Kirsty McLuckie: Working from home? The heat is on...

At the beginning of February 2020, just before Covid-19 hit, it was estimated that just under 5 per cent of the UK population worked from home.

After various lockdowns across Britain, not everyone returned to the office, and now the share of those who carry out their jobs largely in their own homes in the UK is about 15 per cent. And even more operate on a hybrid model, where they are working from home (WFH) for part of the week.

There are many advantages to WFH, but the two biggest have to be an improved work/life balance and avoiding the cost of daily commuting.

However, according to analysis from comparison site Uswitch.com, the financial benefits of being able to WFH could be about to disappear. And, with energy prices about to go through the roof this winter, putting your heating on during the day so you can type away in the comfort of a cosy home office will be a luxury too far for many.

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Full-time WFH-ers are estimated to increase their daily gas use by 75 per cent if they put the heating on for an extra ten hours a day during the coldest months, while electricity use can rise by 25 per cent as they make more meals and drinks at home.

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From January, the price cap is predicted to rise to £5,386, meaning that the average household will be paying £580 per month for their energy. For those working from home, this could reach £789 – or an extra £209 per month.

Which means if you can commute into the office for less than £50 a week, you’d be quids in, providing you can turn down the thermostat at home from 8am to 6pm.

Ben Gallizzi, energy expert at Uswitch.com, said: “Working from home during the colder months of the year is obviously going to be more expensive, as employees are likely to need their heating on during the day.

“Not only do people working from home use more energy staying warm, they are also cooking lunch and making cups of tea, as well as running computers, TVs and phone chargers.

“The amount of extra energy home workers use will vary, but for workers who don’t have an expensive commute, working from the office is likely to be more economical this winter.”

If it is purely a financial calculation, that is likely to be true, although many families will have to factor in considerations such as longer child care hours or even dog walking fees if they opt to spend their working days in the office instead.

I would also add the additional costs of one’s wardrobe – certainly having to be dressed formally five days a week, rather than slouching around in jeans and jumpers, would take some level of investment around these parts.

With two home workers in our house, my other half and I are unlikely to break even by heading into our respective offices, not least as they are in different directions.

But heating the whole house is a luxury we cannot afford this winter. While thus far we have been very happily apart during working hours, both tucked away WFH in quiet corners of the house, it is likely that economy will drive us to muster laptops and phones into the same room – whichever is easiest to heat.

- Kirsty McLuckie is property editor at The Scotsman