Personal Finance

Is it cheaper to work from home or at the office?

The Covid-19 pandemic triggered a trend towards home working that many expected to be permanent.

But with household bills soaring as the energy crisis worsens, millions of staff may be tempted back to the office this autumn and winter. Here are some of the costs to consider when deciding where to work.

Costs of working at home  

The “bulk” of the cost of home working this winter “is going to be from having your heating on”, said The Times.

Energy bills for a typical UK household have been forecast to rise from £1,971 to £3,549 after the price cap rise kicks in on 1 October. And while new Prime Minister Liz Truss is expected to announce a support package to help with bills on Thursday, further energy price hikes are expected come winter.

According to analysis by price comparison site Uswitch, remote workers typically use 75% more gas per day over the winter months and 25% more electricity than those who spend five days a week in the office. 

Based on current estimates, energy costs for larger households with higher energy consumption are expected to hit at least £513 a month this autumn. But that rises to £698 for those who are working from home, Uswitch calculated – £185 more a month, or around £45 a week. Occupants of smaller homes such as flats are forecast to pay £243 on average a month, rising to £330 for remote workers – £87 more.

Missing out on the freebies that some employers provide in offices may cost remote workers as well. “If your employer tends to offer things like tea, coffee and snacks, you’ll spend more covering these things yourself,” Sarah Coles, a senior personal finance analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, told ITV.

Costs of going into the office

While working from the office can cut many costs, travelling there can be expensive. The Telegraph reported that based on RAC pump prices as of the end of August, with “the average daily commute being 5,040 miles a year”, getting to work by car cost an annual total of £1,006.

Rail journeys can be eye-wateringly expensive too. The Times reported that a return journey from Reading to London, which takes “close to the average daily UK commuting time” of around 24 minutes, sets commuters back £4,860 for an annual season ticket, or about £93 a week. “And if you don’t live or work near the train stations you use and have to get additional transport, the chances are it would be a lot cheaper to stay at home,” said the paper. 

The childcare costs resulting from longer commute times may also be a worry for many families. The Coram Family and Childcare charity’s latest annual survey of childcare costs found that the average price for a part-time nursery place for a child aged under two was £138.70 a week.

Ultimately, the “true cost” of working from home or the office depends on a variety of personal factors, said Metro. “Scour your bank statements, and see where you could save on travel, childcare and eating out by being at home – while also weighing up the additional costs that remote work brings up,” the paper advised.


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