Returning to the office can be costly. Here are 3 ways to beat rising costs

According to a new survey by Cisco, 75% of respondents said they save money on food and entertainment through hybrid work schedules.
D3sign | Moment | Getty Images

Hybrid work arrangements are popular these days for many reasons — and one of them is that they can save workers thousands each year.

A new survey by the tech conglomerate Cisco — which was conducted this year among more than 6,000 respondents from Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam and Philippines — showed that 86% of workers saved money by working partly from home in the past year.

Average savings reached more than $7,500 a year, with 85% of respondents saying they believe they can maintain these savings over the long term through hybrid work schedules. 

This may be why "only 5% said that they wanted to go back fully to the office," said said Bee Kheng Tay, the president of Cisco for Southeast Asia.

Top categories of savings 

According to Cisco, the top three areas where hybrid workers saved money are commuting, food and social events.

Some 88% of respondents said hybrid work saved them money on fuel and other commuting costs, while 75% said they spent less on food and entertainment. Additionally, 60% said they saved on after-work lifestyle and social activities.

"Pre-pandemic … you would go out with friends [after work], you would go watch a movie … go grab a drink. With the pandemic, we all got very cautious," said Anupam Trehan, Cisco's people and communities leader for the Asian region. "That resulted in savings."

Many people got pets during the pandemic to keep them company. As more return to work, pet care is a challenge, said Jeanniey Walden from DailyPay.
Kilito Chan | Moment | Getty Images

Jeanniey Walden, the chief innovation officer at the American financial services company DailyPay, added: "While we've been able to manage our food and shopping expenses for food in the home, returning to work often means eating out." 

According to Cisco, hybrid work saves employees in Southeast Asia about $144 a week. The survey showed nearly 3 in 4 survey respondents would take these savings into account when considering job changes

Walden pointed out another expenditure that is on the rise for people returning to the office: pet care. 

"A high percentage of people got pets during Covid to keep them company during the isolation," she said. "Interestingly, they're being challenged in finding ways to take care of their pets when they return to work." 

A recent report from Rover, an online pet marketplace, found that pet parenthood is getting more expensive. According to the report, more than 70% of pet owners have spent more on food, treats, toys and veterinary visits since the start of this year, and 73% worry about prices continuing to increase. 

If remote work isn't an option

For workers returning to the office who are worried about inflation and expenses like food and gasoline, industry experts say there are ways to manage rising costs.

1. Go beyond compensation

As people spend more money to be at work, it is inevitable that their minds will turn to negotiating for more salary, said Trehan. But she advised having conversations that go "beyond compensation" instead. 

"What ends up happening is, the minute you start to think about financial well-being, that conversation gets very derailed by compensation," she said.

You'll be very surprised that without even knowing it, you probably could be saving $300 a month just from programs that you're not signed up for.
Jeanniey Walden
Chief Innovation Officer, DailyPay 

Walden agreed, saying employees can ask about benefits that are available to them through "employer-provided programs."

"There's a lot out there that you might not know about," she said. "You should really take a couple hours and go through your company's employee handbook and your benefits programs to see what they offer you."

Walden said many employers are "stepping up opportunities" for employees to save money too.

For example, some healthcare benefits provide monetary incentives for staying fit or clocking a certain number of daily steps, she said. Workers can also take advantage of transportation stipends, she said, or simply choose to drink free coffee in the workplace.

The top new benefits that companies are offering include transportation credits and free food in the office, said Dailypay's Jeanniey Walden.
Ponywang | E+ | Getty Images

"You'll be very surprised that without even knowing it, you probably could be saving $300 a month just from programs that you're not signed up for," said Walden. "If you are spending $5 for a cup of coffee … that adds up pretty quickly."

2. Do a pay analysis

However, if workers believe they should be paid more, the first thing to do is to ask for a pay analysis, said Walden. 

Every human resource team has a set of markers that determines how much employees should be earning for the number of years they've been at the job, she added.

"They can do a gap analysis … internally, there can be adjustments."

Those who are nervous or shy can do their own research online too, Walden advised. "You can go to Glassdoor … and look at what the current market salary is" for certain positions.

Walden noted that companies these days are also employing "creative" methods to retain staff, especially as the labor market heats up.  

"If they can't raise your salary, they can possibly do a one-time bonus or they can look at putting a promotion plan in place that is tied to results," she said. "There's a lot of options out there."

3. Budget your money

Even for those earning the highest salary they can get, Walden said budgeting is more important than ever.

She recommends "understanding how much money you have and creating a budget for basic needs."

How to budget if you make $7.25 per hour
How to budget if you make $7.25 a hour

This is especially true with a recession looming and costs going up for workers returning to the office.

"We are looking at the next 18 months as being a very critical period where you don't know what's going to happen," she said.

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