Now that the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) positivity rates are low, remote work advocates are no longer blaming their desire to stay home on safety concerns, but instead on the financial effects of their day-to-day office schedule, which is far more costly than when America closed down in March 2020.
Consumer prices hit 8.5 percent last month, nearly double compared to March 2021, and the highest inflation rate hike the country has seen since 1981.
Employers across the country are apparently struggling to get their workforce to return to fully in-person operations because of the rising costs of living.
For instance, Florida-based security software company KnowBe4 found that most of its 1,500 employees were concerned about the growing costs of gas and food.
According to data collected by AAA, employees used internal company message boards to give and get advice on where to find cheap fuel as the national gas average hit $4.33 per gallon last month.
At this time last year the national average for gas prices was about $2.87 per gallon, still a considerable increase from the pre-pandemic rates of 2019, which were about $2.60 per gallon.
Employees also cited how an iced latte from Dunkin' Donuts surged to $3.99 from $3.70 last year, a trend also seen at other chain restaurants. Many workers also expressed concerns about familial costs, such as increasing rates for childcare and dog sitters.
According to the Center for American Progress, the average family in the United States spent $13,700 annually on childcare in 2021, which is more than a $3,000 increase from the rates of 2020.
ChildCare Aware of America reported that from 2016 to 2020, childcare rates were somewhat static, growing only a few hundred dollars per year. Data this year is not yet available.
Becky Frankiewicz, president of ManpowerGroup, said remote work started off as a safety measure but it is now a cost-containment measure. Frankiewicz mentioned that a couple of her employees were looking for ways to reduce their commute times to handle the costs.
Likewise, she shared how employers nationwide were offering gas cards, transportation vouchers and ride share options to help ease the burden of inflation.
Companies across the country are also experiencing heightened requests for work flexibility and raises, despite the fact that wages rose by about 5.6 percent in the previous year to fight the cost of inflation. (Related: Americans are losing recent wage gains due to inflation surge.)
Various employers mentioned that they were planning to give raises because the pandemic-fueled labor shortage has made it easier for workers to be pirated by rivals.
As an example, Texas-based e-commerce company OrderMyGear tripled its compensation allocation in current years. Some businesses, on the other hand, said they are waiting to see if inflation charges would settle before adjusting wages.
According to Melissa Yates May, Cambium Learning Group's head of human resources, her company is waiting a little bit to see when it normalizes before making different types of adjustments.
While each business is tackling return to work in different ways, data disclosed that overall companies which apparently denied the option to permit remote flexibility saw a heightened pressure to increase wages.
Office occupancy nationwide has crawled to above 40 percent, which is its highest standard since March 2020 but is still low when compared to pre-pandemic levels.
Data also revealed that the majority of the in-person workforce was composed of non-executive employees as most executives continue to work at least partially remote.
Bloomberg revealed that only 19 percent of executives have returned to the office while 35 percent of non-executive workers are back in the office five days a week.
Analysts claimed there is a double standard for regular workers and executives returning to the office.
The news outlet said Bank of America and Google are allegedly urging their employees to return to their offices, but permitting bosses to be free from the requirement.
Some analysts also dispute the move to return to work is not to boost in-person collaboration, as bosses assert, but instead to legitimize the cost of their long-term leases for state-of-the-art offices.
Brian Elliott, executive at Future Forum, which has been studying workers during the pandemic, said that employees who are "unsatisfied" with the flexibility given to them by their employer say they will "definitely" seek new employment this year.
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