Report: US Employees Spend $51 A Day When Working Full Time In An Office, Including $65 A Week In Breakfast And Coffee

Office worker holding ice coffee outside an office
via Wealth Gang

Ah, the daily grind – the commute, the aroma of overpriced coffee, and the mystifying case of where our salary disappears to just days after it hits our bank account.

Just when you thought working from home had its quirks (pajamas all day, anyone?), it turns out going back to the office is not only testing our patience but our pockets too.

Let’s dive deep into the curious case of the shrinking paycheck in the post-pandemic workplace.

In a world where every cent counts, and personal finance gurus preach the gospel of cutting back on non-essentials, the recent State of Hybrid Work 2023 report by Owl Labs is raising some eyebrows in the debate about work from home, hybrid work, and jobs that require you going into the office. According to the report, 66% of employees in the U.S. have gallantly returned to their cubicles and coffee machines five days a week.

But here’s the zinger: they’re shelling out an average of $51 daily just to work in person. No, that’s not a typo. Fifty-one green ones. Considering that there are 260 working days in a calendar year in a normal Monday – Friday work week job, that breaks out to $13,260 in annual expenses, just from having a job that you have to show up for.  

Let’s break it down:

  1. Lunch: $16 – Remember the days when you could whip up a quick sandwich at home, or indulge in last night’s leftover pizza? Say goodbye to that and hello to $16 lunches that probably taste half as good and cost three times more.
  2. Commuting: $14 – Ah, the sheer joy of being packed like a sardine in a subway car or idling in endless traffic. Not only do you pay in time, but you also pay in dollars. All while reminiscing about that short walk from your bed to your home office.
  3. Breakfast and Coffee: $13 – Because why brew a pot at home when you can stand in line for 15 minutes and spend the equivalent of an hour’s wage on a latte and a muffin that’s seen better days?
  4. Parking: $8 – Remember the sweet deal of ‘free’ when you parked your posterior on your home couch? The office car park clearly didn’t get that memo.

Total: $51

  1. BONUS, Pet Care: $20 – Ah, our furry (or scaly or feathery) companions. While they give us unconditional love, they also come with an office day price tag when you need to pay someone to come take them out every afternoon or take them to doggy daycare. Say it with me: “For the price of that daily pet care, I could’ve bought a small yacht by year’s end.” Or at least, perhaps, a nice inflatable dinghy.

Now, a special shout out to pet owners. You folks are the real MVPs, paying an additional $20 a day on average, thus racking up a whopping $71 daily. Perhaps Fido needs to start chipping in for those pricey daycare sessions.

The Owl Labs report doesn’t account for other expenses, including childcare – which can be very expensive in many parts of the country. It also doesn’t account for costs associated with vehicle fuel, insurance, and maintenance, if that’s your primary way of getting to and from your job, as it is for millions and millions of Americans outside major cities. 

Cutting Corners and Costs When Returning To The Office

While the “State of Work” report provides broad averages on commuting costs, the nuanced realities for many paint a diverse picture. The costs, ranging from budget-friendly to exorbitant, reflect the varied commuter experiences. The ever-elusive asset of time has become even more precious in the post-COVID era. With fewer public transit options and longer routes, the daily commute for many has lengthened considerably, leading to unexpected costs such as grabbing on-the-go meals due to time crunches.

In contrast, rural dwellers discuss the perks of negligible parking fees and the luxury of home-cooked meals, highlighting that remote work isn’t a universal possibility. In many rural and suburban parts of the United States, parking for free at your workplace is a non-issue. 

Also, it’s possible to lower these daily work-related expenses with a thrifty outlook, some easy meal planning, and modifying your daily behaviors at the office. There is simply no reason to spend $65 a week in breakfast and coffee costs when you can make both those things at home for much cheaper and bring them to work – as you would when working from home.

Remember the wise words of financial planner Patrick Donnelly: Your daily coffee habit could cost you a fortune in retirement

The report underscores the importance of understanding the diverse implications of returning to the office, both in terms of time and money, emphasizing the need for flexibility and reevaluation.

Work-Life Balance and Personal Finance in the Return-to-Office Era

The allure of office camaraderie is undeniable, but as many employees yearn for familiar workplace sounds, their finances tell a different story. The shift to remote work not only ushered in financial savings but also enhanced work-life balance, granting many improved mental health and quality time with family.

However, as companies return to conventional work settings, the balance sheet isn’t just about dollars. It’s about weighing the benefits of in-person interactions against the costs—both monetary and intangible. In this era, where every penny counts, it’s imperative to remember: while the office may beckon the heart, substantial savings and a balanced life often lie closer to home.

B. Carlisle

Contributing editor at Wealth Gang. An entrepreneur at heart, he's passionate about meaningful ways to leverage technology and social media for business opportunities and side hustles.