Employees say returning to the office is breaking the bank. Here's what's costing them so much

Employees say returning to the office is breaking the bank. Here's what's costing them so much
Three years after the COVID-19 lockdown, a return to the office is proving costly for formerly remote workers.Ariel Skelley/Getty
  • Remote work is dwindling and in-person work is getting costly, employees say.
  • Workers are documenting how much they spend at the office: Up to $45 for a single day.

More employees are returning to the office after years of remote work, and they say that shift is hitting their wallets.

Frustrated workers are sounding off that cost of office clothes, daily lunches, commuting, and more are all adding up as they start going into the office multiple times per week. Jessica Chou of the Wall Street Journal reported spending between 20% and 30% of her paycheck when asked to report for work at the office.

"After all, revamping a work wardrobe after years of joggers wasn't cheap," Chou wrote. "My expired makeup collection needed a refresh. Meeting new colleagues over coffee cost $3 to $4 a pop."

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In addition to upgrading their wardrobes from sweats to slacks, workers are documenting other ways a day at the office adds up.

@cndyly bomba never disappoints!! #melbourne #melbournefood #corporatelife #officelife ♬ Everybody Wants To Rule The World - The Moving Stills

TikTokers who've kept track of their spending throughout the day say they spend $30 to $45 on transportation, coffee, and lunch alone. For those who are required to work in person more than three days each week, the cost of going to the office can be more than $100 per week.


@afitaljey Spend the day with me in the office #london #spending #corporate #hijabi #investmentbanking ♬ original sound - Latifa

On Tuesday, Elon Musk described remote work as "morally wrong," and other industry execs are also moving away from policies that would allow employees to work from home.

According to Chou, making her own lunch and snacks is a small solution to the financial issue of in-person work. As for buying new clothes, there's a seven-day waiting period before she can go through with a purchase.

"To avoid buying lunch, I follow advice from a friend and make lunch for the week in advance. Sometimes it's just a pot of lentil soup, but it works," Chou wrote.