As we watch gas prices tick higher and higher, commercial lessors and middle managers everywhere are anxious to get people back in chairs. Their chairs. Gross, old, shared-space, contains-the-farts-of-coworkers-past chairs. Nothing at all like the luxurious gaming chair your firm WFH stipend covered, though let’s be honest that one is harboring some ghost farts too.
There is no question that remote workers are saving on gas. According to AAA, the U.S. average for a gallon is creeping dangerously close to $5 with Georgia coming in lowest at $4.33 and California taking top spot at $6.37.
Everything costs more. And it will cost more tomorrow. We know this. But a recent Fortune article asks are we really saving money by working at home?
Despite many companies setting April return-to-office deadlines, for the past month, U.S. office occupancy has held steady at roughly 43%, according to Kastle’s Back to Work Barometer that takes into account rates in 10 major cities. Many employees are pushing back against heading into the office not because of rising COVID caseloads, but arguing that their commutes are too expensive. In fact, a recent report from Deloitte found nearly 40% of millennials and a third of Gen Zers report that remote work has helped them save money.
But is working from home really a savings game-changer for most workers?
The article goes on to say electricity costs in April were up 11% year over year according to the BLS Consumer Price Index and reminds us that it’s almost summer which means cranking the A/C for most of the country (duh). There’s a bit of good news though, forecasts anticipate milder temps for many parts of the U.S. this summer, residential customers are expected to use 2.9% less electricity than they did last summer. SUCK IT, climate activists. In total, Americans spent an average of $23 more on monthly electric and gas bills for the first four months of 2022 than we did in 2019. So what, that’s like a single avocado toast? Not bad.
The article also mentions internet. Did you know you have to pay for internet when you work from home? Internet that you were already paying for and that doesn’t charge you by the hour like AOL circa 1996? Well they want to remind you that you’re paying for internet anyway. Which you wouldn’t have to do if you made the long slog through traffic hell to show up at the office because there is internet you don’t pay for there:
Internet costs can also be factored into WFH expenses. On average, Americans spent about $120 a month on their Internet and cable bills in 2022 so far, according to Doxo’s data, about on par with what U.S. households spent pre-pandemic. That can vary as some workers opted to upgrade their internet connection during the pandemic—making that monthly cost continually higher too.
They do have a minor point about upgraded internet. Presumably most of you did that a whole two years ago when everyone first went WFH if you needed to.
When the pandemic hit in early 2020, accounting firms — notoriously averse to remote work unless the client site counts as remote — rolled out various WFH stipends ranging from free monitors bummed from the firm to up to $500 to buy your own equipment (read: gaming chairs). Missing from the short list of Big 4 WFH perks are meal reimbursements, still a sore point for those who enjoyed firm-provided takeout in exchange for wasting their lives working late into the night. KPMG covered the issue in a report on telecommuting compensation [PDF] that’s an interesting historical read as it was published in March 2020 and written with hurried “we have no idea wtf is about to happen” language. So there are some perks to working from home, with some offices being more generous than others from what we’ve heard.
Far more important than $23 in electricity costs and renting a better router from your greedy internet provider though is the TIME one spends commuting. You don’t get paid for it but boy does it cost you, and not solely in wear, tear, and gas (that’s ‘tear’ as in /ter/ not ‘tear’ as in the wet kind that come from your eyes but those too, I suppose). Those of you who spent countless hours a week in the Office Space opening scene prior to March 2020 know what I mean.
For some of us, not having to suffer with twice daily commute traffic is worth it no matter how the math works out. Even if internet cost $2.99 an hour it would be worth it. Even if you cranked the A/C and kept all your lights on 24/7 and never ate another free catered meal in your life it would be worth it. Mentally anyway. And for a group of people perpetually on the brink of burnout, every little bit of relief from rage-inducing scenarios is worth it.
The real cost of remote work versus the office isn’t a strictly mathematical one and in fairness to the Fortune article linked above they acknowledge as much. As firms start to gently encourage return to office their staff are going to have to consider the entire equation, not just the financial one. It’s a hard sell to convince people to trade cheaper electric bills for the commutes we left behind in 2020.
Guarantee you can continue to work remotely from your gaming chair with a fully remote, progressive firm! Accountingfly has you covered with many open fully remote accounting jobs. Just drop your resume and let someone else figure out the best remote opportunity for you based on your professional experience and your aversion to commercially leased buildings.