How much does it cost to go to work?

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Alternative Ways to Get to Work


We all know that working take a toll. We give our jobs our time, our energy, even our peace of mind when things are particularly stressful around the office. But, have you ever thought about the actual financial cost of working? We think of our jobs as being something we do to make money, but work costs us something, too.

work costs

(Photo Credit: Jake Ingle/Unsplash)

Earlier this month, CareerBuilder released the results of a new survey of more than 3,000 workers that aimed to help us all better understand the real cost of going to work every day. Of course, it's important to keep in mind that cost of living varies and so do our salaries – try using PayScale's Cost of Living Calculator to see how your area measures against the rest, especially if you're considering a move. Despite this, it's interesting to consider some averages. Here are a few interesting costs that stood out from the survey.

  1. Commuting

It turns out that commuting isn't only stressful, it's also expensive. Eighty-four percent of respondents said they commute every day by driving to work. Among them, 37 percent said that they spend more than $25 a week on gas. Also, it's important to note that the survey didn't factor in other costs of keeping a car on the road like insurance, taxes, or the cost of repairs. Among those who use public transportation to commute to work, 47 percent also said they spend $25 or more each week.

RELATED: The average time you spend a week commuting to work

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Average weekly work/commute times
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Average weekly work/commute times

1. New York, NY

42.50 work, 6.18 commute, 49.08 hours total

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

2. San Francisco, CA

44.01 work, 4.57 commute, 48.58 hours total

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

3. Washington, DC

43.50 work, 4.49 commute, 48.39 hours total

Photo Credit: Saul Loeb/Getty

4. Houston, TX

43.44 work, 4.33 commute, 48.18 hours total

Photo Credit: Gavin Hellier

5. Fort Worth, TX

43.43 work, 4.18 commute, 48.01 hours total

Photo Credit: David Liu

6. Chicago, IL

42.36 work, 5.25 commute, 48.01 hours total

Photo Credit: Raymond Boyd/Getty

7. Boston, MA

 42.53 work, 4.43 commute, 47.36 hours total

Photo Credit: Bloomberg via Getty Images

8. Charlotte, NC

43.50 work, 3.45 commute, 47.35 hours total

Photo Credit: Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

9. Baltimore, MD

42.34 work, 4.51 commute, 47.25 hours total

Photo Credit: Education Images via Getty Images

10. Seattle, WA

43.17 work, 4.06 commute, 47.23 hours total

Photo Credit: Getty Images 

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  1. Food

Seventy-two percent of survey respondents said that they bring their lunch to work. Among those who purchase lunch, 50 percent said they spend more than $25 a week, and 13 percent said they spend $50 or more. Coffee is another cost. Forty-nine percent of workers said that they purchase coffee during a typical work week. Although only 28 percent admitted to spending more than $10 a week, these costs still add up.

  1. Daycare and pet care

For working parents, daycare is a huge cost. More than 1 in 3 parents spend more than $500 per month on daycare, and ten percent spend more than $1,000. Pets are also an expense, and more than 50 percent of those surveyed do have one. Among them, more than 50 percent spend $10 or more per week to have someone help out with pets when they head to work.

  1. Dressing for work

Clothing, shoes, and accessories are another category of work costs that can add up pretty fast. These figures vary pretty widely, though. Fifty-three percent of workers said that they spend less than $250 a year on clothing, but 12 percent said they spend more than $750. If the cost of dry-cleaning had been factored in, this cost would've been even higher.
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  1. The bottom line...

The study laid out some totals for workers to ponder. According to the data, the average worked spends $276 per month on these, and other, costs of working. That comes out to around $3,000 per year. And, let's keep in mind that this figure is an average. A lot of workers are spending much more. The information contained in this report could help workers make wiser decisions, which could help them save money in the long run.

"The cost of work is often what the rest of your budget is centered around," Rosemary Haefner, chief human resources officer at CareerBuilder told PRNewswire. "Knowing how much it amounts to can help you trim costs and make different lifestyle choices if need be. You can vow to carry lunch to work every day, stop buying coffee out, look for cheaper business clothes. Managing those costs can help account for others, like commuting and childcare, which won't subside."

RELATED: 9 ways the workplace will change in the future

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9 ways the workplace will change in the future
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9 ways the workplace will change in the future

In the past 25 years, one-quarter of companies have reduced the number of layers of management they have, moving toward a flatter, more grid-like management structure.

We've already seen it in companies like Vegas-based e-commerce site Zappos, which eliminated employee titles just over two years ago in favor of a manager-free "holacracy."

"Traditional roles are going to disappear because many workplaces are going to disappear, so the whole structural hierarchical system is going to disappear," said James Canton, PhD, chairman and CEO of the Institute for Global Futures and author of "Future Smart: Managing the Game-Changing Trends that Will Transform Your World." "You'll end up with a system, a network of humans and artificial intelligence, crowd-based intelligence — they're all going to get mashed up."

In May, NPR created a digital tool to calculate how likely it is that certain jobs will be taken over by robots 20 years from now.

Manual-labor jobs appear to be most at risk, while jobs that require empathy, like social workers and caretakers, are least at risk.

A University of Oxford report predicts that "by 2030, let alone by 2050, we'll have lost almost 50% of the workforce to artificial intelligence," said David Price, co-founder of cultural-change practice We Do Things Differently and author of "OPEN: How We'll Work, Live and Learn in the Future."

The Oxford report, which examined sectors most likely to lose jobs, noted that the transportation and logistics industry was particularly susceptible to upheaval thanks to the development of driverless cars by companies like Google.

Even jobs that seemingly require the human touch, like the classroom teacher, are at risk. 

"We're already seeing experiments with this robot in the classroom, and when you ask kids with autism which one they'd rather be taught by, the teacher or the robot, they pick the robot," Price said.

New technology doesn't always mean the loss of jobs. The invention of the printing press actually created a lot of jobs back in the day, said Price, "and we're going to gain jobs as well, but it's guesswork which jobs we'll gain."

Canton predicts a scenario in which humans and robots work side-by-side in the future, where new jobs could include operating artificial intelligence-based technology and old jobs could be augmented by it.

"We're going to need to train people — whether on the factory floor or in a call center — how to use A.I. smarter," Canton said. "So right now the era of using these knowledge bases is kind of cumbersome, but over the next decades artificial intelligence will sense what somebody is asking a customer and will help the human operator provide better service."

It's cheaper for employers, who have an entire world of workers at their fingertips, to hire freelancers as needed rather than full-time employees, as it doesn't involve a lengthy hiring process or require them to offer benefits like health insurance or social security.

Many workers are also starting to opt for freelance employment over full-time employment, giving them more jurisdiction over the hours they work and the jobs they take on.

But Price cautioned that this dynamic has the potential to exploit the labor force. Are workers choosing this route because "they want to freelance, or because they can't find a job?" Price wondered. "When companies are outsourcing so many jobs, people say, 'Well, I might as well become freelance because I can't get a job.'"

If the only reason people will freelance is because companies don't want to hire and pay full-time workers,"What kind of a society are we going to be getting?'" Price asked. "Are corporations going to employ a living wage, or are governments going to have to force that?"

People are living longer, and the cost of living keeps going up, requiring many to keep working much later in life. Younger generations also aren't saving money for retirement the way their parents' generation did, because they can't afford it.

"I think people will live and work as long as they're capable," Price said.

But advancements in medical treatments and remedies to the negative health effects of aging could mean people are more energized and suited to working at older ages, according to a report on the future of work by financial-insurance provider UNUM.

A "future of work" report from PricewaterhouseCoopers predicts that people will continue shifting away from the one life, one career mentality — an already observable trend among millennials. Workers will follow their passions as they change, and for many that also means changing careers.

But another driving force behind the phenomenon is a demand for social consciousness: Are companies ethically minded? Do they care about their customers, their environment, their employees?

Corporations "have to have more of a social purpose," said Price, "because people are much more ethically aware now, and people won't invest in companies that don't have a strong ethics." Companies have to prove that they're worth the time of their workers — that they have missions, values that they're invested in, and goals for becoming socially responsible in order to attract and retain employees.

The PwC report also envisions a world in which employers can monitor and screen their employees at a much more advanced level: "Sensors check their location, performance and health," the report states. "The monitoring may even stretch into their private lives in an extension of today’s drug tests."

The Daily Telegraph learned such measures will likely be met with resistance. The British newspaper installed motion detectors in early January to track their reporters but quickly abandoned them after incurring angry blowback. 

"Will companies develop a kind of 'Big Brother' approach to checking on their employees? Possibly, but I think more of them will think they need to be engaged in supporting [their employees]," Price said.

He pointed out how many Silicon Valley tech executives are setting up schools for their kids and their employees' kids in order to provide a better, more tech-focused brand of education.

"These paternalistic philanthropists who want to give their workers housing, keep them out of the pubs, [and] look after their health" may seem intruding or controlling, Price said, but "it will be in companies' best economic interest ... to play a much more active role in that."

Coworking spaces are becoming more and more popular, not just among freelancers and entrepreneurs but also corporations that can use them to relocate employees. Dissolving the traditional office headquarters would enable companies to hire the best candidates all over the world regardless of proximity to a central company hub.

Social media engagement platform Buffer announced in October that it's getting rid of its office and instead letting employees work remotely or from coworking spaces, which Buffer will pay for.

“With an office, if team members are in San Francisco it can be easy to delay meetings until all team members are in the office. The conclusion we came to is that we should always do the thing we can do immediately," said Buffer co-founder and CEO Joel Gascoigne, adding that digital advances like Google Hangouts or HipChat help Buffer survive by facilitating instant meetings, messages, and face-to-face conversations regardless of employees' locations.

Both Price and Dr. Canton imagine a world in which driverless vehicles could eliminate mass transit and transportation jobs, but on the positive side, these cars could potentially eliminate daily commuter traffic, not to mention crashes and fender benders.

"Cars are going to have V2V, a vehicle-to-vehicle capability, and self-driving cars could be preventing a lot of accidents and saving a lot of lives," Dr. Canton said — perhaps as many as 30,000 a year.

This vehicle-to-vehicle capability, technology that lets cars monitor and communicate with each other, would track the speed of each car and facilitate and ease road congestion, making commutes more efficient and headache-free.

But these technological advancements aren't an excuse for humans to grow complacent and expect computers or artificial intelligence to do all the work — on the road, or in the office.

"The preferred future is not one where machines run everything and we just go on vacation," said Dr. Canton, but rather one where human lives and jobs are made easier by the aid and advance of technology. "Our jobs are being changed because computers and networks can do [some] jobs more efficiently than humans can. That doesn't mean eliminating humans, but it means retraining humans to keep pace with it all."

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For more information, be sure to check out the full report from CareerBuilder.

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