- The return to the office is imminent, but surprisingly it’s not the Delta variant that has workers worried.
- 41% of office workers are worried about the financial costs associated with going to the office.
- Commuting (62%), personal appearance (39%), and work clothes (38%) top the list of financial concerns. Some people also have an extended commute having relocated during the pandemic.
The return to the office is imminent, even with the Delta variant still spreading. Regardless of when we go back to the office (in one month or three), workers are starting to prepare themselves, mentally and financially, according to recent data from Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual).
MassMutual’s Summer 2021 Consumer Spending & Saving Quarterly Index found that Americans are spending an average of $765 more per month compared to the summer of last year (2020).
That number jumps to $1,016 for Millennials and Gen Z.
The results aren’t too surprising; after a year of FOMO due to lockdowns and physical distancing guidelines, many are jumping at the opportunity to partake in social gatherings and activities—like dining out or traveling—now that they finally can, and before the flexibility of full-time remote work is over.
The Much-Dreaded Return to the Office
Most companies have announced hybrid work arrangements for the post-pandemic future. This means that while workers will still have the option to work remotely part-time, they will be required to go into the office at least a couple of times a week.
The report found that 88% of office workers will be working in an office setting at least one day a week when return to office plans commence. Surprisingly, 59% of those say they will be working in an office full-time (five days a week).
While some workers (41%) are eager to return to the office after months of isolation and working from less-than-ideal settings at home, others are not quite so overjoyed.
Despite the fact that workers are excited to interact with colleagues again in-person, they report preferring to work from home via remote or hybrid work settings. The report found that 17% of workers are apprehensive about working in an office setting; and 10% aren’t comfortable returning in any capacity.
Despite their worries, they will have to eventually return to the office, at least in some capacity.
This has become a source of anxiety and stress for some workers, and not because the Delta variant is spreading according to MassMutual’s report.
“When given a list of stressors related to returning to the office, nearly a quarter (23%) of office workers cite an increase in expenses.”
41% of office workers are worried about the financial costs associated with the return to the office when the time occurs, the report said. That percentage jumps 11 points to 52% among Millennial workers.
The report found that “one-third of office workers, and 43% of Millennials, expect to spend more when they return to in-person or hybrid work settings compared to what they spend today. More than one quarter (28%) expect to spend more when they return to the office compared to before the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The Cost of Returning to the Office
How exactly is the return to the office going to increase expenses for workers? Commuting (62%), personal appearance (39%), and work clothes (38%) top the list according to the report.
During the pandemic, some workers relocated to a new city, some purchased a home or refinanced their existing home, according to the report. As companies ask employees to return to the workplace, many workers are likely to go back to commuting to the office; for some workers, that commute may be longer now than it was pre-COVID.
Personal appearance and work clothes are also likely to increase spending. During the pandemic, workers said goodbye to suits, skirts, ties, and formal wear and welcomed with arms wide open athleisure wear and PJs. Even if workplace dress codes are relaxed, we’re not going to see people in PJs in the office anytime soon, which means some workers will likely have to update their wardrobes and go on a shopping spree.
It’s not just clothing, however, that will impact worker’s spending. Going back to the office means that workers will likely increase their spending on personal appearance items like makeup, hair care, haircuts, shaving items, perfume, and jewelry.
As employees prepare themselves to go back to the office, their expectations around workplace benefits are changing.
The report found that a majority of office workers (58%) want a flexible working schedule as they believe it not only saves time, but also money. Beyond flexibility, workers would like to see their employers prioritize their well-being.
“58% of office workers say it’s important that their employer support their financial wellness needs, and nearly two-thirds (64%) say it’s important that their employer support their mental health and wellness needs.”
As employers implement their return to office plans, it’s crucial that they take into account and understand the needs of employees. More importantly, organizations need to make sure that the transition back into the workplace is as seamless and stress-free as possible. Offering the right benefits and perks can help employees feel more in control as they return to the office.