Majority of office workers heading back to workplace amid rising energy prices, study suggests

Experts highlight ‘balancing act’ between cost of working from home and commuting as a quarter of respondents lament lack of cost of living support from employer

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A surge of workers are planning to head back to the office this winter in a bid to keep energy costs down at home, research has shown. 

A survey by Instantprint, which polled more than 1,000 respondents, revealed that more than four in five (85 per cent) employees found the idea of working from the office more appealing amid the cost of living crisis. 

Nearly half (45 per cent) of respondents said they would be more likely to commute into the office to alleviate the impact of high energy bills, with 15 per cent claiming they would choose to work from the office for the whole of winter. 

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It comes as typical household energy bills are expected to rise to £3,459 a year from 1 October, when the new price cap is introduced, while rising petrol prices and train fares also make the commute more expensive for many. 

Commenting on the findings, Gemma Dale, lecturer at Liverpool John Moores University and co-founder of The Work Consultancy, said this was unsurprising and emphasised that working from home has many advantages, one of which is eliminating the commute, therefore saving money on transport expenses. But, she added, employees will have to start figuring out how much it will cost them to work from home versus going into the office. 

“There are compromises to be made here; we know employees value the extra time from not commuting and the reduction of commuting-related stress, so this is part of the balancing act that employees will need to undertake, which is naturally going to vary from employee to employee,” she said. 

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The report also found that the large number of workers making their return to the office may pose a problem for employers, with 15 per cent of offices not equipped to handle a full team. 

Moreover, a quarter (24 per cent) of employees said they felt their employer could be supporting them more during the cost of living crisis, while three-quarters (73 per cent) stated that employers should be doing more to support their workers with rising energy prices, with four per cent admitting they weren’t being supported at all. 

Gemma Bullivant, HR coach and consultant, said the research reinforced how dynamic the shift in working practices was and how important it was to get the balance right for individuals. She added that the approach to being in the office versus from home needed to be clear: “What is the company’s stance on this? Does this align with the messaging and working practices, and how does the infrastructure support this?”

Bullivant said there had now been enough time for businesses to confirm a more definitive stance on their approach to hybrid working to ensure that this stance is reflected in day-to-day operations and to ensure that the infrastructure is suitable for supporting this stance.  “Organisations that get this right can add a significant lever to their total reward proposition,” she said. 

Charles Cotton, senior performance and reward adviser at the CIPD, added: “Despite the cost increases already endured by many employers, the CIPD is still encouraging HR professionals to help their organisations explore what steps they can take to assist their people over this difficult period.

“Research finds that as a proportion of their budget, low-waged households spend a lot of their earnings on housing, utilities, commuting, food and childcare, so employers should look at what support they can give in these areas.”