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The Effects of Inflation on Workers’ Post-Pandemic Return to the Office, Part One

The consumer price index rose 8.5% in March from a year ago, marking the fastest 12-month inflation rate since 1981. Americans’ grocery bills have increased drastically since last year—14.8 percent for meat, 13.3 percent for milk, and 11.2 percent for eggs and coffee. On top of that, gasoline prices are 48 percent higher than last year, and energy costs have increased 32 percent. The talent shortage has helped boost pay by 5.6 percent but is not enough to keep pace with the rate of inflation. What does all this mean for workers that are slowly transitioning back to an in-office or hybrid work environment?

The cost of returning to work

After working from home for much of the pandemic, employees are back to commuting into the office—and not all of them are happy about it. 27 percent of workers are willing to take a salary reduction to work from home. In addition to providing work-life balance, working remotely offers employees significant cost savings.

  • According to a FlexJobs survey, the biggest benefit of working from home was “not having a commute.” The national average price of gas stands at $4.12 per gallon compared to $2.87 a year ago. Lending Tree calculated that workers in six major U.S. cities face an average of more than $10,000 a year in opportunity costs because of their commutes.
  • Parents—especially working women—adapted to supervising their children while working remotely, reduced their work hours, took unpaid leave, or left the workforce during the pandemic. In January of 2022, the women’s workplace participation rate was 57 percent—a record low unseen since 1988. After calculating child care costs by state, World Population Review found that in 28 states the annual cost of child care exceeds the cost of college tuition. In some states, the cost of childcare amounts to 18 percent of a family’s income.
  • Square data reveals a new trend of “lunchflation” with lunch item costs rising faster than the average cost across all food items. Taco prices have increased 19 percent and sandwiches are up by 14 percent from March of 2020.
  • After two years of Zoom calls in comfortable lounge clothes, going back to the office means spending more money on work attire. The average adult aged 25-34 spends $161 per month on clothing and people aged 35-44 spend slightly more at $209 per month.
  • Rover—an online marketplace for people to buy and sell pet-care services—estimates the following expenses for workers that are no longer working from home and in need of pet care:
  • If you send Rex to doggy daycare—at $30 per weekday—it amounts to $600 per month.
  • If you hire a dog walker to let Fifi out once a day at $20 each visit—five days per week—it adds up to $400 per month.

Check out part two and learn how to entice employees to return to the office.

Contact us to learn more!