Sustainability Energy

High gas prices not impacting most workers’ decisions to return to office

FILE – Gas prices are displayed at a BP gas station in Elgin, Ill., on March 19, 2022. Just as Americans gear up for summer road trips, the price of oil remains stubbornly high, pushing prices at the gas pump to painful heights. AAA said Tuesday, May 10, 2022, drivers are paying $4.37 for a gallon of regular gasoline. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh, File)

Story at a glance

  • An April survey from country’s largest security firm Kastle Systems found that 60 percent of workers say high gas prices are not affecting their decision to return to the office.

  • Since Russian invaded Ukraine in late February, the price of oil and gas has gone up, with average price for a gallon of gas reaching $4.52. 

  • Respondents to Kastle’s survey said that flexibility is what is keeping them working remotely. 

Rising gas prices are not playing a major role in American’s decision to either return to the office or work from home, data show.  

Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, gas and oil prices across the U.S. have gone up and are continuing to rise, with the average price of a gallon of gas landing at $4.52, according to AAA.  

While some feared that rising gas prices would deter workers from returning to offices, data from Kastle Systems, a real estate security provider that has tracked office occupancy since the COVID-19 pandemic began, says otherwise.  


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In April, 60 percent of 725 respondents to a Kastle survey said they do not think that high gas prices are affecting their decision to return to the office.  

Instead, workers reported being swayed by the flexibility and better work-life balance made possible with remote work.  

“I think it’s pretty clear that it’s no longer about health and safety. It’s about something else,” said Mark Ein, Kastle Systems Chairman. “It’s workers wanting some flexibility in how they work.”  

Kastle, one of the country’s largest security firms, has been recording its office occupancy levels since the COVID-19 pandemic began. The security firm provides weekly updates on the occupancy rates in the 10 cities with the largest Kastle presence: Washington D.C., New York City, Chicago, Houston, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Dallas, San Jose and Austin.  

While more Americans have returned to offices for at least part of the week — Kastle data show that the most popular day to go into the office among workers is Wednesday — office occupancy rates remain well below pre-pandemic levels.  

And it’s not likely that will change much soon, according to the Kastle survey. Fifty-seven percent of respondents did not see their decision to work from home or the office changing in the next three months.  

Since March, the average occupancy rate for Kastle offices in those 10 cities has hovered at around 43 percent of their pre-pandemic occupancy level, data show. And as of the week of May 11, two Texas cities — Austin and Houston — boast the two highest Kastle office occupancy rates out of those 10 cities, at 59.5 percent and 56.7 percent of their pre-pandemic rates, respectively.  

Meanwhile, San Francisco has the lowest office occupancy rate at around 34 percent its pre-pandemic level, according to Kastle data.

“It’s going to take a very long time to get anywhere near where we were before COVID and probably never will have the exact same amount of Office utilization as before,” Ein added.  


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