What's the cost of going to work?

(This blog post is going to be UK specific, and biased towards jobs that I've personally done.)

How much does it cost to go to work in a physical office? I'm going to try and list all the things I have to pay for just in order to be able to show up. This ignores things I can claim back on expenses (although that's an issue if you don't have sufficient credit access).

Commuting is the big one. At one time, I was paying close to £4,000 for a train into work. I've since moved closer to work, but I still pay £2k - quite a hefty chunk of salary!

Eating out is another cost. I've worked in places with subsidised canteens. But they're still more expensive than bringing your own sandwiches from home. Of course, you're reliant on no one nicking them from the communal fridge.

Little extras. Buying doughnuts for the team. Popping out for a coffee and a chat. Team drinks after work. Putting money into a leaving card. All those little things which are sort of voluntary, but not really.

Clothing is surprisingly expensive. I've worked jobs where you had to buy the uniform from your employer. And I've worked in places where new starters turned up in expensive suits that they couldn't really afford. Nowadays I tend to wear jeans and a t-shirt regardless of whether I'm at home or at work. Women quite often face the burden of needing a range of "respectable" workware, shoes, and "professional" hair and make-up.

Depending on your industry, you may be required to "project wealth" by wearing jewellery like a fancy watch, gold cufflinks, or a tie-pin.

Generally speaking, none of these things can be expensed. And I don't think most of them can be claimed back on your tax return if you're an employee.

There's a whole range of costs which employers just assume their employees are willing & able to bear.

Lots of those cost are - I hope - disappearing.

My bet is that people will use that "extra" income to pay for home-office space. Rather than paying a few thousand on commuting, people will gravitate to homes with extra space for home offices. The savings from all the other sundry costs will offset the extra cost of heating and electricity. At least, that's my hope!

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10 thoughts on “What's the cost of going to work?”

  1. said on twitter.com:

    My local authority costing a seat in an office at around £4000 pa. This is in West Wales where costs aren't excessive. I would assume that London would be more expensive?
    If business can downsize and have less staff physically present daily that should reduce costs significantly.

    Reply | Reply to original comment on twitter.com
  2. Paul Leader says:

    I think there is the cost of housing too. A lot of people end up working somewhere significantly more expensive so that they can be nearer to their office. Without the need to be within some reasonable (whatever that means to them) distance/time/cost of commuting, a lot of people would live somewhere cheaper and either save money or have a nicer home.

    This gets particularly complicated when there are multiple people in the household who are having to make that same calculation for different offices. I think we have a lot of highly innefficient housing/office situations. I wonder how many people will end up moving considerably closer to one office as the other partner can now work from home and they no longer have to live in the halfway point. I lived in Swindon for a while just because it was part way between Bath and Oxford, we both hated the commute but it was the only option at the time.

    1. @edent says:

      That's sort of what we did. We moved to Oxford to be close to my wife's work. I spent a few days a week WFH and a few days on a rubbish commute.

  3. Sam Machin says:

    There's a risk though with some of these "Hybrid" concepts that companies are trotting out that you can have the worst of both worlds, still having to live in practical commute distance, maintain a good car, buy suits etc. for the 2-3 days in the office. But then also maintain a good home office, connectivity etc for the other half of the week. Yes some costs are incremental based on the number of days you're in an office but other limitations are fixed even if you only go in 1 day a week.
    Its 100% remote for me and I don't see anything that would change my mind on that.

  4. says:

    Worked and lived in London for 10 years, mostly living in a crappy zone 4 flat. Even that cost a fortune for the tube, close to £2,000 p/year!


What are your reckons?

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