As we all know, the COVID-19 pandemic has completely transformed the concept of working from home. Many workplaces are still allowing employees to do at least a few “work-from-anywhere” days per week, and some offices are even going completely virtual. While there are many benefits to working away from the traditional office, there may be some hidden costs as well! Read on for a rundown of the unexpected costs of working from home.
Digital technologies are probably the most essential of all your work-from-home tools. It’s not just about having a laptop computer and a WiFi connection: being an effective employee often necessitates a full-sized desktop with plenty of hard drive space, up-to-date software, and of course – a good set of headphones for all those Zoom calls. A comfortable keyboard, advanced anti-virus software, and external camera can also make a big difference in providing a seamless day in the digital office. Ultimately, your digital needs will depend on what your job entails, but be sure to set aside a good amount of your work-from-home budget to accommodate.
Working from home means losing out on many employees’ favorite workplace benefit – free snacks and coffee! While it’s nice to imagine that you’ll pop into your kitchen to prepare a fresh and nutritious snack three times per day, the reality is that when cravings hit, a fast and accessible snack is what you need. Nuts and dried fruit are always a good choice, but save some of your budget for a few sweet and salty treats as well, and of course, for coffee, tea and afternoon soft drinks. Finally, while your overall food budget might go down due to fewer lunches out, it’s also true that feeling obligated to cook a lunch every day can be taxing. There’s nothing wrong with ordering delivery or going out for lunch as a work-from-home employee – just be sure to budget for it ahead of time.
Outfitting your Office
Furnishing your home office is about making the space both practical, and pleasant. The first step is necessary furnishings like a desk and chair, shelves, filing cabinets and so on. See what’s available secondhand online, or ask your office what’s available for employees to take home. Then, think about how to make the space aesthetically pleasing: which can make a big difference in keeping you focused and feeling your best when working from home. Budget for floor or desk lamps to create nice mood lighting, plants for a bit of greenery, and some art pieces for the wall. Having a few little touches that reflect your personality will contribute to the mood of your home office and look great during those inevitable Zoom calls.
Working from home means an extra body in the house all day long, which could result in an increase in your utilities, including water, electricity, and heating. Your internet bill could go up as well, if you find yourself needing to switch to a plan offering faster speeds. Hopefully, some of the cost of more utility usage will be offset by the lack of a traditional commute. If you do notice bills creeping up due to daytime presence at home, consider less energy-intensive methods of cooling and heating your home office. Box fans are surprisingly effective for the summer, and during the winter, a portable heater, a rubber hot water bottle, or just putting on more layers can be a big help.
Motivation and Professional Growth
Some employees are more motivated than ever while working from home, while other people may find it difficult to stay on task without an office of colleagues around them. Moreover, doing a job from home often means there is less inclination to take on extra projects – which can become a problem if your company bases raises and promotions even partially on proactive employee engagement. In this case, losing motivation can mean losing the chance at a higher salary. To combat a potential lack of motivation while working from home, try arranging daily catch-up hours with friends or colleagues, so that you’ve got accountability buddies to keep you on the right track toward your professional and financial goals.