Working at the Office Costs Twice as Much as Working Remote: Survey

·4 min read
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Employees who returned to the office are probably spending far more compared to working from home. How much more? According to recently released data, working at the office can cost twice as much — adding up to an extra $5,000 a year — even if employees are only commuting a couple days a week.

A new survey from Owl Labs, a video conferencing solutions company, found that employees who go into the office at least part-time spent an average of $863 per month in work-related expenses. Employees working full-time remote jobs averaged less half that amount, spending $423 per month on internet, phone, meals, utilities and other expenses.

That’s a difference of $440 per month, or $5,280 over the course of a year.

The survey, conducted in July, involved more than 2,300 full-time employees. Roughly one-third of them said they had a hybrid schedule, or a combination of remote and in-office work.

“Throughout the past two years, many employers and workers have adopted and employed a hybrid work model,” Frank Weishaupt, CEO of Owl Labs, said in a news release. “However, hybrid work has continued to evolve and new issues and concerns will surface as the world changes.”

The top daily expenses for hybrid workers were commuting ($15.11), lunch ($14.25), dinner ($10.98) and breakfast and coffee ($8.46). Pet care, such as dog walking, costs some respondents an average of $16.39 per day.

Obviously, how much a worker spends each day can vary widely. Employees who bring in their food and beverages from home will spend far less compared to buying takeout every day. And workers who go into the office more days per week or who have longer commutes are likely to have higher expenses than the estimates provided by the study.

There’s no shortage of data showing that commuters spend significantly more than remote workers. In another recent survey from the professional services network Deloitte, 75% of millennials and Gen Z employees said they preferred hybrid or remote work to a full-time commute, and the most common benefit cited for working from home is that it helps them save money.

Employees may want to factor in these findings as they navigate the workplace and negotiate compensation. Given the state of high inflation, workers have extra reason to ask for a big raise this year. Applicants who are searching for jobs that entail in-office time, as well as employees who are commuting to the office again after working from home, may also have good justification for asking for more money.

Working from home and work-life balance

Among the other top reasons why employees prefer a hybrid or full-time remote work schedule, according to the Deloitte survey, are factors such as it “frees up time to do other things I care about” and “allows me to see family more often.”

Indeed, most respondents (58%) to the Owl Labs survey said that remote work is optimal for work-life balance. Many respondents said that working remotely was also simply good for productivity. Nearly half (49%) said their ability to focus is better when working remotely, while 51% said they were more creative and 49% said they can meet deadlines better.

Only 14% said they prefer coworking spaces — collaborative office locations that often serve as a go-between home and main company offices — compared to the 26% who would rather be in the office.

There are some noteworthy upsides to working in a physical office with other employees. For generating ideas and brainstorming, 39% of respondents feel more productive when they’re at the office, especially baby boomers. More than half (55%) of baby boomers surveyed said they prefer in-office brainstorming, while only 40% of Gen Z and 39% of millennials said the same.

“When it comes to work environments, there’s no one-size-fits-all option that satisfies all employees, which is why hybrid work is the future, and this may look very different from company to company,” Owl Labs’ Weishaupt said.

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