- Gas prices are surging across many countries due to economic sanctions on Russia and a U.S. ban on Russian oil and gas imports.
- The pandemic encouraged largescale take-up of flexible hybrid work, but many workers are now being called back to the office.
- Rising prices may prompt many people to work near home in flexible workspaces, rather than face long, expensive commutes.
As COVID cases seemingly decrease across the U.S., many workers are returning to the office.
Unfortunately, the commute is now extremely costly.
Gas prices are surging across many countries due to economic sanctions on Russia and a U.S. ban on Russian oil and gas imports. Russia, which produces about 10% of the world’s oil supplies, is seeing oil suppliers declining to buy oil from the country for fear of being caught up in those sanctions, further reducing global supply.
Gas prices are also skyrocketing as overall inflation soars to its highest level in 40 years. Fuel costs in the U.S. have jumped by a whopping 50% from a year ago, according to GasBuddy.
If a worker in the U.S. earning minimum wage were to fill a 12-gallon tank of gas today, it would cost them almost an entire day’s pay.
On March 14, American gas prices averaged $4.32 a gallon, according to AAA. Prior to this week, the record had been $4.10 a gallon in 2008, just before the financial crisis.
How will the rise in fuel/gas prices impact commuting and the return to the workplace?
Will workers choose to stay home or work near home in flexible workspaces, rather than deal with longer, more expensive commutes back to the office?
Even as companies recall workers, some people are reconsidering how often they commute to the office because of the extra costs incurred at the gas station.
“Employers would be wise to allow flexibility when employees have well-rooted concerns about the rising price of energy,” Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy, told CBS MoneyWatch.
“People who can work from home should do so in order to reduce national gasoline consumption and reduce the impact on people who cannot work from home.”
However, some organizations are requiring workers to come into the workplace.
Even with all-time-high gas prices, companies from Wells Fargo to Microsoft to Ford say their return-to-office plans (which have been delayed multiple times because of COVID-19) are moving forward as planned.
“If managers will allow people to work from home, we can lower demand for gas, therefore reducing the price and help our fellow citizens who really need to use their car,” according to Dr. Douglas Kiel, a professor at University of Texas, Dallas’ School of Economic, Political and Policy Sciences.
Workers may choose to secure close-to-home coworking as a permanent solution for the workplace
For the lucky workers who are not required to come into the office and have the flexibility to choose where they work (such as from home or a coworking space), the increase in fuel costs has fewer implications.
The idea of a decentralized workforce has long been predicted by experts, and now is the time for businesses to act on these arrangements as pressure to build long-term business plans grows – especially as commuting becomes hugely expensive.
Coworking spaces have become more widely accepted by companies of all sizes in the past few years. Corporations in particular are seeing the benefits of flexible offices.
Coworking spaces have become a mainstay work option for today’s workforce, due to a myriad of reasons, but particularly thanks to their cost-efficiency, flexibility, shared amenities, and networking opportunities. Not only is working closer to home in a coworking space more cost/gas efficient, but corporations save 15-25% when they adopt coworking.
Rising gas prices are hitting gig workers particularly hard
Rising prices are affecting gig workers in particular.
Lyft drivers say they have to spend more time driving in order to achieve the same level of pay, and some say that without increased wages or other support from ride-hailing companies to help alleviate the burden of fuel costs, driving would no longer be worthwhile, according to The Guardian.
When asked if Lyft would offer additional support to drivers as fuel costs increase, a spokesperson said it had taken concrete steps to help, including a fuel cash-back program.
Uber announced it is adding a surcharge on fares and deliveries in the U.S. and Canada in response to surging gas prices. The company said the fees will go to drivers, who are responsible for paying for gas they use.