UK Energy Crisis: Will It Boost Work from Home Prospects?

Written by Steven Marwick
Author

The UK energy crisis is seeing business and consumer costs rise at the fastest rate in living memory and is causing both consumers and companies alike some serious financial hardship. 

One of the questions that the energy crisis is posing for businesses is whether they want to continue to light and heat expensive offices when they could have their employees working from home instead and costing them much less money.

A 424% increase in gas prices and 349% rise in electricity prices since February 2021 is causing many small businesses to consider whether it is worth their while to continue trading and many fear that they will not be able to survive the Winter. Instead of lighting and heating huge business premises, it makes sense to support a move toward remote work where employees are receptive to this.  

UK Energy Crisis vs Remote Work

Many of the big media websites are posing questions about whether working from home might be killed off by the energy crisis, as costs mount for home energy bills. Most of them fail to adequately take into account the offset between home energy costs and commuting costs and sustenance for office jobs. 

Many people with office jobs have to commute to them and this can cost hundreds of pounds each month. Many people who suddenly found themselves working from home during the Covid-19 pandemic realised that they were saving a huge amount each month when compared to their previous expenses. 

This is also true of food. Many city centre food and drink shops can cost a fortune when taken over the course of the month and suddenly making these savings showed many workers how much money they were wasting by being based in the office. 

Many people who have office jobs will spend at least as much money attending a job in person as they would do by running their heating and appliances a little extra during the working day at home, even taking into account the exorbitant energy tariffs currently being applied because of the UK energy crisis. 

Saving Money When Working Remotely During UK Energy Crisis

One of the easiest ways to save some money when working remotely is to take your laptop to a coffee shop for an hour or two per day. For the cost of a coffee, you can plug in your laptop and phone and charge them for the rest of the day, thereby saving you the cost of electricity at home. You will also spend a couple of hours sitting in a warm environment with a hot drink and cut down on your heating costs at home at the same time. Most cafes, particularly the big chains, haven’t taken to clamping down on this as yet, though it may come if the UK energy crisis tightens further.

If you are cold when working from home, despite wrapping yourself in multiple layers of clothing, rather than turning on your heating at an extortionate rate, consider buying a high-quality electric blanket to wrap yourself in. There are some that come with a ten-minute timer so you can get completely warm but only spend ten-minutes worth of electrical energy for one device as opposed to using an entire gas heating system to heat your home for the same amount of personal warmth.

Use a large thermos flask so that you don’t need to heat water as often for tea and coffee. This can save a surprising amount of energy over the course of a month. Other things that can be done are making sure that any lights that aren’t needed are off and any plug switches are off as well. Large TVs in standby mode can use 50% as much electricity as if they were on and active, so make sure they are properly off and not on standby mode when they aren’t in use.

Co-Working Membership

Consider asking your employer to pay for or subsidise membership of a local co-working space for you. A co-working space is like an office environment where you can walk in and start to work from a hot desk. Monthly memberships of these can be pretty reasonable and will allow you to work from a well-equipped office environment that is closer to where you live, while also saving your employer the costs associated with having you in the office. 

It will also save you heating and other energy costs that you would normally accrue when working from home, so this may be a good halfway house for all concerned. Your boss may be more willing to have you work from a proper office-type environment than from your home, even if it is a remote location that isn’t on-site for the company. 

Businesses Determined to End Remote Working

All of this works until you come up against a business that is determined to end remote working and reintegrate all of the staff back into the office environment. There does seem to be an irrational need in some workplaces to ensure that employees come back to work within their physical office space, even if this costs more to implement. 

It is possible that those businesses who are determined to end remote working and precipitate a full-scale return to the office may try to use the energy crisis to further their agenda but those who are more forward-thinking will be taking advantage of the increased office energy prices and the UK energy crisis to restructure how they run their business and where the majority of their employees are based. In terms of cutting business costs, encouraging employees towards remote work is an excellent and financially viable solution for many businesses.

Before the pandemic, many companies didn’t have the infrastructure in place in terms of equipment and training, but now there are many people who are familiar with Zoom and Teams calls and most businesses will have provided staff with laptops and relevant equipment to do their jobs from home. 

Due to the “Great Resignation” of 2021/22, many employers are having to focus more on happy staff and retaining the staff that they already have. This may swing things toward more remote working going forward, with all the benefits that it brings and the possibility of employee incentives such as paid workations.

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