Another back-to-office pain? Record gasoline prices.
are the final hurdle for millions of American employees facing a more expensive commute as they return to the workplace amid a steep drop in case.
Fuel costs have jumped more than 20% in the past two weeks alone and are up 50% from a year ago, according to GasBuddy. Pump prices jumped as headline inflationadding to the financial strain, and as employers call people back after more than two years of working from home during the pandemic.
Ravin Jesuthasan, a workplace expert with consulting firm Mercer, said some of his corporate clients had recently halted recalling workers to the office due to concerns over soaring gasoline prices.
“We are seeing many organizations starting to take a step back in light of a very dramatic and creeping spike in gasoline prices,” Jesuthasan told CBS MoneyWatch. “A lot of companies were considering going back to the office after the Omicron wave waned, but now they’ve taken a break. They’re saying, ‘Actually, let’s wait and see how that plays out. Let’s wait until gas prices start to calm down and don’t rush to the office at this point. “”
Even as companies call back employees, some people are reconsidering how often they come to the office due to the added costs incurred at the pump. Phillip Barton, a financial adviser based in Raleigh, North Carolina, said that while he enjoys working in the office, he has reduced the number of days a week he spends commuting the 70 miles from his home to the branch of the financial services company Northwestern Mutual. .
“If I had the chance, I would prefer to go to the office and be surrounded by my peers. But that said, in the future, I will probably limit that and only come in on Mondays and Fridays. The rest of the time, I will stay home to save on expenses,” he told CBS MoneyWatch.
Indeed, commuting to the office now costs Barton 1.6 times more than it did a few weeks earlier. He spent about $85 a week driving to work every day. But that jumped to around $140 last week, which is why he decided to start staying home three days a week.
“It was the catalyst that made me take the stay-at-home option offered by my employer more seriously,” he said.
Soaring gas prices are prompting some to ask those who can work remotely to stay home. An expert says workers who can do their jobs remotely should do so, if only to ease consumer demand for gasoline, which would lower fuel costs for those unable to work from home.
“Employers would be wise to allow flexibility when employees have entrenched concerns about rising energy prices,” Patrick De Haan, head of oil analysis at GasBuddy, told CBS MoneyWatch. “People who can work from home should do so in order to reduce national gasoline consumption and reduce the impact on people who cannot work from home.”
Growing demand for gas as Americans return to their usual routines, combined with economic sanctions on Russia and acontribute to On Monday, gasoline prices averaged $4.32 a gallon, according to AAA. Prior to this week, the record was $4.10 per gallon in 2008, just before the financial crisis.
But this spike proved to be temporary, and prices quickly fell in the ensuing recession. This time around, there is little relief in sight. Rising gasoline prices and rising broader inflation could mean high costs for the rest of the year.
Before gas prices skyrocketed, ride-sharing company Lyft announced a “fully flexible workplace” that allows employees to work from home as much as they want. Although Lyft’s corporate policy was developed without regard to gas prices, it undoubtedly eases the burden of higher costs on employees.
As of this month, language-learning company Duolingo requires employees to spend three days a week in the office. It is not reconsidering its policy in light of rising gas prices, a company spokesperson told CBS MoneyWatch, noting that few employees travel long distances to get to company offices. in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and New York.
“In our Pittsburgh headquarters, most employees live within walking distance, biking or driving distance of the office. In our New York office, no one drives,” the spokesperson said in a statement.
This plays into broader corporate reviews of when and where work is done.
“Companies figure out what the optimal locations are for the work you do. For a researcher whose job requires them to sit in front of a laptop, it’s a job that can be done anywhere, and companies give that person the opportunity to work at their local Starbucks,” Mercer’s Jesuthasan said.
It’s a different story for factory workers or others who do physical labor, with high fuel costs even driving some to quit their jobs to seek work closer to home.
JB Brown, CEO of BCI Solutions, a metals foundry in Bremen, Indiana, told Reuters that 14 workers, representing 7% of the company’s workforce, quit in the past two weeks, in largely because of the rise in gas prices following the Russian crisis. attack on Ukraine. Some used to carpool with colleagues who quit, and others simply can’t afford to drive to work at their current pay rates.
“When the gas goes up, people want to work closer to home,” Brown told Reuters.