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HomeLegal InsightOpinion & AnalysisCan Workers Afford to Return to Offices This Autumn?

Can Workers Afford to Return to Offices This Autumn?

Offices have been making an effort to get workers to return to in-person work this autumn. Huge companies such as Apple and Tesla have been pushing workers to return to offices. With public fears of Covid-19 diminishing, businesses feel safe to encourage their workers to come back to the office. Workers, however, are increasingly struggling to afford the return.

Over 57% of workers say they prefer the hybrid model. However, this autumn, workers will be expected to take on the extra costs of transport, lunch, pet care, and childcare as they return to offices. The price of these services has rocketed due to inflation, whereas salaries have stagnated. Some workers are unable to afford the lifestyle changes that in–person working requires.

Why are workers worried?

Owl Labs has found that full-time workers spend twice as much money per month, on average, when they are working in an office, compared to when they are working from home. In a cost of living crisis, when many families are struggling just to afford to heat their homes, this change can feel unfeasible to many workers.

London City has among the lowest occupancy office markets in 2022, with many businesses switching to a hybrid or fully remote model since the pandemic. In July, the cost of food alone increased 10.9% year-over-year—the highest rate since 1979. Gas and electricity prices are rising too, along with the cost of services.

Commuting is complicated

A key factor keeping workers away from offices is transport. London-based think tank Autonomy has estimated that the average price of a commute comes to £1,700 per year.

This becomes particularly significant with fuel prices at an all-time high.With national rail strikes planned in October, this complicates commuting even more. They estimate that by just working 1 day of the week at home, workers could save £340 per year. 

Childcare costs have risen

The Trade Union Congress  estimated in 2021 that a working parent with a child younger than two will spend an average of £7,200 every year on childcare. The cost of services such as this have skyrocketed in 2022 due to the cost of living crisis.

Autonomy estimates that these working parents could stand to save an average of £1,440 in childcare just by switching to a four-day work week. Parents currently working on a hybrid basis could, conversely, stand to lose this much money by switching to an in-person model.

Eating out adds up

Owl Labs estimates that each day in the office would cost hybrid workers around £50. A huge chunk of this total is the cost of eating out.

With long days and short breaks, not every worker has the time or energy to prepare a packed lunch in advance. Many rely on cafes and restaurants close to their office. The cost of eating out, while always expensive, has increased with inflation. Bloomberg reports that UK pubs and restaurants are planning to raise menu prices by 6% over the next year.

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