The elephant in the room, or perhaps the elephant in the office, is the impact that this transition will have on finances. After a year of working from home, people in the UK collectively saved £130 billion across the pandemic due to necessary reductions to everyday spending. This huge sum is due in part to the elimination of office working costs, which is, of course, set to return along with the physical workplace.
There are various factors that contribute to the costs of the daily office worker. In particular: the daily commute (the cause a number of different stresses), the cost of childcare, and even simple, unassuming things such as morning coffees and lunches. Any combination of these costs—for some people all of them—is a daunting aspect of the move back to the office, so unsurprisingly, nerves are beginning to rise with regards to the financial implications of the working day.
Whether you are commuting by car or by public transport, there are substantial costs involved. London commuters must reach especially far into their pockets during their journey to work—- according to a survey of London workers, conducted before the pandemic, around 30% of the respondents spent at least 20% of their net income on commuting. This financial stress is certainly not exclusive to Londoners – the average yearly cost of commuting across 9 of the main UK cities is £828, and the average yearly cost for London commuters is £1,416. Therefore, it is highly understandable that the return of these costs is causing anxiety.
Those with children have the added stress of childcare, which for many, will need to be suddenly sourced after over a year of being able to work from home. Although remote working did cause its own stresses, such as home-schooling —somehow managing to work whilst simultaneously looking after children, the return to the office comes with considerable childcare costs, which are causing increased stress levels for many working parents. Whilst childcare is nothing new, after all, finding childcare was a necessity before the pandemic started, the transition back to these costs, after a year of adapting and living without them, is a stressful and unpleasant change. In fact, according to Forbes, 62% of families reported having more concern about the cost of childcare than they did before the pandemic. After all, the cost of childcare is a significant one, and the abrupt return of these costs will certainly not be welcomed by any parent.
There is a very unsuspecting culprit among these financial burdens, one which finds its way into office life, often quite unnoticed. This offender is, curiously, the daily coffee. Many of us consider the morning coffee(s) as an imperative part of our day, and unsurprisingly, if the coffee is part of our daily ritual, the costs add up across the entire year. During the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns, this became less of an issue as we could reach into our kitchen cupboards for our coffees (and teas, hot chocolates, chai lattes—whatever your hot beverage of choice). However, the return to the office removes this convenience and forces many of us to resort to the considerably more expensive option —buying our coffee in the local café. It may surprise you to discover that, on average, people in Britain spend £2,160 every year on coffee (or £2,600 for the self-employed worker). The main reason for this extortionate amount, according to Marie Claire, is the office worker’s trip to the coffee shop. In fact, some employees said that their place of work even encouraged this practice.
The same principle applies to our working day lunch. Without the ability to make a sandwich at home, workers will now have to return to either taking in their own packed lunch (however, because of the reduction of personal time per day with the return to the office, this is not always possible), or buying lunch from the local café or deli. Again, these costs add up. According to The Telegraph, office workers spend more than £2,500 a year on lunch and snacks, and we spend an average of £10.59 a day on small food purchases during the work commute, such as coffees, snacks, and breakfasts – that’s roughly £2,753 across all the working weeks in one year. So, really, it is no wonder that people are feeling the pressure about the costs of returning to the office—these expenses add a significant strain to the transition.
There are ways in which you can combat some of these costs, such as taking time to make packed lunches for work, and bringing in coffee and tea from home if your office doesn’t supply it—provided your workplace has a kettle. However, these options are not possible for everyone, so alternative solutions could include bringing a set amount of cash to work specifically for food and drinks to budget your daily spending. We all know how easy it is to tap the contactless card without a second thought. If buying lunch out is your only viable option when you’re at work, perhaps opting for supermarket meal deals rather than heading to cafés could be a good way to limit your spending a bit more. Although a couple of pounds’ difference may not seem like a lot, this could help you save a significant sum of money across the whole year. Also there are now ways to separate and budget your spending through your banking app, which can help you keep track of what the daily office snacks are costing.
Keeping you posted, in the trilogy’s final article on Friday, we’ll discuss two major concerns around returning to the office affecting people’s mental health. Head to our Instagram and LinkedIn pages for more content surrounding World Mental Health Day this week, and if you are struggling with the return to the office, or with your mental health more generally, the below organisations are available to contact to help or offer further information.
Mind – Mind are a UK-based mental health charity who offer advice and support to anyone experiencing a mental health problem. Contact their helpline on 0300 123 3393, email email@example.com or visit their website for more information.
ACAS – for issues specifically related to the workplace, ACAS offer free impartial advice on employment rights, best practice and policies and resolving workplace conflict. Contact their helpline on 0300 123 1100 or visit their website for more information.
BEAT – BEAT is the UK’s leading eating disorder charity. If you are concerned about your relationship with food, contact their helpline on 0808 801 6770, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit their website for more information.
Samaritans – If you are struggling with suicidal thoughts, contact the Samaritans on 116 123 or visit their website for more information.
The Survivors Trust – If you have suffered sexual harassment at work, then contact The Survivors Trust for support on 08088 010818 or visit their website for more information.
Hub of Hope – if none of these organisations seem to be the right fit, visit the Hub of Hope, the UK’s leading mental health support database, to find the right mental health organisation for you.