According to GasBuddy, fuel costs have increased by more than 20% in just two weeks and have increased 50% over a year ago. As overall inflation rises to its highest point in 40 years, prices at the pump have risen, adding to financial strain and as employers call back employees who worked from home for more than two years during the pandemic.
Ravin Jesuthasan is a workplace expert at consulting firm Mercer. He said that some corporate clients recently asked him to halt recalling workers back into the office due to concerns about rising gas prices.
Jesuthasan stated that many companies are starting to take a backward step in the wake of a dramatic and widespread rise in gas prices. Many companies had been looking to return to work after the Omicron wave's decline, but they are now putting a pause button. They are saying, "Actually, let us wait and see how it plays out." Let's wait for gas prices and not rush to get back to work at this time.
Some people are considering changing how often they commute to work, even as companies recall employees. Phillip Barton, an Raleigh-based financial advisor, stated that while he enjoys working in the office, he has reduced the time he drives the 70 miles to his home to the branch office of Northwestern Mutual.
If I had the choice, I would prefer to go into work and be surrounded with my peers. However, I'll probably limit my visits to the office and will only be in there on Mondays and Fridays. He told CBS MoneyWatch that he will stay home the rest of the week to save money.
Barton now finds it 1.6 times more costly to go into work than it was a few weeks ago. Barton used to drive to work every day for $85 per week. He has now decided to stay home three days per week after his expenses have risen to $140.
He said, "That was the catalyst which made me more serious about the option to stay at home, which my employer offered,"
Some are calling for remote workers to be allowed to work from home due to the recent gas price rise. Experts say workers who can work remotely should be encouraged, not only to increase gasoline demand but also to lower fuel prices for those who are unable.
According to Patrick De Haan (head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy), flexibility is a good thing for employees who have deep concerns about the rising cost of energy. People who are able to work remotely should do so, in order to decrease national gasoline consumption and minimize the impact on those who cannot.
As Americans resume their normal routines, there is a rising demand for gas. This is combined with economic sanctions against Russia and a U.S. AAA reports that record prices are being set by rising demand for gas as Americans resume their normal routines. They also have economic sanctions on Russia and a ban on Russian oil imports. The record was set at $4.10 per gallon in 2008, shortly before the financial crisis.
However, the spike was temporary and prices plummeted in the recession that followed. There is no relief this time. Higher gas prices and a rising rate of inflation could lead to higher costs throughout the year.
Lyft was the ride-share company that had declared a "fully flexibile workplace" that allows employees freedom to work remotely from their homes before gas prices rose. Although Lyft's corporate policy didn't consider gas prices, it does reduce the financial burden on employees.
Duolingo, a language-learning company, has made it a requirement that employees spend at least three days per week in their office. A spokesperson for the company told CBS MoneyWatch that it is not changing its policy due to rising gas prices. This was despite the fact that very few employees travel long distances to reach Duolingo's offices in New York City and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
"The majority of employees in our Pittsburgh headquarters live within walking distance, biking distance, or a short drive from the office. "No one drives in our NYC office," the spokesperson stated in a statement.
This is a key component of companies' wider re-examinations on how and where work is done.
Companies are finding the best locations to do the work they do. Jesuthasan from Mercer said that a researcher whose job involves sitting at a computer can work anywhere. Companies are offering that flexibility, so that they can work from home.
For factory workers and others performing physical labor, it's quite different. High fuel costs can even lead some people to quit their jobs in order to find work closer to home.
J.B. Brown is the CEO of BCI Solutions in Bremen, Indiana. He stated that 14 employees, representing 7% of the company’s workforce, quit within the last two weeks due to rising gas prices following Russia's attack against Ukraine. Others have stopped driving to work because they can't afford it. Some people used to carpool with their colleagues who had quit.
Brown stated to Reuters that "when gas prices go up, people want work closer to home."