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Brits working from home due to COVID pandemic are spending less

Almost half (46%) of those surveyed said they spent less as a result of working from home. Photo: Getty
Almost half (46%) of those surveyed said they spent less as a result of working from home. Photo: Getty

UK employees working from home due to coronavirus restrictions and flexible measures are spending less, new data has shown.

According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS) on Monday, there has been consistently lower spending on debit and credit cards when a higher proportion of people said they were working from home.

Between 19 and 30 January this year, 36% of working adults reported having worked from home at least once in the last seven days due to the ongoing health crisis.

This proportion has increased slightly in recent weeks but is below the peak recorded from 11 to 14 June 2020, during the first lockdown, when nearly half (49%) of all workers worked from home due to stricter measures.

Almost half (46%) of those surveyed said they spent less as a result of remote working. A similar proportion of homeworkers reported spending less when interviewed in November (49%), the ONS said.

This also compared to around a third (32%) of those who are self-employed and worked from home.

Chart: ONS
Chart: ONS

Half (50%) of those surveyed said they were spending less on fuel and parking for commuting, while two fifths (40%) reported spending less on commuting using public transport.

Very few people who worked from home reported that their spending on food stayed the same. A third (33%) said they spent more on food since working from home, and 34% said they had spent less.

However, the area where homeworkers most commonly saw spending increase was utility bills, where 86% reported their spending had risen.

This reflects higher power and heating bills as workers spend time at home that would usually be spent in their place of work.

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Earlier this month it was revealed that UK household energy bills will rise £693 ($940) to £1,971 in April after energy regulator Ofgem announced a 54% energy price cap increase amid soaring oil and gas prices.

Those on default tariffs paying by direct debit will see an increase of £693 from £1,277 to £1,971 per year, on average. Households who use prepay meters will see an increase of £708 from £1,309 to £2,017.

The move will affect 22 million households that are on a default ‘standard variable’ tariff, over which the price cap sets a ceiling

The new level, which comes into force on 1 April and lasts for six months, is the highest since the cap on energy bills was introduced. It also exceeds average bills going back to 2009, according to official data on domestic electricity and gas costs.

In addition to this, the ONS said on Monday that almost a quarter of people working from home (24%) spent more on the internet.

Around 9 in 10 homeworkers who live in rented housing (92%) saw a spending increase on utilities, compared with 86% of those who are currently paying a mortgage, and 77% of homeworkers who own their home outright.

Read more: UK energy price cap to rise 54% to £1,971

Homeworkers with dependent children are slightly more likely to report increased spending on food (39%), utilities (89%), and internet access (27%) than those without dependent children (29%, 85% and 23% respectively).

No change in spending was more common amongst homeworkers without dependent children than homeworkers with dependent children.

"The cost-of-living crisis is going to hit even harder when we go back into the workplace. About one in three people were working from home at least one day a week in late January, which has cushioned the blow of some price rises," Sarah Coles, senior personal finance analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said.

"Around half of them have noticed their spending has dropped, but millions of people have no idea that homeworking could be saving them money, so they could be in for a nasty shock when they go back to the office.

She added: "There are plenty of people who have been desperate to return to the office, for whom any extra cost is a price worth paying. But before you get back to the workplace, go back to your budget and work out how you will afford the extra costs.”

Watch: Cost of living: One in five cutting back on gas and electricity use amid inflation squeeze