Study reveals the hidden daily cost of returning to the office: $51

by Time Doctor
Hidden cost of returning to office

During the pandemic, many of us started working from home. We were kept safe by this change. Now some people are returning to work. However, there is a cost involved. According to a new study, returning to work can cost $51 per day. This article discusses what this study found and what it means for office workers and managers.

Returning to the office might not only consume more of your time, but also drain your wallet. Owl Labs recently shared its annual State of Work report with Fortune. The report reveals that the average daily expenditure for employees returning to in-person work is $51. For those with pets, the expenses are even higher, averaging $71 per day.

The total, says Owl Labs, breaks down as follows:

  • Lunch Expenses: The study found that average employees spend $16 on lunch per day. Those who are used to eating out or ordering in on their lunch break might not be surprised by this.
  • Commuting Expenses: The cost of getting to the office isn’t trivial either, averaging $14 per day. Whether it’s fuel for your car, public transportation fares, or rideshare services, these expenses add up.
  • Breakfast and Coffee: The morning routine of grabbing breakfast and a cup of coffee before work can set you back by $13 per day. On the way to work, barista-made lattes and pastries can be tempting but expensive indulgences.
  • Daily Parking Challenges: Finding a spot near the office can be a daily challenge, and it comes at a cost. The daily struggle to secure a parking space not only adds a layer of stress to one’s daily routine but also consumes valuable time and financial resources.
  • Pet Care: For pet owners, there’s an additional $20 per day expense for taking care of their beloved companions while at the office. This expense accounts for the increase in costs mentioned earlier.

Interestingly, employees on a hybrid work schedule fare slightly better, with an average daily expense of $36. 

This suggests that the allure of remote or partially remote work arrangements persists, even as offices attempt to return to full capacity. The findings emphasize that the adjustments we’ve made during the past year, including remote work, have had a lasting impact on our preferences and priorities.

The financial strain of in-person work

In light of these financial burdens, businesses are facing a considerable challenge in enticing their employees back to the office. Offering incentives such as allowances, complimentary meals, or commuter perks might help alleviate the financial strain of in-person work. However, it’s important to acknowledge that these figures might not be applicable to everyone. Owl Labs, with its strong emphasis on remote work and telecommuting, may have a bias towards such workstyles. Employees have the opportunity to reduce their expenses significantly by packing their lunch or avoiding those pricey coffee stops on the way to work. Additionally, not all office-goers face parking costs.

Nevertheless, the survey underscores the additional financial burden that comes with returning to the office, especially during these uncertain economic times marked by looming recession concerns. The survey indicates that 94% of workers are open to returning to the office if their employers step up to bridge the financial gap. This assistance typically encompasses covering commuting costs and offering subsidies for meals, snacks, and coffee – expenses that can accumulate swiftly.

Despite the rollout of return-to-office mandates by various companies, employee compliance varies. Moreover, an increasing number of U.S. executives believe that remote work and hybrid work options will continue to expand over the next five years, as shown in a separate study conducted by researchers at Stanford University. This study forecasts that by 2028, approximately 72.6% of full-time employees will work fully in-person or on-site, a decrease from nearly 92% in 2018.

How Time Doctor can support hybrid work environments in this transition

Time Doctor offers a comprehensive solution for employers to ensure that work is getting done efficiently, even when employees are not in the office. 

By providing features like time tracking, attendance monitoring, and productivity analysis, Time Doctor empowers employers to optimize their workforce’s in-office and remote hours. This ensures that work is not only completed but is done so with utmost productivity, minimizing wasted time and resources. 

As businesses navigate the financial implications of transitioning back to the office, Time Doctor proves to be an invaluable tool in mitigating these costs and making the shift smoother for both employers and employees alike. In a post-pandemic world, managing these expenses and adapting to the evolving work environment will be essential, and Time Doctor is a crucial ally in this endeavor.


In conclusion, the cost of returning to the office is not to be underestimated. As businesses and employees grapple with this new reality, finding ways to manage these expenses and adapt to the changing landscape of work will be crucial in the post-pandemic world. Whether through financial support from employers or the use of productivity-enhancing tools, there are ways to make this transition less financially burdensome for all parties involved.

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