Between a morning coffee, subway fare, and a bowl of stale roasted greens, the cost of going into the office can rack up. It’s not just a drop in the water—big-city workers are spending thousands of dollars less when they work from home, according to the latest report from Work From Home Research.
Researchers asked respondents how much money they spent on a typical day in 2019 on meals, shopping, and entertainment near the office and calculated the average amount of work from home days from June 2022 through November 2022. This helped them determine the annual-inflation-adjusted loss in spending per worker in the top 12 metro areas.
Workers in New York City are seeing the biggest reduction in spending, an average of $4,661 less per year. It makes sense—in an age of high inflation, the Big Apple stands as the most expensive city in the world. Meanwhile, workers in Philadelphia are spending $2,161 less per year. Here’s how much the average worker is saving when working from home in the top 12 metro areas:
- New York, N.Y: $4,661
- Los Angeles, Calif.: $4,200
- Washington, D.C: $4,051
- Atlanta, Ga.: $3,938
- Miami, Fla.: $3,323
- San Francisco, Calif.: $3,040
- Dallas, Texas: $2,869
- Phoenix, Ariz.: $2,757
- Boston, Mass.: $2,539
- Chicago, Ill.: $2,387
- Houston, Texas: $2,167
- Philadelphia, Pa.: $2,161
Metropolitan areas are more likely to accept the trend of remote work considering that they have a larger amount of knowledge workers and saw extended pandemic restrictions—the WFH Researchers have dubbed it a “big-city phenomenon.” A working paper from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) said remote work is often a perk given to the “metropolitan elite.”
There are still cost tradeoffs to working from home
WFH Research’s calculations only consider spending near the office. It doesn’t even factor in other expenses saved when working remotely, such as buying fancy work clothes or cosmetics, Nick Bloom, professor of economics at Stanford University and one of the researchers behind the report, told Fortune. Working from home can also save time and convenience, he added, such as being around to let in domestic work (like a plumber) and getting back time spent commuting.
But the money goes both ways depending on a worker’s situation, he acknowledges. “If you work from home, you save on gas and car costs, and if you work from home a lot, maybe you need one less car,” Bloom says. “On the other hand, you pay more in heating, air conditioning, and electricity at home. Food and drink can go either way depending on your work setup before.”
Indeed, some remote workers are cutting back on working from home, partly to save money on heating bills. In the first four months last year, Americans spent about $23 more on electric and gas bills than they did in 2019, according to data provided to Fortune from payments company Doxo.
But a day in the office now sets back hybrid workers approximately $50 when accounting for meals and transport, research from Owl Labs finds. It’s no wonder, then, that inflation is still keeping a lot of workers at home: Days spent working remotely are slowly rebounding, partly due to workers looking to cut back on commuting costs and other office-associated costs, like lunch.
“Many Americans also are watching their household budgets closely right now, with the down economy and inflation,” George Anders, LinkedIn’s senior editor at large, told Fortune. “Working remotely is often a money saver because it reduces commuting costs to zero, while also making lunch, coffee, et cetera, much more affordable.” It doesn’t help that many companies have rolled back pandemic perks like free lunches or coffees in preparation for a potential recession.
As Frank Sinatra once sang about NYC, “If I can make it there, I can make it anywhere.” The same might go for remote work, which has proven to be a budgeting hack for employees in the city and elsewhere.
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