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The real cost of returning to the office

The average American spends over $14,000 a year working from an office full time.

From Google, Amazon and Tesla to Disney, BlackRock and JP Morgan Chase, many companies have already ushered their employees back to the office or are in the process of doing so. In fact, nine in 10 employers are projected to implement return-to-office mandates by the end of 2024, according to ResumeBuilder.

With most jobs returning to either hybrid or fully in-office work models in the years following the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, these policies haven’t been without their share of criticism. Many point to studies showing productivity actually increased with remote work. For their part, employers claim going back to the office has improved revenue.

Working remotely had its share of perks — many people saved money by not commuting and eating a home-cooked lunch at home. Now, amid continued inflation, those expenses have returned to affect their budgets. Finder took a closer look at how much returning to the office really costs employees across the US.

How much does commuting to work cost the average American?

Eight in 10 (80.2%) employees, or over 60 million Americans, commute by vehicle for their job. Only 11.7% work from home.

With the current median US household income of $75,149, the cost of driving to work 25–30 miles as a full-time employee, parking and buying lunch sets Americans back an average of $14,124.11 a year or 18.8% of the median household income.

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Employees in some states can see their incomes take an even greater hit: Those who work in Missouri, Louisiana and Hawaii can expect to shell out more than a quarter of the median household income to work from the office five days a week.

By contrast, working from the office full-time in Wyoming costs about 16% of the state’s median household income.

The top 10 most expensive states for returning to the office

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Hawaii is the most expensive state for hybrid and fully in-office work. Assuming a 25–30 mile round trip by car, employees of this state can expect to shell out about $91.63 per day for their trip and lunch, or a whopping $21,824.45 a year.

That’s about the cost of a small prefab house on Amazon, a car or a wedding.

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For hybrid employees, the cost is lower but still substantial, with employees in Hawaii spending over $13,000 a year to work from the office three days a week.

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The top 10 most affordable states for returning to the office

At about $43 a day, Wyoming is the most affordable state to return to the office, with an annual cost of just over $10,000 for a 25–30 mile daily round trip and lunch. That’s almost 2x more affordable than a full-time annual commute in New York state.

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The top 10 most expensive states to commute to work by public transit

Alaska and New York are the most expensive states to commute to work by public transit. A round trip by public transit and daily lunch costs full-time employees in Alaska $60.97 a day or $15,302.84 a year.

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The top 10 most affordable states to commute to work by public transit

Wyoming is the most affordable state to commute to work by public transit, costing full-time employees $1,255 a year. Maryland rounds out the top 10, with an annual cost of over $4,321.

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Is returning to the office expensive?

Depending on your financial situation, commuting to the office full-time or a few days a week can impact your budget.

If you’re required to work from the office some or all of the time, taking advantage of your employer’s commuter benefits and revising your budget can help keep more hard-earned dollars in your pocket.

Image source: Getty Images

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