November is usually a time to celebrate the satisfaction of stepping on a crunchy leaf and watching Home Alone for the 975632th time. But this year things are different. Last month, on 1 October, energy bills in the UK soared due to the cost-of-living crisis (in part because of the impact of the Ukraine invasion). It means that this winter, many people will be plunged into fuel poverty and forced to choose between heating and eating.
As the cost-of-living crisis worsens in the UK, people are looking at how they can save money in their day-to-day lives, such as making changes to their weekly shop. Some are even considering changing how they work too, prompting employees up and down the country to question whether it's now cheaper to work from home or in the office. To answer that question, we spoke to finance whizz Philip Stubbins, managing director at Money Expert.
"Many of us don’t realise that we’re spending money working from home," Stubbins tells us. "This can include heating (especially in winter when temperatures drop) and electricity for use of computers, tablets, charging units and even phones."
And that's not all. "On top on this, boiling the kettle for cups of tea and using your kitchen to cook your breakfast and lunch also uses energy and gas," he adds. "Therefore, while working from home is a comfort, it can add to your overall energy bill, if it’s not fixed with your supplier."
But, explains Stubbins, there are obvious costs related to in-office working as well. "Probably the largest expense for many when working in the office will be the commute, unless you’re lucky enough to be able to walk or cycle into your place of work," the expert says.
"Many of us like to treat ourselves to a takeaway coffee or a lunch out, which can add to your outgoing finances," the expert continues. "In addition, if it’s on a particular day, many may stay late for an afterwork drink or have to work late due to tight deadlines which means another small fortune is spent on food and drinks, compared to working from home."
In 2021, Confused.com claimed that the average commute by car for five days a week cost £128 per month, by train £328 per month and £76 per month if travelling by bus. The research also found that the average worker spent an additional £46 on other items while working, such as buying food or socialising, which they then didn’t spend when at home.
So, is it cheaper to work from home or in the office?
"It depends," Stubbins answers. "If you only have a short commute then it may be cheaper to work in the office. However, if your commute is longer, involving costs such as train fares, petrol and parking, then working from home may be cheaper."
The expert continues: "Working from home allows a bit more control and flexibility in your expenses as the money saved on commuting can be put away and used for a rainy day."
But, Stubbins adds, "don’t forget that many of the costs of working from home, such as heating and electricity, are not immediately obvious."
How can you make working from home cheaper during the cost-of-living crisis?
"There are a few things people can do to make working from home cheaper and it starts with eco-conscious purchases," Stubbins tells us. "Look to change to LED bulbs. Switching to these energy-efficient lights can see individuals having a 63kg annual reduction in carbon emissions while using one single bulb for around 10 hours a day can cost less than £3 a year."
As well as switching to more eco-conscious home appliances, Stubbins says that "simply turning the thermostat down by one degree can save around £80 per year and installing a room thermostat, a programmer and thermostatic radiator valves (and learning how to use them efficiently) could save around £75 a year."
Another way to cut costs is to switch your bills over to direct debit, which the expert says can "help save individuals up to £100 a year."
"This reduces administration costs for the supplier, which they can pass on the customer," Stubbins adds. "Some suppliers also offer discounts when customers pay by direct debit."
How can you make working in the office cheaper during the cost-of-living crisis?
"There are a few things people could do to try and make this option cheaper," Stubbins explains, pointing out that speaking to your employer about cycle to work schemes or a discount on public transport is a good place to start. Similarly, if you drive to work, "team up with a colleague to share the [costs of the] commute to work."
"Try bringing in your own lunches, this can help with the temptation of just popping out for a quick but expensive lunch," the expert adds. "Also using the office facilities like coffee machines, is another way of helping to stop the temptation of a takeaway coffee." Stubbins notes that although these switches "may seem simple" they're a great way to save money.
Work from home vs in the office
As well as saving money – which is something we'll all have to consider during the cost-of-living crisis – Stubbins reminds that looking after your mental well-being is equally as important when it comes to deciding where to work.
"If you live alone and have the choice to work from the office, and you enjoy seeing people and having a face to face catch up, even if working at home was marginally cheaper do consider a hybrid remote solution to give you a chance to socialise with your colleagues."
If you're worried about your finances, you may also be entitled to receive the government's 'cost of living payment', which you can find more details on here. If you're struggling with your bills, you can also speak to a number of charities – including Turn2us and the Independent Food Aid Network – set up to help those during the cost of living crisis, as well as debt-management charities like Step Change.
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