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Published 22 May 2024
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6 minutes

The Hidden Costs of Working From Home

Working from home can bring a wealth of benefits, saving time and money compared with commuting. But homeworking can have unexpected consequences for your health, as well as your finances. We uncover the hidden costs of working from home and share tips on how to manage them.

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Love it or hate it, working from home is here to stay. In fact, more than a third of us would choose homeworking over a pay rise, according to research by consulting firm Global Workplace Analytics. 

Though many companies have chosen to transition to a hybrid working pattern, others are sticking with a remote-first approach, having found the shift to remote working (necessitated by COVID) to be a huge cost saver for their business.

Working from home can save employees hundreds or thousands of pounds each year, on train fares, petrol, parking and lunches, and solo business owners also benefit. 

However, working from home can negatively impact your wellbeing and finances if you aren’t careful. If you’re considering starting your own business, read on to consider whether homeworking is right for you.

The price of a ‘proper’ set-up

Employers may provide a budget for home-based staff to kit out their home office, enabling the purchasing of desks, chairs, screens and other equipment. But what if you’re self-employed? Many home office items are tax deductible, but quality furniture can be expensive. leaving small business owners scrambling to find the capital or searching for a small business loan.

Dina McDonald is the founder of Reset and Revive your Life, a holistic wealth and health business which combines financial coaching with yoga. McDonald stopped travelling to London in 2007 to work from home full time. She suggests solo business owners on a budget search for second-hand office furniture, since no one will see what you’re using if all your meetings are online. 

“It’s important to make sure that you’re comfortable, but it doesn’t matter what it looks like,” she says. “It doesn’t matter if you have an old desk or a secondhand chair, just make sure that ergonomically it works for you.”

Hidden health costs

Working from your sofa might save you money on office furniture, but it could be disastrous for your physical health and you may incur greater, more painful, expenses in the long term. 

“I’ve seen people working at the dining room table, or a kitchen table, dressing table, or sitting on the bed…it’s not great for your body,” says Nicolette Hayers, sports and remedial massage therapist who owns Swan Massage, based in Aylesbury. Hayers warns that spending hours on a laptop, anywhere, has risks. But with no reason to get up and walk to your next meeting, homeworking can make people much more sedentary.

Hayers frequently sees patients with a lot of shoulder or neck pain, for whom she recommends a weekly massage treatment at £55 per session. “The first month you’re looking at £150 to £200 to get you to a more comfortable level,” she says. With monthly sessions to reduce the risk of the pain returning, a year’s worth of treatment could total nearly £800. More serious complaints may require greater intervention. 

During her years spent working from home, McDonald suffered a frozen shoulder and carpal tunnel syndrome, due to “constant mouse work”. Both ailments were covered by private medical insurance through McDonald’s employer but for a solo business owner without insurance, steroid injections to relieve the pain of a frozen shoulder can cost up to £350 each, or more.

McDonald was also able to take six weeks off work to recover – something many sole traders cannot afford without paying for income protection. With this in mind, self-employed workers may wish to consider private medical insurance for peace of mind. Monthly premiums vary depending on factors such as your age, lifestyle, and whether or not you smoke. 

As well as challenges to our physical health, including eye strain, weight gain and heart problems, research suggests that working from home can put our mental health at greater risk, too. 

“A lot of people who choose to work from home are self-driven … but it can get lonely,” says McDonald. 

MindGym, a behaviour change consultancy, found that isolation as a result of working from home can increase the likelihood of depression and anxiety.

“We’re social creatures and interaction with other people is something that many solo business owners miss,” says Hayers. “Mental health problems can, in turn, negatively impact your motivation and ability to work, making it harder for freelancers to pay their bills.”

Bigger household bills

Spending all your working hours at home means you’re likely to use more energy and spend more on heating your home. This can be a worry for sole traders already concerned about the cost of their household energy.

However, it may be possible to claim a portion of your bills as business expenses, reducing the amount of tax you’ll need to pay on your Self Assessment. Visit to get clued up on what HMRC classes as allowable homeworking expenses for the self-employed.

If you’re struggling to keep up with payments to your gas and electricity provider, it’s worth looking into whether you’re eligible for government support with your energy bills.

6 ways to keep work-from-home costs under control

Image source: Getty Images

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