There was a time when working from home was viewed as sticking envelopes in their thousands or hour upon hour of data entry.
These days, with recent shifts in how the world works, the working climate has migrated into one that accepts working from home as the cultural and expected norm.
There is of course, another side to working from home - where some areas may provide advantage, there are doubtless extra costs incurred from home-working. We offer some tips and tricks to manage those outgoings and keep the balance sheet tilting upwards.
A key value of working from home is savings. From vending machines to lunchtime sandwiches, the working environment, and its quick fix accessibility lead to mounting costs that, as one-offs, is easy to dismiss. Take the humble lunchtime sandwich for example - at £3 per day, Monday to Friday, that's £60 per working month. Add a coffee in the morning and afternoon and a daily chocolate bar and that's easily £100 per month!
Factor in travel, newspapers and any other daily additions, and it can easily become an exponential financial drain. When working from home, these 'extras' can be either much better controlled or removed completely if you so desire. Aside from these more obvious budget savings, there are many other ways in which working from home can help the wallet.
Claiming Tax Relief
When working from home as an enforced measure, (even if just for a day) you may be entitled to claim for additional costs that working from home incurs.
Tax relief focuses on those costs that are not normally reimbursed by your employer, things like heating, lighting, calls related to business, and metered water bills are all subject to tax relief as is the bigger costs of mortgage, rent and council tax.
Please see here for further details on how to claim tax relief in 2021/22. Take a look at the 'Any Other Benefits' section as some will be entitled to further aid depending on circumstances.
One cautionary tidbit is to be very aware of the changing seasons when balancing the monthly budget - working from home will greatly exacerbate any increases in household fuel costs and this must be properly factored-in, even to the level of more cups of tea to keep warm, or that extra hour of heating. Each small thing will add up and you don't want to shoot yourself in the foot by not accounting for all the small things.
Tips for saving on equipment
'Saving' in this area is a bit of a misnomer because any cost is more than the £0 you would spend at work where all necessary equipment is provided.
This is therefore not a time to be proud or hesitant - be the first to ask for that extra monitor, chair, keyboard, laptop or whatever suits your own home working environment. The more comfortable and business-like your home working setup, the more likely you are to produce business-like results, and employers will most likely grant your requests.
Depending on your own type of business there is also no harm in simply asking for money to aid or cover these purchases, they can only say 'no' and you are ultimately doing this for them.
When making purchases to build your at-home network, take your time, it is very, very easy to spend hundreds on peripherals when a few considered purchases are all you need.
Energy is also another provision we in the modern world take as an assumption, but again, when working from home it is a cost that can easily sneak up if not managed.
A few simple tricks for keeping energy costs down may include:
- Dressing a little warmer in winter and turning the dial down one notch
- Only heat the space you are in
- Keeping tabs on excess lighting
- Turning electrics to 'Off' rather than 'Standby'
- Use natural light where possible
Heating is also very important to get right, so when considering the right temperature it is very important to still maintain comfort. This is one area not to skimp on as any illness from a damp environment is more likely to be detrimental to productivity, and of course to health and wellbeing.
There are many other ways to shave pennies and sometimes pounds from the outgoings ledger. With all these types of enquiry, you can usually find a website like MoneySavingExpert or MoneySupermarket, or at least a myriad of articles loaded with useful information. Continue to do your own searches as these areas continue to be researched and information and advice will continue to improve and change with the times.
With all this perhaps more obvious budgeting, it can be easy to overlook insurance as a potential money-saving avenue.
Take car insurance for example - something as simple as not using your car on a daily basis could mean that you could seek a lower premium from your provider. Some insurance brokers even offer money-back due to lower usage and it is always useful to examine these possibilities.
Home insurance must also be factored in to ensure that any new items are accounted for.
Food bills will of course increase when working from home and a little attention to sourcing cheaper options for your most bought foods and keeping a disciplined eye on any little luxuries can add substantially to your bottom line. Try to plan your meals in advance, making sure to factor-in any additional meals and snacks incurred as a result of working from home.
The New Home Working Landscape
Current and future working trends are beginning to take the lead from global business monoliths such as Google and Facebook, these companies utilise a balanced working model of 'at home' and 'in the workplace' usually in blocks of three and two, Monday to Friday. Added to this is the accessibility of weekend work when home-working and there are many options businesses may use going forward.
What does happen next will largely be influenced by the general consensus in two areas:
Face to Face Contact
One being the necessity for face to face contact and the capacity for 'in the moment' ideas. People are often more inspired and galvanized when working face to face, or just by being in the working environment. Also, bosses can be much more aware of their workforce efficiency in a bricks and mortar setting, whereas this is often substantially reduced in the online world.
Recent studies have shown that employees are more likely to contact established team members when working from home than new ones leading to weaknesses in business foundations and gaps in knowledge from newer or more inexperienced employees.
The second measure weighed in this paradigm is how we work as individuals when at home compared to in the office, and as a contrast to the previous study, individual working is actually shown to greatly improve when at home.
Purely on the basis of comparative productivity of repetitive tasks vs the more distracting office environment, home-working has been shown to be extremely efficient, one randomised study showed an efficiency improvement of 13%, most employees citing distraction and interruption as the primary reasons for this.
For many businesses, it will be a balance of interpreting business requirements and prioritising which of these categories they fall into for a greater period of their working hours.
The necessity of these recent hybrid working practices has opened the eyes of many businesses to the efficacy of a balanced approach, so going forward it is highly likely that many more roles will come with the stylised diversity of some at-home days and some in the office, aiming to get the most out of at-home task efficiency and the proven benefits of in-office inspiration and in-the-moment collaboration.
It seems that this idea sits well with employees too, a further study of 5000 workers across Britain has shown that the idea of 3 office days and 2 at home days inspires new motivation and a fresh expectation of daily working life. In fact, this was often described as a 'perk' and a monetary value ascribed of around 6% across the study.
This when translated into mentality demonstrates a pronounced willingness to sacrifice financial gain for variation and role diversity.
So what does this mean for us?
Well, new working life especially in larger cities is primed now to adopt some version of these working practices as the norm.
As a result, businesses will likely be splitting their workforces and trialling various shift patterns to find their own most efficient and practical model.
These efforts to maximise saved office expenditure and achieve the greatest efficiency and profit will see radical changes to working life as we know it, many roles are likely to change as businesses streamline and prioritise, and things gradually adapt to a new way of doing things.
This change will very likely see knock-on effects too, such as changes to house buying practices.
It is a logical assumption that many more employees will make the choice to live further away, judging that they do not need to be in the office as much and therefore costs are reduced and the laborious nature of commuting greatly minimised.
As this mentality progresses, development in suburbs and outlying areas of the countryside is likely to increase, changing the homeowners' landscape as we know it and padding villages and towns to greater size.
Another expected long term effect (drawn from current behavioural trends) is a reduced desire to be in crowded spaces, this will have far-reaching impacts on public transport and residential/business properties where lifts are a necessity, for example.
High rise buildings may be the greatest impacted, needing in the future to tailor more of their foot traffic to lower levels to alleviate the potential nervousness centred around people density, which again leads us back to the advantages of staggered working hours and a desire to establish an 'at home' workforce.
There is no doubt that the Covid 19 crisis has changed the upcoming landscape of the working world, some professions such as in-store sales will now return to normality, with no options to work from home, and post-pandemic buying surges now returning to a stabilised pattern, these roles will largely be unchanged.
For many of us however, our working life will forever be altered, the '9 to 5' as we know it will end as each business searches for its own optimal working structure.
As this occurs, new realities will emerge to greater define the topics mentioned here, and we would advise our readers to keep one eye on the pulse of the nation regarding these matters.
In one way or another, the impact of recent times will affect us all, whether directly changing our own working life, or more indirectly by changing the working methods of those companies we deal with on a daily basis, such as energy and insurance providers, or any changes to transport links we may use.
Gradually, a new expected normality will come to the fore but as the nation once again find its feet we advise keeping an eye on these developing and changing business practices, asking questions to chart your own path through daily necessities such as phone calls and their optimal timing, or the expected longer but reduced density of road traffic to navigate the daily chores or school run.
There isn't a one size fits all approach here, so we advise doing some research, focusing on the areas that best serve your own needs and optimise both your working and social engagements.