17 Most Expensive and Most Affordable States to Return to the Office

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Workers feel excitement and worry as businesses call their teams back to the office. The cost of going back varies greatly depending on where you live. Some states require you to dig deep into your pockets, while others are kinder to your bank account.

Your commute costs—driving, parking, and lunch—can add up from one state to another. These differences are due to varying living expenses across states. Knowing these numbers can help you plan better for your return to office work. curated a list of states based on the cost of employees returning to the office. The list covers the most expensive and the most affordable states.

Most Expensive States to Return to the Office

woman driving
Credit: Depositphotos shares the annual cost of working from the office by state, where they use the cost of driving, parking, and one lunch. They assumed people would go into the office five days per week and drive between 25 and 30 miles.

Here’s a look at the most expensive states to return to the office, where the shift might hit your wallet the hardest.

1. Hawaii

Kahanamoku Lagoon Marina near Waikiki Beach in Honolulu Hawaii MSN
Image Credit: cboswell/DepositPhotos.

With an annual commuting cost of $21,824, Hawaii is the most expensive state for employees to return to office. This considerable expense is due to the high cost of living, which includes fuel prices and parking fees, which are among the highest in the nation. 

Additionally, the average commute distance is longer than in many other states, which increases the costs. The fact that this cost constitutes nearly 30% of the median household income highlights the significant financial burden Hawaiian workers face.

2. District of Columbia

Washington DC
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The District of Columbia ranks as the second most expensive location for employees returning to the office, with an annual commuting cost of $18,611.

This high cost stems from the dense urban environment of the District of Columbia, where parking fees and fuel prices soar well above the national average. Public transportation costs also contribute, which represents a significant expense for commuters in the area.

3. New York

New York City
Credit: Depositphotos

In New York, employees who commute back to the office face an annual cost of $18,363. This high expense is primarily due to the pricey parking fees in New York City. 

An additional factor is the high cost of tolls and public transit for commuters outside the city. The state’s high cost of living compounds the expense, making daily lunches and other necessities more costly than in other regions.

4. California

Downtown Los Angeles California Skyline MSN
Image Credit: f11photo/DepositPhotos.

California is another state where returning to the office can be quite costly. Workers in California face an annual commuting expense of $17,677.

The state’s major cities, notably Los Angeles and San Francisco, are known for their high cost of living, congested traffic, and expensive parking rates. This cost includes the commute and daily expenses such as lunch, which can be quite pricey in urban centers.

5. Massachusetts

Boston Waterfront in Massachusetts MSN
Image Credit: sepavone/DepositPhotos.

Massachusetts’s office-commuting employees spend around $17,662 annually. Boston’s high parking costs and considerable traffic congestion contribute significantly to this figure.

The state’s fuel costs are also above the national average, which increases the overall expense of commuting by car.

6. Alaska

Anchorage, Alaska
Credit: Depositphotos

Despite its lower population density, Alaska makes the list with an annual commuting cost of $16,598. This is largely due to the long commute distances that are very common in this vast state. 

Additionally, Alaska has some of the highest fuel prices in the country, making commuting especially costly for Alaskan workers.

7. Washington

Olympia, Washington
Credit: Depositphotos

In Washington state, employees returning to the office face an annual commuting cost of $16,387. The high cost is partly due to Seattle’s significant traffic congestion and expensive parking rates. 

The state’s overall high cost of living also affects commuting-related expenses. This includes costs such as daily meals.

8. New Hampshire

Manchester, New Hampshire
Credit: Depositphotos

New Hampshire workers who return to the office incur a considerable cost, totaling $16,001 each year. This expense is partially due to the state’s rural nature, which often requires longer and less fuel-efficient drives to work. 

The absence of a broad public transit system pushes more residents to rely on personal vehicles. This significantly raises the overall transportation costs.

Most Affordable States to Return to The Office

Shocked Business People
Credit: Depositphotos

On the brighter side of things, there are states where returning to the office doesn’t take as significant a toll on your wallet. ranked these as the most affordable states to return to the office.

1. Wyoming

Grand Tetons
Credit: Depositphotos

Wyoming offers the most affordable place for office returnees, with an annual commuting cost of just over $10,195. The state’s low fuel costs significantly contribute to this lower figure. 

Minimal traffic congestion and short average commute distances also play a substantial role. The cost of living in Wyoming is also relatively low, which reduces the overall financial burden of commuting.

2. Oklahoma

Oklahoma City
Credit: Depositphotos

Thanks to its low fuel prices and efficient traffic management, Oklahoma offers an annual commuting cost of just $11,405. The state promotes public transportation as an affordable alternative, reducing the overall need for daily car travel. 

Wider bike paths offer a green and cost-saving option for commuters. These measures help keep commuting financially manageable for Oklahoma’s workforce.

3. Kansas

Wichita, Kansas
Credit: Depositphotos

Kansas impresses with its affordable annual transportation expense of $11,498. This affordability stems from the state’s reasonable fuel prices and a dependable public transportation system.

Efforts to enhance cyclist-friendly routes and carpooling programs further decrease commute expenses. Urban development aims to cut down commute times, which contributes to some of the nation’s lowest transportation costs. 

4. Alabama

Orange Beach, Alabama
Credit: Depositphotos

Alabama’s average yearly commuting expense is $11,889. This is due to its affordable fuel prices and an efficient highway system, which eases the burden. 

Advanced traffic management efforts in Alabama help to shorten commute durations. This enables commuters to save on both time and fuel.

5. Mississippi

Jackson Mississippi aerial view MSN
Image Credits: sepavone/DepositPhotos.

Mississippi has affordable commuting costs, which sets employees back an average of $11,927 annually. The state’s low fuel prices and shorter average commutes contribute to this figure. 

Additionally, Mississippi’s relatively low cost of living means that workers can enjoy more affordable lunches and parking. These factors diminish the financial impact of returning to the office.

6. Arkansas

Little Rock, Arkansas skyline on the river MSN
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In Arkansas, commuters face a cost of $12,170. The state benefits from its modest traffic conditions. 

A well-maintained transport network simplifies the journey to work. Arkansas’s residents also enjoy living costs that don’t stretch their wallets.

7. North Dakota

State Capitol Building in North Dakota MSN
Image Credit: sframe/DepositPhotos.

North Dakota has an annual commuting cost of $12,181. This is due to the state’s low traffic levels and shorter commute distances. 

Despite the cold winters, the state’s infrastructure supports efficient commuting. Meanwhile, the lower fuel costs and a favorable cost of living keep additional daily expenses manageable.

8. West Virginia

Charlestown West Virginia MSN
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West Virginia distinguishes itself with an annual commuting cost of $12,361. The state has some of the nation’s lowest fuel prices.

The state’s mountainous terrain might suggest longer commutes, but many employees work close to home. Additionally, the overall low cost of living in West Virginia means that daily work-related expenses are not as high.

9. Tennessee

Nashville, Tennessee
Credit: Depositphotos

Tennessee’s annual commuting cost is $12,567. The state keeps daily travel expenses in check thanks to reasonably priced gasoline and efficient roadway infrastructure. 

Public transportation options in urban centers like Nashville and Memphis provide viable alternatives to solo driving. This accessibility significantly boosts savings for daily commuters.

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