Commuting to work
More than 80 per cent of American remote workers say they would return to their company offices if their commute was compensated for. Markus Spiske/Pexels

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a lasting effect on how people operate in their day-to-day work duties, with remote working becoming increasingly applicable.

As of 2023, the Pew Research Center found that over 20 million people in the United States work remotely.

Organisations have been gradually trying to persuade staff to return to the office as society further distances itself from the pandemic and looks to return to pre-COVID-19 normality.

A fresh survey from Ringover has observed what it would take for employees to return to company offices: 1038 workers working remotely or having just returned to the office in the U.S. took part in the survey.

A small minority of the workers surveyed (3.7 per cent) revealed that nothing their employers offer will convince them to return to the office. For the 96.3 per cent of workers who would be open to working again at the office, conditions must be met:

The outstanding incentive workers seek is for their companies to compensate for their commute expenses, with 83.2 per cent agreeing to it. Travelling to work has become too expensive for many workers, who view working remotely as effective cost-cutting.

A survey from Bankrate last year revealed workers in the U.S. spend an average of $8466 on commuting; this can work out to roughly $700 a month, as factors such as gas, vehicle maintenance and car insurance need to be accounted for.

The current high commuting cost is a notable increase from the average annual commute costs from 2019. Back then, the average travel expenses would put workers back an average of $6500 per year.

Four years ago, it could cost as little as $2000 annually to commute in some U.S. states such as West Virginia, Mississippi, Alabama, Kentucky and Tennessee.

As the effects of the pandemic have eased, the length of commute time for workers has naturally decreased. However, the New York Times revealed that the average time for a one-way work commute in the U.S. is still around 27 minutes.

With non-remote workers spending close to an hour a day travelling to and from work, they have less time to spend on personal matters. For remote workers, they see the long commute times as disrupting their work-life balance and eventually causing severe burnout.

Other notable changes employers must make to convince workers to return to company offices include providing on-site gym/wellness facilities (77.1 per cent). Staff would also like to enjoy more social time with their colleagues (76 per cent) and see their employers make charitable contributions (75.7 per cent).

Money is one of the more apparent incentives that can persuade people to change their working preferences. Ninety-five per cent of the survey respondents admitted that a salary increase would entice them to commit to their organisation's return-to-work policy.

Nearly half of these workers revealed that an increase in pay between $5000 and $10,000 a year would convince them to return to the office. 12.6 per cent have loftier expectations as they revealed it would take a pay bump of over $10,000 annually to make them ditch the privilege of remote working.

Many remote workers are seeking a considerable pay increase as they may need further help covering the ever-increasing commute expenses should they return in person to work. This may be the case if their employer will not cover their commute costs.