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High gas prices sending some employees back home to work remotely

CareerSource Palm Beach County changes strategy to help employees save money
Posted at 1:29 PM, Mar 23, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-23 18:14:11-04

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Fuel prices in Florida are slowly coming down after they hit record highs earlier this month.

Drivers are currently paying an average of $4.12 a gallon.

However, high prices are still putting a strain on wallets.

One local employer didn't take that lightly and has changed the strategy at the office to keep her workers' gas tanks full.

RELATED: Check gas prices in your area

Many employees went from working in the office to working from home during the pandemic. That changed in the last few months as workers headed back to the office.

But what if you had the option to stay remote and save on the cost of rising gas prices?

Melissa Leon-Draeger, a career consultant at CareerSource Palm Beach County, is staying home and avoiding the commute not because of COVID but because of the cost to fill up her gas tank.

Melissa Leon-Draeger, Career Consultant at CareerSource of Palm Beach County
Melissa Leon-Draeger is among the employees working from home after the spike in gas prices.

"When I saw that $50 limit hit and my tank wasn't even full, that whole drive into work, I thought, 'My poor staff. What are they going through?'" said Julia Dattolo, the CEO at CareerSource Palm Beach County.

Half of Dattolo's staff at CareerSource is back to working remotely again.

"I came to work and said, 'Listen, we have the technology to work remote, let people save gas, go home, let's start working remote again,'" Dattolo said.

She said it was an already well-oiled machine that was put in place during the pandemic.

Leon-Draeger helps people with writing resumes, giving job referrals, offering job skills training and career placement.

All of this is done virtually while some staff is still rotating at the office to meet with walk-in clients.

For her, it's a huge relief and allows her to save money and time.

Working from home is saving her a 90-minute round trip to work and back five days a week and at least $150 a month.

Julia Dattolo, CEO of CareerSource Palm Beach County
Julia Dattolo says she wanted to help her employees save some money after gas prices hit record highs.

"I drive an SUV, and in normal circumstances, it takes about $40 to $50 to fill up the tank, and now it's close to $100," Leon-Draeger said.

At some gas stations, you might be able to find gas for just under $4.

The average price for a gallon is $4.20 in Martin County, according to the American Automobile Association's (AAA) website on Wednesday.

In Palm Beach County the average price is 10 cents more at $4.30.

Both of those figures are higher than the state average but both cheaper than where gas was a week ago.

"Is there a bottom dollar when gas drops down to a certain price where you’ll consider bringing people back?" asked WPTV Senior Reporter Michelle Quesada.

"That's a good question. I haven't looked at that yet, cause honestly, this is working for us," Dattolo said.

Dattolo said it's a job-seekers market and hopes companies who are able to allow remote working to consider it.

"It’s better to water the grass that we live on and take care of our own employees," Dattolo said.

Leon-Draeger's office desk is empty for now, but her gas tank stays full.

"I don't miss my desk. I don't miss the commute. I love being here," Leon-Draeger said. "I don't miss it."