Working from home saves households thousands of dollars

Workers in outer suburban areas are saving thousands of dollars in commuting costs by Melbourne’s working from home (WFH) rules:

Sandra Steven’s family has had four people working or studying from home during the COVID-19 pandemic, but she says that has been more relaxing than her usual long commutes to work from Melbourne’s outer south-east.

The software consultant would normally leave her house in Berwick about 7:00am and wouldn’t return home until about 6:00pm.

But that changed when she moved to working from home full-time because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Now I get to sleep in, I probably get up at 7:30am and am at work in the loungeroom by 8:00am,” she said.

“At lunch times I am sort of free to take my son on his scooter around the neighbourhood.”

And Ms Steven said when she finishes work at 4:30pm she is available straight away to spend time with her family, or help out around the house, because she no longer has a commute.

In the past, she has had travelled for up to 90 minutes each way to get to and from work.

“I am a lot less tired,” she said of her experience working from home.

Ms Steven said she now didn’t have the stress of juggling work and making sure she was able to pick her son up on time and she was saving money she would normally spend on petrol and buying lunches and coffee…

The National Growth Areas Alliance — a peak body representing councils in Australia’s outer suburb growth areas — commissioned a study into people working from home during the pandemic.

The study included a survey of more than 6,000 Australians and nearly 2,000 people from outer-suburban growth areas.

Executive officer, Bronwen Clark, said the study found more than half-a-million Australians living in outer suburbs could work from home after restrictions ease.

“That’s over 500,000 people off the roads, and not overcrowding trains and public transport, and they’re saving a lot of money every year,” she said.

“So on average someone from the outer suburbs commuting to work will spend nearly $8,500 per year just on transport.”

She said of the people surveyed from outer suburbs, more than half said they would like to continue working from home at least one day a week, after coronavirus restrictions ease.

She said working-from-home options had particular benefits for mums living in outer suburbs.

Having workers commute into CBDs to work behind computers is the major driver of congestion on both road and public transport networks, which greatly raises travel times (and costs), lowers productivity, and necessitates costly investments to expand capacity.

The benefits from WFH are obvious:

  • Time and cost savings from not having to commute;
  • Greater workplace flexibility, especially for parents;
  • Less congestion on roads and public transport systems;
  • Less need to invest in transport systems and office space;
  • Less transport emissions;
  • More incidental contact with family;
  • Dispersing economic activity away from CBDs; and
  • Opening up greater housing options (including regionally).

However, there are costs as well, including:

  • Less social contact;
  • Increased risk of job outsourcing;
  • Less mentoring opportunities for young staff; and
  • More air conditioners / heaters running (negating environmental benefits from lower transport emissions).

Nevertheless, WFH offers net benefits, especially for established workers seeking greater flexibility.

Given so many Australians now work behind internet-connected computers in ‘knowledge jobs’, there is less need to have workers travel to a central location every day on crowded roads, trains, busses and trams. This is both archaic and inefficient.

The WFH phenomenon is one of the few positive externalities to arise from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Leith van Onselen

Comments

  1. Totes BeWokeMEMBER

    Given the reason travel expenses can’t be claimed on tax is that everyone has them, this should change for those of us who still have to go to work……..Along with other allowances to make up for having to get out of our pajamas.

    If people don’t have to go to work, it’ll be found their jobs can be done from the Philippines at a tenth the rate.

    • Anyone who works in an office is/has always been at risk of being outsourced.
      If you think physically going into the office as apposed to WFH is going to save you then good luck.

      • nexus789MEMBER

        So we end as a society where fewer are fewer people earn to buy goods and services as their means of income has been outsourced. A spiral down to further collapse and poverty. Economics of the nuthouse.

    • reusachtigeMEMBER

      Yeah the Philippines is a great place to get cheap labour! And they do so much more for so much less

    • Some years ago now, I had to call ANZ and INGDirect to let them know I was traveling overseas so my cards would work.

      ANZ’s phone staff were located on the subcontinent. I was on the phone with the lady for 50 minutes. FIFTY MINUTES.

      I then called INGDirect, who’s staff was based outside of Sydney (yes, I asked). I was on the phone with the bloke for 7 minutes.

      Do you think ANZ assumed a greater than 7 times the length of time on the phone per simple request when they outsourced their call center? Do you think her cost to ANZ was under 1/7th the bloke outside of Sydney?Now, she haphazardly tried to sell me a number of services, which I shot down and insisted on responding to my request (which she did last), so no telling how long a less pushy customer would have spent on the phone.

      Now… IT outsourcing… very little cost savings there after you layer with onshore firms to mitigate risk and, and, and… then you’re left with a substandard product that’s more expensive to maintain.

      Outsourcing is definitely a risk to locals/a “cost saver” (in theory), but in many cases its a net looser, so “rural”sourcing I think is the real “risk” (which is a good thing if you ask me).

  2. Working from home saves households thousands of dollars that they use to pay down debt thus crushing the economy.
    Love it

  3. alwaysanonMEMBER

    I noticed I had heaps more money lately and worked it out:
    * Bus both ways ($3/each way or $6/day) – and that is when I didn’t take a $15 Uber when running late or can’t be bothered (at least once a week)
    * At least one coffee if not two – $5-$10 (had a nespresso machine and get the pods on sale for like $.40/each from supermarket sales now)
    * Lunch $10-$20 depending on where we go (now it is at most a few dollars of bread, cheese and deli meat or a canned soup)
    * At least one day a week often two after work beers with somebody – $10-$20/time (now I get a case for $50 that lasts two weeks – but am maybe drinking more…)
    * Hair cut $25 twice a month (now doing it at home with some clippers I bought for $60)

    So that all is at least $200/week I spent when going in to the office that I don’t spend anymore. And it is likely more than that (some of those drinks I ended up buying a round for a heap of people and that is quite dear in Sydney CBD etc).

    And my wife’s numbers would be similar (if a bit less) as well so double that!

    • Yeah, but what about increased toilet paper usage?

      Heating, aircon, lights, computer etc.

      • I’ve been tracking that moderately closely.. monthly combined gas/electricity costs have gone up between $20 and $40, so far as I can tell.

        So.. one or two lunches.

        I don’t know how the environment impact of that increased consumption compares to my reduced driving – I live fairly close to work anyway, but when you include reduced social travel I suspect I’m having less of an impact. I drive once or twice a fortnight now, rather than 5 or 6 days a week..

      • alwaysanonMEMBER

        We already had one good desk/monitor/chair so just had to buy a 2nd one for the bedroom that wasn’t too bad (~$600 all up – which we did in early April). The electric bill didn’t seem to be too much higher (running a laptop and an LCD screen isn’t too expensive). Yeah sure I am sure that we spent more on TP etc as part of I think $50/week more grocery bill during this all. The groceries I think have not gone up much we are just buying better and wasting none of it (I cringe at how much food we’d throw away because we didn’t get to it before it went off because we ate out instead etc before this). I think ordering online to be delivered after planning our meals for the next week or two – and when we are not hungry – has really helped there too actually…

      • Wait till you get clippers. You wonder how you ever got by with a trim every 5 days.

        Edit: my experience is with scalp hair only.

        YMMV

      • alwaysanonMEMBER

        I am half bald and need to keep my hair pretty short to not look ridiculous. And the barber is in the lobby of our office so it was easy to pop in when coming/going from customer meetings etc.

    • Sunlord BCNMEMBER

      Always,

      This is devastation of the economy beyond comprehension. When we look back this will be the worst depression ever in history.

      I know you guys have made fun of me, re how bearish I have been last few years, I have been banging on about 2020 the depression, collapse of banks etc etc

      I know what’s coming and it’s I’d say 10x worse than I thought.

      This is a complete meltdown of the global economy that will never recover in our lifetime to where we were last few years. It frightens me how bad this is going to be.

      Guys it’s close, these CB’s have been holding this mess together but what you have to understand is the money that’s printed has to offset the deleveraging and capital & asset price destruction

      What are they printing? $5 to $10 trillion??? I’d say wealth destruction will be $50+ Trillion as the dust settles.

      We are in the calm before the storm

      • Aussies Can't Socially Distance

        It’s not the end of the world people will just have to learn to live with less. Holiday to a caravan park rather than overseas. Not trade the SUV every 5 years. Cook at home instead of Uber Eats.

        95% of the world has it far tougher we’re just whiny little babies.

        • Yes. People please stop using food delivery services like UberEats et al. Pedestrians can then have their footpaths back and all the ‘students’ will have to go back home, particularly all the Indians and South Americans in Brisbane.

      • drsmithyMEMBER

        Wealth *destruction* ? It’s not like there’s bombs dropping on factories and tens (let alone hundreds) of millions dying.

        Yet, anyway…

      • @Sunlord,

        Great to hear from a proper bear, way too many wanna-be’s. In my experience most people don’t see/don’t want to see how it’s different this time, there won’t be any going back to “normal”.

      • alwaysanonMEMBER

        Throwing it in a savings account earning too little interest. We are looking to buy a house by the end of the year (we are both working from home 24/7 from an admittedly good sized 1br apartment and it is driving us mad – I want an office with a door and a little patch of grass for summer and not to be in a highrise tower if COVID gets into it etc) and so keeping it liquid rather than investing it for that. We were already saving about half our joint salary and now it is closer to 70% of it (our rent is only ~15% of our income).

        • Great. I really hope your plans come together and at the corrected values that you and all young families deserve.

          • alwaysanonMEMBER

            I am 39 and my wife is 38 and this will be our first home (we’ve been renting together for the ~15 years we’ve been together). So not sure I’d call us young anymore 😉 We’ve had most of our savings in the Macro Fund for the last few years and should have a 50% deposit in Sydney now. It is a bit crazy that even after all this savings and in middle age we are only 1/2 way to a house… Though we did blow heaps of money on international holidays and various other extravegances over the years too – and only starting making ‘real’ money in the last 3-4 years as well (when I discovered that sales pays better in technology than actually building and running things)…

    • I’m with you. Breakfast at Bathers $100. Trip to work in the Bentley around $10 per minute on fuel. Parking $72 per day. Lunch at Beppies $400. Drinks at the Ivy $350. Dinner at Aria $500. Uber home $40. And that’s just Monday.

  4. Sunlord BCNMEMBER

    add in no holidays, no buying clothes no restaurants

    The other thing, people have got used to spending less.

    I doubt they will go back

    I’d nearly be happy to go to St Kilda beach and step on a few needles for my holidays after being stuck inside.

    • Needles on the beach typically end up there after they have gone through the storm water system, flushed into the bay and then are washed up on the beach.
      They are very unsightly and nobody wants to step on one.
      It has to be said that St Kilda beach and the entire suburb for that matter are probably the most overrated beach/suburb in all of Melbourne.

  5. drsmithyMEMBER

    More air conditioners / heaters running (negating environmental benefits from lower transport emissions).

    Given the penetration of domestic solar and those loads now being shifted to peak solar generation hours, I would have thought vehicle emissions are easily outweighed.

    • BoomToBustMEMBER

      It should theoretically reduce the peak loads when everyone gets home and tries to cool / warn the house as it will be running all day, it is running on solar it will mean much less pumped into the grid while everyone is at work and more consumption of generated energy so it makes sense.

  6. My US company has made the call that all offices will be shut and all staff (where possible) will be working from home until March 2021 at the earliest. That’s for 20,000+ people. I was in a shared space in Melbourne as part of the satellite office from Sydney HQ….I dont think we will be going back. The savings on corporate real estate will be astronomical and commercial landlords will collapse.

    • Jumping jack flash

      Several of my wife’s clients have told her that they have been told to work from home for the foreseeable future, and the office will become a “hub” and they’ll visit there once a month or possibly less frequently to catch up.
      A couple work for the airport, not sure of their roles, maybe flight planning or something? Another is an IT auditor, whatever that is.

    • alwaysanonMEMBER

      Yeah mine said at least January and I think it’ll get extended again (they are US-HQed and things I am sure will still be suffed there in January and they seem to apply their rules globally). My wife, on the other hand, works at a Uni and they are pushing really hard to get them to come back to restore ‘normalcy’ for the students. That is the only thing that is keeping me from saying f-it lets go rent a beach house somewhere rather than be stuck in a 1br apartment…

      • This pandemic has really destroyed the worldview of the neo liberals, the IPA, etc. How will they ever get us to believe again that the meaning of life is getting rich and being frightened if we are not striving to get rich. Can you imagine the pressure buildup inside the head (collective) of the LNP rightwing at this time.

  7. Probably going to need the extra dollars to pay for therapy. At the moment WFH is a novelty, if it were to become quasi permanent reality not so much fun.

    Companies would introduce WFH tracking software, your every keystroke monitored, even eye movement. You’re gonna miss companionship, office politics, Friday drinks, lunch at the new cafe, discreet flirting. You’re gonna get sick of trackkydaks and unkempt hair, the hillbilly lifestyle a slippery slope away. Whilst at first you think you’re on a winner – same money fewer hours – eventually your employer will cotton on and you will be redundant.

    The woman in the example above – sleeps in, finishes early, takes the kids on scooter rides, and I guess homeschools too…hope it isn’t her real name because she’s busted!

    • Working from a public library on a regular basis can provide some interesting novelty and people experiences.

    • You miss out on those things yes. But there are advantages:

      – do useful / productive things during a boring videoconference (which you couldn’t do during a boring face to face meeting)
      – wander around the garden and get fresh air while on the phone
      – no wasted time lining up for coffee and lunch – kitchen is four steps away
      – only talk / have beers with people you want to, not forced to go to dull work drinks and endless water cooler conversations
      – replace that discreet flirting with straight out pr0n, much more efficient!

  8. Jumping jack flash

    I wonder how the transport companies will go?
    I’m waiting for QR/Translink to pipe up and say that they have lost half their revenue due to COVID. Trains are empty. Buses not so much now. It has to be hurting someone.

    I’m expecting my train fare to double very soon to account for the lost revenue.

    Supply and demand be damned, the paradigm is profit targeting, and then adjusting prices as required, in a monopoly/oligopoly.

    • Translink will go through a radical change and become an information and referral service for gender questioning individuals wanting assistance on changing sex.

  9. It’s a real shame I walk 35 minutes to the office. I guess I am saving shoe leather?

    Personally I am doing at least 3 days in the office and 2 from home. I am more productive at work with double screens than at home on just a laptop. That said, by really getting stuck in during my office days – as hardly anyone is there to bug me – I can get most of my work done and can go easier the WFH days.

    But I agree with the sentiments – businesses will be looking to reduce headcount and outsource tasks if it doesn’t need to be done in the office. I am thinking about this with my own team, and more broadly within our office of about 200 folks.

  10. I love working from home. Intellect and persuasions are my currency in trade. Working from home actually give me an advantage over the in-person hierarchy dominators.