How to Avoid the Hidden Costs of Working From Home
Whether you are hustling from home as a freelancer or working for an employer who is embracing the benefits of allowing workers to telecommute, working from home can be a great way to save time and money. No commuting costs or hassles, more flexibility in your schedule, and all the comforts of home including the ability to throw in a load of a laundry between meetings. And digital communication technology means it’s easier than ever to work from home. In fact, a 2017 Gallup survey of more than 15,000 adults found that 43 percent of employed Americans said they spent at least some time working remotely.
But before you pack up your desk and trade in your high-powered heels for fuzzy house slippers, consider a few of the hidden costs on the flip side of the benefits and these tips on how to make it all work in your favor.
Full-time telecommuting is allowing many Americans to relocate to communities more suited to their lifestyle or closer to extended family rather than needing to live within a short drive of their employer. This can also equal hefty cost-of-living savings for those used to paying a premium to live in dense urban areas. Remember though that working from home means spending a lot more time in your house, and that kitchen table that has up until now doubled as your desk in your one-bedroom apartment may not cut it when you are working remotely full time. Especially if you share your space with roommates or family members, including the furry, four-legged variety who love to sit on your laptop. To do your best work, you need a dedicated office space, and space comes at a premium.
Thankfully, having the flexibility to live just about anywhere means you can choose to live someplace where real estate is less costly and adding an extra room won’t hurt your budget. But if adding a home office is going to raise your rent or mortgage, set up that room to pull double duty outside of office hours as a guest room or a work space for your weekend projects. You could even rent out the extra room from time to time to cover the cost, or you can just move to Vermont.
Giving Your Home the Office Treatment
Skipping the commute to an office is a significant money saver if you would otherwise be driving or taking public transit to work. But don’t forget that one of the reasons companies are opening up to telecommuting is it decreases their overhead costs. Which means some of those costs get passed on to you, primarily in the form of utilities.
Being an effective remote worker in most jobs requires you to have reliable, high-speed internet, which sadly is still not available in many corners of America. And if your home is typically unoccupied during the day, you may be shocked at the added cost of heating or cooling your home around the clock or running the added lights and electronics needed for your home office.You can avoid utilities pitfalls by checking for the availability of high-speed internet service before you relocate someplace remote, giving your home a once over to plug up air leaks that can drain your heating and cooling budget unnecessarily, and getting smart about lowering your energy usage.
If you are in the habit of eating out rather than brown-bagging it, working from home will certainly help you curb your lunch budget. However, are you the one in your office most likely to be found hovering around the free bagels and helping herself to that third coffee? If so, you may be unprepared for how much you are about to start spending on drinks and snacks.
Good coffee and treats are crucial fuel for any hard worker, and you don’t want to shortchange yourself at home. Save money by approaching this like any good office manager; buy in bulk. Many coffee companies offer rewards programs for repeat purchase, or you can get a coffee subscription so there’s always a delicious brew on hand.
If you yearn for the comfort and flexibility of the work from home life and want to save money too, it’s possible to have it all. With a little forethought into preparing your home and your budget, you can recreate the benefits of office life in your own home without breaking the bank.