Return-To-Office Mandate Forces A Journalist To 'Super Commute' From Ohio To New York Each Week Because It's Cheaper Than Rent

He seems to think it's fun and adventurous, but others online find it absurd, unfair, and dystopian.

people forced to super commute r.classen, Diego Cervo, Ekaterina Pokrovsky, OlegRi /

These return-to-office mandates we keep hearing about are causing all kinds of problems, from costing workers tons of money in commuting and childcare costs to hitting companies with rising turnover.

However, one journalist's situation takes the absurdity of the RTO trend to a whole new level.

Journalist Chip Cutter is forced to 'super commute' from Ohio to New York because of his job's RTO mandate.

Super commuting is nothing new — the practice has been on the rise ever since America's housing markets began going insane after the Great Recession. Some workers were forced to commute incredibly long distances due to having to live so far from work to afford housing.


RELATED: HR Expert Calls Out Executive Who Issued A Return To Office Mandate Because 'You Can Have A Job Working From Home But You Can't Have A Career'

Driving six hours round trip for work is bad enough. But flying from the Midwest to the East Coast, as Cutter does for his job at the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) every week? That's a whole 'nother.


For his part, Cutter is good-natured about the whole thing and even seems to feel like it's kind of fun. But the details of his situation show just how absolutely bonkers everything from the economy to, frankly, the audacity of some employers has become since the pandemic. 

Cutter moved to Ohio during the pandemic and didn't want to return to New York when the WSJ returned to the office.

Cutter's story is like many nowadays. "I moved out of the city during the pandemic to be closer to family," he said in the TikTok video he made for the WSJ.



But when the Journal issued a three-day-per-week return to office mandate in 2022, Cutter "didn't quite want to return." He'd gotten used to the time with his family in Columbus, Ohio, and, more importantly, the vastly cheaper real estate. 


For perspective, the average monthly rent on a two-bedroom apartment in Columbus, Ohio, where Cutter lives, is about $1600. In New York? Try a staggering $6400 a month

"There were no good apartments within my budget [in New York]," he said, "and I liked Ohio because it meant walks with my sister and short drives to see my parents." So, he got to work and came up with an unconventional solution.

He spends $3200 on Ohio rent and travel — about the cost of a New York studio apartment. But he's not sure he can keep it up.

Cutter's super-commuting lifestyle is definitely not for the faint of heart. He gets up at 4:15 a.m. each week to "hustle" to the airport for a 6 a.m. flight to New York City, and makes it to the office by 9:00 a.m. "if everything goes to plan."

At the outset, he budgeted $3200 for his Ohio rent, flights, and hotels each week, including a combination of hotel and credit card points, which he said is about the cost of a "nice" studio apartment in New York City — not the typical ones in his price range that are "facing brick walls" with "crumbling" staircases.




RELATED: Woman Reveals The 'Basic' Things She Was Forced To Give Up Due To The Cost Of Living

Since he commutes by choice, the WSJ doesn't provide any travel benefits, and once his credit card and hotel points ran out, he quickly began going over budget. The unpredictable nature of a journalist's work — having to stay extra nights for deadlines or interviews, for example — didn't help.

The costs have left him "relying on the kindness of friends who let me house-sit in the city" from time to time, and his super commute is taking its toll. "I still like living in both places," he said, "but I'm not sure how much longer I can keep this up."


Cutter's situation struck many as a prime example of the needless binds return-to-office mandates put many workers in.

Cutter and the WSJ seemed to think his video would hit people as an intriguing and lighthearted story of a man's adventurous life, but it hasn't. "This is insane that WSJ chose to post this," one commenter wrote.

"I’d like a detailed explanation for why y’all can’t let this man work from home," another TikToker commented. 

Others felt that the video showed "how out of touch corporate America is" and called it outright "dystopian." This might sound overwrought, but it's kind of hard to argue with. 

The fact that it's more economical and desirable for someone like Cutter to fly back and forth halfway across the country each week than to just live in New York truly is a testament to how unhinged our economy has become. Average rents in America have skyrocketed by $200 just in the past three years, after all. Who can keep up?


On top of that, RTO mandates have proven wildly unpopular with workers. One recent study showed that 99% of companies saw an immediate drop in employee satisfaction after issuing this kind of mandate, which will end up costing companies dearly down the road in the form of employee turnover.

The bottom line: None of this makes any sense, and it is wildly unfair to force employees to upend their lives in this manner to do jobs that can be done from a kitchen table. It makes you wonder when enough will finally be enough.

RELATED: Woman Forced To Go Into The Office To 'Collaborate' With Coworkers Realizes She's The Only One Not Working From Home

John Sundholm is a news and entertainment writer who covers pop culture, social justice, and human interest topics.