Workers who were forced to telecommute during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic are now heading back to the office and are dealing with increased prices for everything.
CNN reports workers heading back into the office and on hybrid schedules are seeing increased prices in food, gas, daycare, and transportation, which is eating into workers’ incomes. As a result, pay increases that workers experienced in 2021 are not keeping up.
According to the Labor Department, the index for food outside the home has increased 7.2% over the last year, and food prices were up 9.4% in April from the same time last year, the biggest jump since 1981. That means office workers are seeing increased costs in everything when they step out the door for work.
Both Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts have increased their prices for their coffee and morning bagels, croissants, or scones. Lunch also costs more. The popular salad spot Sweetgreen has raised its prices 10% since the beginning of 2021.
“Lunchflation is 100% real; everything is more expensive,” Kelly Yau McClay, who lives in Maryland, told CNN. “Before, you could get lunch for $7 to $12. Now there is no way you can get a decent lunch for less than $15.”
McClay, who now works a hybrid schedule that has her coming to the office three days a week, estimates she spends between $30 and $35 a day on work-related expenses, including coffee, lunch, snacks, and parking.
Many workers are fighting back by bringing their lunches from home instead of going out and bringing their coffee from home instead of hitting the coffee shop around the corner from work.
Returning to the office has also led to increased gas and transportation costs. The average gas price today is $4.60. In February 2020, gas was less than $2.50 on average. That has led some workers to carpool to save money and fill their tanks once a week instead of purchasing gas multiple times. Some avoid leaving the house on the days they do not have to travel to work.
Clothing prices are up 5.4% from 2021. Many workers who were forced to stay home for more than a year have gained weight and have changed their office attire to more loose and comfortable clothing, including sweatpants and yoga pants. That means some workers are enjoying a return to the gym and a return to work, another costly item, although the pandemic has led to a boom in home workout equipment.