The No. 1 work perk that would get people to return to the office more often

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If bosses want workers in the office more often, they'll need to start paying up to cover commuting costs, employees say.

Workers who currently split their time between home and the office say the No. 1 work perk that would get them to return in-person more often is their company covering commuting costs (38%). The benefit just barely edges out the next biggest desire for more privacy at the office (34%).

Meanwhile, roughly 1 in 4 workers also say an office dress code is hampering their return. Some 24% of workers said they'd be more accommodating of RTO requirements if they were "able to wear whatever I want."

That's according to a recent report from videoconferencing company Owl Labs, which surveyed 2,000 full-time workers in June.

The cost of gas, parking and public transit aren't the only things keeping people from returning the office. The average worker spends $51 per day when they go to the office, including:

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

That means 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.

It's undoubtedly "wildly more expensive" to work from the office today than it was pre-pandemic overall, says Frank Weishaupt, CEO of Owl Labs.

"Going from $0 to $250 a week for an average salary employee is probably going to be a lot to stomach," he says, adding that rising expenses could cause workers facing strict office attendance requirements to look for other jobs.

Overall inflation is down from its June 2022 high topping 9.1%, but it's still a concern and many goods and services remain pricier than pre-pandemic. Gas prices jumped 10.6% in August and were the largest contributor to inflation for the month, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Other expenses like car insurance and food away from home also climbed, adding to the costs of working from the office.

The office has a purpose, but it can be expensive to get there

Despite the costs, workers still find value in the office. Hybrid workers want to be able to meet with others and see their work friends, and they also care about having certain things subsidized, from food to dependent care, according to the Owl Labs report.

Companies would do well to recognize the barriers to returning to the office and offer benefits or flexibility to bring those costs down, 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."

Looking ahead, half of workers said they think their company will change their remote or hybrid policy in the next year, and many anticipate a return to working from the office five days a week. Some 90% of companies plan to implement return-to-office policies by the end of 2024, according to an August report from Resume Builder.

It could also be partly why 56% of employees say their level of work-related stress has increased since last year.

"I don't think we're there yet," Weishaupt says, "but I do think that employees have that belief that that's where it's going."

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