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Rising Gas Prices Make Remote Work Even More Attractive

Fuel price record are the latest deterrent for millions of American employees returning to the office as they face more expensive commutes.

Fuel costs jumped more than 20% in early March, pushing prices up 50% from a year ago, according to GasBuddy. Across the country, the national average for a gallon of gasoline is currently $4.19, according to AAA. Pump prices jumped as headline inflation reached its highest level in 40 yearsadding to the financial strain, and as employers call people back after more than two years of working from home during the pandemic.

“Sanctions on Russia have resulted in much higher gas prices and higher gas prices mean people are less willing to spend money to get to work,” said former agent Matt Becker. White House Liaison to the US Small Business Administration under President George W. Bush and current owner of national recruiting agency Pridestaff. “With gas prices still above $4 a gallon, remote work is a very attractive solution to this problem and an important factor for job seekers weighing the benefits of job opportunities.”

Ravin Jesuthasan, a workplace expert with consulting firm Mercer, said some of his corporate clients had recently held back on calling workers back to the office due to concerns over soaring gas prices.

“We are seeing many organizations starting to take a step back in light of a very dramatic and creeping spike in gasoline prices,” Jesuthasan told CBS MoneyWatch. “Many companies were considering going back to the office after the Omicron wave waned, but now they’ve taken a break. They’re saying, ‘Actually, let’s wait and see how that plays out. Let’s wait until gas prices start to calm down and don’t rush to the office at this point. “”

Even as companies call back their employees, some people are reconsidering how often they come to the office due to the added costs incurred at the pump. Phillip Barton, a financial adviser based in Raleigh, North Carolina, said that while he enjoys working in the office, he has reduced the number of days a week he spends commuting the 70 miles from his home to the financial services company Northwestern Mutual.


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“If I had the chance, I would prefer to go to the office and be surrounded by my peers. But that said, in the future, I will probably limit that and only come in on Mondays and Fridays. The rest of the time, I will stay home to save on expenses,” he told CBS MoneyWatch.

Indeed, commuting to the office now costs Barton 1.6 times more than it did a few weeks earlier. He spent about $85 a week driving to work every day. But that jumped to around $140 a week, which is why he decided to start staying home three days a week.

“It was the catalyst that made me take the stay-at-home option offered by my employer more seriously,” he said.

Soaring gas prices are prompting some to ask those who can work remotely to stay home. An expert said workers who can do their jobs remotely should be allowed to do so by their employers.

“Employers would be wise to allow flexibility when employees have entrenched concerns about rising energy prices,” Patrick De Haan, head of oil analysis at GasBuddy, told CBS MoneyWatch. “People who can work from home should do so, to reduce national gasoline consumption and reduce the impact on people who cannot work from home.”

Growing demand for gas as Americans return to their usual routines, combined with economic sanctions on Russia and a US ban on importing Russian oil and gascontribute to record gasoline prices. On April 4, the national gas price average was $4.19 a gallon, according to AAA.

Prior to the recent surge, the record was $4.10 per gallon in 2008, just before the financial crisis. But this spike proved to be temporary, and prices quickly fell in the ensuing recession. This time around, however, there is little relief in sight. Rising gasoline prices and rising broader inflation could mean high costs for the rest of the year.


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Before gas prices skyrocketed, ride-sharing company Lyft announced a “fully flexible workplace” that allows employees to work from home as much as they want. Although Lyft’s corporate policy was developed without regard to gas prices, it undoubtedly eases the burden of higher costs for employees.

As of this month, language-learning company Duolingo requires its employees to spend three days a week in the office. It is not reconsidering its policy in light of rising gas prices, a company spokesperson told CBS MoneyWatch, noting that few employees travel long distances to get to company offices. in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and New York.

“In our Pittsburgh headquarters, most employees live within walking distance, biking or driving distance of the office. In our New York office, no one drives,” the spokesperson said in a statement.

Job roles also play a part in broader corporate reviews of when and where work is done.

“Companies figure out what the optimal location is for the work you’re doing. For a researcher whose job requires them to sit in front of a laptop, it’s a job that can be done anywhere, and the companies give that person the opportunity to work at their local Starbucks,” Mercer’s Jesuthasan said.

It’s a different story for factory workers or others who do physical labor, with high fuel costs even driving some to quit their jobs to seek work closer to home.

JB Brown, CEO of BCI Solutions, a metals foundry in Bremen, Indiana, told Reuters that 14 workers, representing 7% of the company’s workforce, quit in the past two weeks, in largely because of the rise in gas prices following the Russian crisis. invasion of Ukraine. Some used to carpool with colleagues who quit, and others simply can’t afford to drive to work at their current pay rates.

“When the gas goes up, people want to work closer to home,” Brown told Reuters.

Pridestaff’s Becker said companies that step away completely will find they have a leg up in recruiting talent compared to those that don’t.

“Companies that fail to provide their future workforce with the resources and support they need risk shrinking their labor pool,” he said. “More than a salary and paid holidays, this new wave of job seekers care more about the health benefits that allow them to maintain their mental and, ultimately, financial well-being. »

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