I was thinking about this the other night while I was driving home from the office. I'm doing the "hybrid" work schedule these days. We're asked to be in the office three days a week. However, I am working on a project that requires a fair number of meetings with colleagues in Asia, so I have days where the first call starts at 7am and the last call ends after 8pm. My normal commute is about an hour each way and that will make for a very early start and a very rushed dinner if I want to catch the late call at home. So I try to get in a couple days a week and add a day if I need to meet in person with someone.
Now add in the price of gas. I have a decently efficient VW Tiguan that generally gets north of 30 miles per gallon for my commuting. My prior car averaged around 22mpg, so that is actually a big improvement. Gas is pretty much double what it was during Covid and close to doubling pre-Covid, so even with better mileage, the savings are gone if I drive to work every day. A shorter workweek helps matters, but I'm sure that many people are feeling the pinch, especially when coupled with inflationary increases on everything else.
This makes me wonder if we're headed back to knowledge workers staying home, simply because going to work costs too much. I know that Metra (the commuter rail system) is experimenting with $100 monthly passes that allow unlimited rides anywhere on the rail system. I suspect they will get some takers and draw people back to the train if they are heading into Chicago from an outlying suburb.
In any event, the new ways that we work and the resistance of many people to leaving their bunny slippers behind, coupled with higher expenses, may accelerate the "Great Resignation" as people look for "remote" job opportunities or work that is closer to home. It will further exacerbate the real estate challenges of many organizations where predicting capacity needs will become a nightmare. And, very likely draw a bigger divide between employees who have to come to the office / factory and people who can work from home.
As a side note, as I watch gas prices continue to climb, I noticed that those big gas station signs with the digital numbers on them only go to $9.99. I had a flashback to 1980 when gas had to be sold by the liter because the mechanical price reels on the pumps only went to $.999. We may be seeing that again soon. In the meantime, you might want to invest in companies that make those big gas station signs -- or the temporary number ones that will be bolted to the signs.