An expenditure double-edged sword faced by millions of homeworkers was revealed on Monday in a survey by the UK's Office for National Statistics.
Since the emergence of coronavirus and its attendant restrictions, nearly 60 per cent of UK employees have at some stage worked from home, statistics website Finder.com says.
Data shows homeworking is no temporary phenomenon. Finder.com figures suggest a hefty 26 per cent of people in Britain intend to continue working from home on either a full of part-time basis.
While office footfall has crept up with the lifting of UK Covid restrictions in recent weeks, it is nowhere near pre-pandemic levels.
Figures released on Monday by flexible office space provide IWG show a mere 17 per cent in office footfall over the past three months.
The ONS survey also analysed the economic case for homeworking.
Forty-six per cent of homeworking respondents said they spent less in the period monitored at the beginning of the year, with only 18 per cent reporting spending more.
The homeworking expenditure dilemma
However, another data set in the survey shows the economic case for homeworking is not quite as watertight as might be first assumed.
While many respondents were saving on commuting costs, 86 per cent were spending more on utilities.
Given the rapidly escalating cost of energy, these increases are unlikely to be insignificant – although clearly not enough to outweigh high commuting costs with the UK government having increased average rail prices by 3.8 per cent in 2022, the largest fare rise since 2013.
Even if people want to go into an office sporadically, they would rather it were local to avoid higher commuting costs.
The trend was welcomed on Monday by IWG chief Mark Dixon.
"2022 will see the highest level of growth that we've seen in many years, not just in the UK, but worldwide, as we add more places to work close to where people live," he told Sky News.
More homeworking, less retail spending
Further to its survey findings, the ONS compared the UK card payments index to the Google Workplace Mobility Index for the UK throughout the course of the pandemic. It found the two indices were correlated.
The less mobility-less expenditure nexus is somewhat surprising given the ONS survey showed that homeworkers were 24 per cent more likely to spend money on the internet.
It is probably down to the ONS classifying internet spending as digital-only spending. This criterion means Amazon is included but shops with a dual online and physical presence are not – even if their produce was purchased digitally.
Regardless, the trend for people to spend less when moving about less is too pronounced to be a mere quirk of data collection.
Figures released on Monday by retail data firm Springboard provide more corroboration.
Across UK retail destinations, footfall rose by 2.2 per cent in the week beginning February 6 from the week before.
During the same period, Springboard's Central London Back to the Office benchmark was in line with that of Central London as a whole, rising by 3 per cent from the week before.
"Footfall rose across all types of town centre last week, with an acceleration in the increase in footfall in city centres outside of London accompanied by a lesser uplift in footfall occurred in Central London," said Diane Wehrle, insights director at Springboard.
"In part this is likely to be driven by employees outside of the capital heading back into their offices to a greater degree than in previous weeks."