Since the Covid-19 pandemic, many people in the UK have begun working from home regularly, but with soaring energy prices this winter, many will be contemplating how to manage the additional costs of working in their own homes.
In conjunction with Which? we’ve found a number of ways consumers can make savings while working from home, as well as some considerations for those who are hybrid working.
1. Claim tax relief when working from home
If you work from home for all or part of the week, you might be able to claim tax relief on additional household costs related to your work. Tax relief rules were relaxed during the Covid-19 pandemic when most workers were told to work from home. If you haven’t claimed tax relief from working from home during the 2020-21 or 2021-22 tax years, you should still be able to claim back £60 per year if you’re a basic rate taxpayer or £125 per year if you’re higher-rate.
However, for 2022-23, the loophole has been closed, meaning fewer people will be eligible to claim. You can still claim if your job requires you to live far away from the office, or if your employer doesn’t have an office. You can either claim tax relief on £6 a week from 6 April 2020 or the exact amount of extra costs you’ve incurred above the weekly amount – but you’ll need evidence such as receipts, bills, or contracts.
You can claim expenses on costs related to your work such as business calls and travel for business trips. If you’re self-employed, you can deduct these costs from your annual profits detailed on your self-assessment tax return. If you’re employed, you can only recoup costs via a tax return if your employer hasn’t already repaid you the money.
2. Ask your employer if they can provide equipment
Check with your employer about the equipment you need to be able to work from home. If you work from home regularly you might need a monitor or laptop stand to work comfortably – or additional furniture. Your workplace might have policies in place that allow you to borrow equipment from the office, or have schemes to contribute towards the cost of new equipment, including desks and chairs.
See how much budget is available for new equipment – Which? has found home office chairs tend to cost anywhere from £100 up to almost £600, and found good and bad models at both ends of the price spectrum.
3. Save what you’d usually spend at work
If you regularly work from home, consider putting aside what you would otherwise spend on commuting, lunch or coffees into a savings account instead. The Bank of England’s recent base rate rises mean that the savings rates being offered by many banks and building societies are more competitive than they were several months ago.
Zopa, Skipton Building Society and Marcus by Goldman Sachs were recently made Which? Recommended Providers for savings, based on Which?’s expert product analysis, and how customers rated them in areas including their customer service and online and telephone banking.
4. Use your heating controls effectively
Using heating controls effectively can be a useful way to lower your energy bills. It’s all about trying to keep the parts of your home you’re actually in at a comfortable temperature, without wasting heat anywhere else. If you’ve got valves on your radiators, get into the habit of adjusting them when you go in and out of rooms.
For example, you might want your living room warm but your bedrooms cold during the day. Your boiler will be working less hard and using less gas if it’s not heating as much of your central heating network.
5. Use smaller appliances to cook your meals
Using smaller kitchen appliances such as a slow cooker, microwave or air fryer to cook your meals can often be cheaper to run than an oven, completing the same cooking task with less energy. A microwave can be used for everything from quickly steaming vegetables to baking potatoes, while combi microwaves with built-in convection ovens are even more versatile.
An air fryer can make tasty fried food with less oil, and uses less energy. A slow cooker is on for many hours at a time, but as it uses such a small amount of energy in comparison to a hob or oven, in the end it works out more economical. Just like with an oven though, don’t be tempted to keep peeking at your dinner. Keep the lid on to avoid reducing the temperature and wasting energy.
6. Switch broadband and mobile provider
At the end of broadband and mobile phone contracts, Which? suggests switching providers and deals as an easy way to save money. When customers become ‘out of contract’, providers often increase the price of their broadband deal – and the jump can be as large as 90 per cent.
In some cases, switching could save hundreds of pounds per year. Which? research found that broadband customers who switch away from the ‘big four’ providers (BT, Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin Media) typically save hefty amounts on their annual broadband bill – as much as £190. Customers with a TV and broadband package can save even more – over £200. Switching mobile providers also netted customers an average annual saving of £40, with customers leaving O2 and Three making the largest savings on average.
7. Flexible train travel
If you have moved to hybrid working and travel to the office by train, it is worth considering a flexi season ticket. Which? found that some routes will see bigger discounts than others. Commuting from St Albans to London for two days a week will cost you £1,823 over the year with flexi tickets.
That’s 46 per cent less than a £2,128 annual season ticket. Flexi season tickets are only available in England but other networks offer discounts for those only travelling into the office a couple of days a week. For example, ScotRail sells a flexipass where you can save 15 per cent by making 10 single journeys or five return journeys on the same route within 60 days.
8. Weigh up whether it’s cheaper to work from home or your workplace
Not everyone will have the opportunity to choose whether they work from home or go into their workplace. However, if you do have this flexibility, you could try and weigh up which option is cheaper. If you have a smart meter, look at your typical energy use for a day of working from home compared to when you go to the office. Compare it with how much you would spend on commuting to work, buying lunch when you’re at work, and any additional expenditures.
9. Explore home grants
Energy schemes and grants are available to help pay your energy bills or to support you with the costs of renewable heating. The Warm Home Discount is available to those who get certain benefits (£140 increasing to £150 in October 2022).
Those born before 26 September 1955 can claim Winter Fuel Payment of between £100 and £300 per winter. Check the benefits calculator from the charity Turn To Us, or the government’s Help For Households campaign, to see what support you are entitled to. Energy companies also have their own hardship funds you may be able to access.
Says Danielle Richardson, Which? Money Expert:
“With energy bills on the rise, many of us will be worried about our energy usage this winter – particularly if you work from home regularly.
“If you have the flexibility to choose how often you go to the office – consider how much you spend on commuting versus working from home. If your workplace doesn’t have an office, you might be able to claim tax relief on the cost of working from home. If you had to work from home during the pandemic, you could also claim.”