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Will working from home survive the energy crisis?

Published on: 20 Sep 2022

In 2020, millions of people across the UK shifted from office workers to remote workers overnight due to the COVID-19 pandemic. During that time, workers enjoyed a better work/life balance as they did not have to deal with the daily commute into the office due to lockdowns that were happening across the world. 

As the world made its way out of the COVID-19 pandemic, the demand for gas and electricity, leading to millions of households paying more for their energy bills. The rise in energy bills is partly driven by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has led to workers wanting to commute back to their warmer offices over working remotely.

Prime Minister Liz Truss recently announced plans to freeze energy bills at an average of £2,500 a year for two years. While the news offers some respite to households wondering if they’ll be able to keep their homes warm, which may lead to workers working from the office, rather than at home.

Will working from home survive the energy crisis

Photo: Mike Harris, Unsplash

With the cost-of-living crisis showing no signs of slowing down, will millions of people who were working remotely come back into the office? Our piece looks at if the working from home model will survive the energy crisis, in particular how many people are working remotely and the costs of both models.

Why is there an energy crisis in the UK?

The energy crisis in the UK is driven by the global recovery in the COVID-19 pandemic, in which demand for gas increased. With the sheer demand for gas, there was a shortage of natural gas, leading to gas prices increasing in 2021. 

This was exacerbated by renewables producing less power, which meant households had to turn their heating up during the winter. The increase in gas prices in 2021 led to nearly 30 UK energy suppliers going bankrupt last December. 

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine earlier on in 2022 has also seen gas prices continue to increase. Russia is one of the largest oil and gas producers in the world, supplying 40% of its gas to the European Union in 2021.


How many people are working from home in the UK right now?

Data from the Office for National Statistics revealed that the number of people that worked at home had more than doubled from 4.7 million to nearly 10 million in 2022. Scotland saw the biggest percentage increase in remote workers in the UK, which was nearly 204% over that period.

Breaking the data down to a regional level, London came out on top with the number of remote workers in the UK with 1.9 million remote workers. South East England came second with 1.6 million, followed by the East of England with 903,000. Northern Ireland had the lowest number of remote workers in the UK with 137,000. 

The cost of working from home

To get a true picture of the costs of working from home and working from the office, we’ll look at the costs for both and compare them between each other. The costs of working from home and the office vary between one worker to another, which is worth bearing in mind when looking at the costs of both working models.

It’s expected that remote workers in the UK will have to pay more for their energy bills than office workers. Analysis from price comparison site uSwitch found that remote workers used 75% more gas per day and 25% more electricity than office workers. If your household has a home office, then it can be expensive as it requires more energy to heat your home.

If you use everyday household appliances, such as the kettle and microwave, they can all add up on your energy bill. Working from home will see those appliances being used more often, particularly if you have to care for your children in the house.

The cost of working at the office

When it comes to the cost of working at the office, there are other costs you need to consider. If you find yourself going into the office five days a week over working from home, then it requires you to spend a considerable amount on childcare and commuting.

While office working can be cheaper than remote working in some aspects, it’s also expensive in other areas, such as commuting and childcare. Childcare costs in the UK are among the most expensive in Europe. 

A survey from children’s charity Coram highlighted that the average cost of part-time childcare (25 hours) for a child aged two years old in the UK is £7,210 per year (£138.70 per week). In terms of the cost of full-time childcare for a two year old child (50 hours), it’s £14,030 per year, which is more than paying for part-time childcare.

Childcare is not the only expense that comes with office working, but also buying breakfasts, lunches and hot drinks for your fellow work colleagues. If you go into the office, then you may find yourself making unnecessary purchases you would otherwise not buy when working from home.  

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With the energy crisis showing no signs of abating any time soon, it may force remote workers to consider working in the office to save money on their energy bills. We hope this piece will help you weigh up your options when it comes to choosing how you want to work, whether that’s at home or in the office.

Looking to make your next career move and secure your dream job? Check out our latest job listings and careers advice on the ICAEW Jobs website today.