Empty Cubicles? Many Workers Want to Stay Home

Saving money is one reason employees prefer remote work.

Businesswoman standing alone at cubicle in empty office
(Image credit: Getty Images)

September marks the beginning of a new school year, and children who have been learning remotely won’t be the only ones adjusting to a new environment. Millions of employees are returning to work as companies reopen their physical offices. But many employees are hesitant to return to the office—either because of pandemic-related concerns or because they’ve discovered they prefer working from home.

A survey by FlexJobs.com found that 58% of workers said they’d look for a new job if they cannot continue remote work in their current role. But before you give notice, there are steps you can take to navigate changes to your workplace—and your budget.

If you want to continue working from home, you’ll need to negotiate that with your supervisor. But first, prepare talking points that highlight how your remote work will benefit your employer, says Toni Frana, a career coach at FlexJobs. Instead of explaining how working from home will help you, she says, focus on how it will increase your productivity.

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Your employer may also be more receptive to an arrangement in which you work remotely part of the time rather than full-time. In May, Google announced that it would adopt a hybrid work week, requiring in-person office work for only three out of five days starting in September. Other companies—especially in the technology sector—are also developing hybrid work models.

Still, while some com­panies are open to hybrid work schedules, others want their employees back in the office full-time. If your employer falls into that group, leverage your bargaining power, says Alison Green, founder of the Ask a Manager website and author of Ask a Manager: How to Navigate Clueless Colleagues, Lunch-Stealing Bosses and Other Tricky Situations at Work. At a time when many companies are struggling to fill open jobs, managers may be forced to be more receptive to your concerns, she says.

Anticipating a changing budget. Nearly 60% of Americans who worked from home at some point during the pandemic said it had a positive effect on their personal finances, according to a survey by Bankrate.com. People who were able to work remotely saved money on expenses such as transportation, lunches, workplace attire and child care, says Bankrate analyst Ted Rossman. To cut your back-to-work costs, ask your employer if it plans to offer (or reinstate) sub­sidies for parking or mass transit. If you have unused funds in a pretax commuter benefits account, make sure to use them. And now that you’ve learned how much money you can save by cooking at home, you may be inspired to start bringing your lunch to work.

chart of how much money people save working at home

Michael Korsh
Intern, Kiplinger’s Personal Finance

Korsh is a recent graduate and incoming graduate student at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. He majored in journalism with a minor in psychology, and his graduate degree will be in the Medill Investigative Lab specialization of the MS in journalism program. He has previously interned for Injustice Watch, the Medill Investigative Lab and Moment Magazine, and he served as the print managing editor of North by Northwestern student newsmagazine. Korsh became a Kiplinger intern through the American Society of Magazine Editors Internship Program.