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The new wrench in return-to-office plans? Gas.

Price and octane panels on a gasoline pump.

Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

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On Friday, the AAA had the average price for a gallon of regular unleaded at $5. High gasoline prices are throwing yet another wrench into employers’ back-to-office plans. It’s hard to find workers who want to reintroduce the word “commute” into their vocabularies, let alone pay $100 to fill their tanks for the privilege.

Steve Hersey knows he’s in an enviable position. He can work remotely, and if he absolutely had to, he could afford regular fill-ups at $5 a gallon. 

But if the Boston-area robotics company he works for told him he couldn’t work from home anymore, he’d be pretty annoyed at how much gas is costing, especially because of its environmental effects.

“It would be psychologically painful to be spending a great deal of money on gasoline for commuting,” Hersey said.

After employers grappled with the delta and omicron coronavirus variants, their much-delayed return-to-office plans are being interrupted yet again. This time, it’s the Putin price pump pain thing, or whatever you’re supposed to call it. 

Jill Chapman, with the human resources consulting firm Insperity, said companies are responding with more carpooling options and public transit benefits. Or, if all else fails: “You might say instead of giving a Starbucks card for somebody who did the best on a project, you’re gonna give a gas card now.”

But it’s not just the commute that makes going in to the office more expensive. That afternoon latte that was an excuse to escape the cubicle? It’s pricier than it used to be. Same goes for that sad footlong you ate at your desk for lunch. 

“The broad issue, setting aside gas, is just the inflation we’ve seen in virtually everything,” said Ravin Jesuthasan with the consulting firm Mercer. 

So expect to see more company-provided lunches. Maybe with a Texaco card as a side dish. 

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