Brits give up working from home as heating bills soar

“There comes a time when energy bills go up[d] so high that it would be cheaper to get to work than to heat your home during the day, and for some people that will be enough to trigger a return to work,” said Sarah Coles, senior personal finance analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown .

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LONDON — High heating bills and the prospect of working in a cold, uncomfortable home this winter could soon push more Britons back to work.

Seven in 10 (14%) of 2,000 people surveyed plan to spend more time working from the office to reduce home energy bills, according to research from price comparison site MoneySuperMarket. This figure rises to nearly a quarter (23%) when looking at 18 to 24 year olds.

The UK’s annual energy price cap is set to rise to more than £3,500 ($4,131) this year and an energy poverty charity is urging the government to take action “as a matter of urgency” to solve the problem.

Energy consultancy Auxilione estimates the price cap, currently at £1,971 a year, could rise to £6,089 next April as Britain’s cost of living crisis deepens. The price cap essentially limits how much a supplier can charge for its tariffs, but that limit has recently increased due to rising wholesale prices, meaning Britons have seen their bills soar.

Meanwhile, around one in seven working adults in the UK worked from home between April 28 and May 8, according to the Office for National Statistics. That number could change as bills rise, according to Matt Copeland, head of policy and public affairs at the charity National Energy Action.

“Massive increases in energy bills coming in October and January will have workers thinking about how they can cut costs. They may prefer to use their office energy rather than their own” , Copeland told CNBC.

Sarah Coles, senior personal finance analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, may also see workers choosing to return to the office as bills soar.

“There comes a time when energy bills go up[d] so high that it would be cheaper to get to work than to heat your home during the day, and for some people that will be enough to trigger a return to work,” she said.

The cost difference between working from home and commuting to the office also largely depends on the mode of transportation, Coles said.

“Someone taking a commuter train into London will face much higher costs than someone taking the bus locally. At the same time, someone in a modern flat will have costs of much less heating than a person in a large, drafty Victorian house.” Coles told CNBC.

Those commuting to work by train typically spend £136 a week on their journey, while car costs average £80 a week, according to data from 2021.

Incidental expenses

The expenses associated with being in the office don’t stop at the commute either, and huge amounts of money can be saved by working from home.

“There’s also everything from work wardrobe to lunches, coffees and incidental expenses that come with traveling during the day. All of that needs to be factored into your calculations,” Coles said.

Better work-life balance and productivity are two of the main reasons people have continued to work from home now that most offices have reopened, and those conveniences may continue to outweigh the added cost of heating rooms. homes, Coles told CNBC.

“Those who choose to work from home will have decided that it’s best for them, whether it’s because they have family responsibilities, work better at home, or have a locked-in dog they don’t want. not quit,” Coles said.

“For them, even if it becomes more expensive to stay at home, the other issues may mean they choose to stay at home,” she said.

This year there has been an increase in hybrid arrangements – working from home and regularly visiting an office – with 24% of people doing both between April 27 and May 8, according to ONS data.

“If people spend every day in an uncomfortable, cold home, the prospect of a warm office without worrying about extra bills could tip the scales,” Coles said.

hard choices

The configuration of working parents is increasingly influenced by the rising cost of living, according to Mandy Garner, editor of WM People, an online platform promoting best practices and diversity in the workplace.

“Our annual survey that we come [analyzing] shows that while working from home is definitely something many still want, pay has now become the most important thing for many indebted parents, but there are other concerns,” Garner said.

“For example, the availability of childcare is a growing issue for many and some wraparound care, particularly childcare for children with special needs, has not returned to normal,” a- she declared.

Meanwhile, National Energy Action is calling on the UK government to offer more support to the people making these decisions.

“To stop people making tough choices, the UK government urgently needs to upgrade the energy bill support scheme and work with the regulator to introduce a social tariff,” Copeland told CNBC.

The Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy responded to CNBC’s request for comment with the following statement.

“We know the pressures people are facing with rising costs, which is why we have continuously taken action to help households by phasing in £37billion of support,” a spokesperson said. .

‘We are giving a £400 rebate on energy bills this winter and eight million of the most vulnerable households will get an extra £1,200 in help,’ they said.

“Although no government can control global gas prices, more than 22 million households are protected by the price cap which continues to protect households from even higher prices,” the statement concludes.

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