're in-office five days a week, up dramatically from 41% who were in the office full-time in 2022, according a recent report from videoconferencing company Owl Labs.

The report, which surveyed 2,000 full-time U.S. workers in June, found that 26% of workers are hybrid this year, and just 7% are fully remote.

Those returning to offices are paying a lot to be there, the report finds. Workers spend on average $51 per day when they go to the office, including a daily average of:

  • $16 on lunch
  • $14 on commuting
  • $13 on breakfast and coffee
  • $8 on parking

Workers with pets also spend an average of $20 per day on pet care.

Full-time office workers are spending roughly $1,020 every month to report to the workplace, while hybrid workers spend an average of $408 per month on attendance.

"There's no question" working from the office is 'wildly more expensive" today than it was pre-pandemic, says Frank Weishaupt, CEO of Owl Labs.

So it's not surprising to him that, when asked what work perks would get hybrid employees to return in-person more often, the No. 1 response was if their commuting costs were covered (38%), over other things like free food, child-care subsidies or a relaxed dress code.

The time and cost of commuting is one factor why Yannique Ivey, 27, only goes into the office for her tech consulting job a few times a month. During rush hour, she can expect to be on the road for an hour-plus, and then she's on her own to cover the $20 daily parking fee at her downtown Atlanta office. As a result, Ivey is vocal about keeping an 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. schedule during her in-office days and takes advantage of the free catered lunch while she's there.

Companies should look into taking away that barrier to RTO, Weishaupt says. "If their desire is to get employees back into the office, there are triggers. 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."

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Check out: 'Coffee badging' is employees' latest workaround for return-to-office mandates—here's what it means

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