Office workers questioning the value of return to office amid cost of living rise

Woman with headphones works from her living room on a laptop.

The rising price of fuel has ignited a growing reluctance to commute to work, according to a survey of 1,000 Australian office workers by Citrix Systems, a work-from-anywhere software company.  

As far as general attitudes go, the survey found that 54% of Australian office workers are not keen on a return to office regimen, citing they planned to avoid the high costs of commuting. This sentiment is on-par with their global counterparts, according to Citrix. 

As you’ve no doubt heard in recent weeks, the cost of living in Australia is rising. Wages aren’t growing in-line with inflation. The interest rate is on the up-and-up. 

So while many grew accustomed to the work from home lifestyle during the camel’s back of the pandemic, office workers have left their fallout-shelters to find a more expensive world. This has left many questioning whether the push for return to office is justified, according to managing director of Citrix Australia and New Zealand, Martin Creighan. 

“Employees have learned they can engage and be just as productive working from home, and as fuel prices continue to increase, they are questioning whether the benefits of being in the office outweigh the time and money associated with commuting,” said Creighan.

How much can you save by working from home?

According to a Productivity Commission report released in September 2021, the yearly savings for full-time-work commuters are a significant chunk of extra time and cash in the pockets of those working from home – even just by working from home one day each week. 

The report found that the average city worker spent 67 minutes travelling to and from work each day, which works out to an average $49 in foregone earnings. This figure includes a rough calculation of tolls, fuel, and the average hourly wage. 

For those taking public transport, the report found that the average daily time value and transport cost drummed up to $57. That means spending one day less each week on commuting via public transport saves the average office worker $394 in public transport expenses over the year. 

While the birds-eye-view provided by stats and data works for some, it might help to add in some more practical examples of how working from home (when possible) can save you money.

How you could save money by working remotely

When it comes to our daily routines, there are many expenses which we incur on a daily basis – some of which we don’t think twice about. 

Of course, these differ depending on who you are, your habits, and what kind of work you’re in. 

Transport costs 

According to UBank, working from home could save you about $50 per week in public transport costs. And for drivers, you might make savings across maintenance, petrol, parking, and tolls. 

Drivers who work from home may also be able to save some extra money on their car insurance by switching to a pay as you drive car insurance policy. 


Most of us dread having to prep our meals for the week, yet don’t baulk at a $12 (minimum) takeaway meal each day. If you’re buying lunch everyday you’re looking at $60 a week, or somewhere in the ballpark of $3,000. 

So, while the price of groceries is rising due to inflation and supply-chain issues, you will probably end up being able to significantly reduce the cost of expensive CBD lunches by eating something you’ve cooked at home. 


Two coffees a day, at $4 each, works out at roughly $2,000 per year. While you might not get the same barista-made quality you’ve come to enjoy from your office’s local cafe, learning to stomach the stove-top, instant, or machine-made coffees at home could save you megabucks. 


If you’re expected, as many of us are these days, to look presentable for your job, then clothing is a big expense which you have to consider. Everyone wants to look good, right? Sometimes it’s even a requirement, depending on the role. 

Clothing, especially for professionals, or those seeking good quality garments that’ll stand the test of time, isn’t the cheapest of your work-related expenses. 

By working from home you likely won’t need to dress up for your Zooms, or if you do you’ll only have to have the top-half of your outfit sorted, with a nice pair of trackies on out of frame. 

Obviously these will differ in importance from person to person, so it’s a good idea to weigh-up the cost and benefits of returning to the office too.

What can you do with the money you’ve saved by working from home?

While it’ll be tempting to do a spot of online shopping with your newfound savings, there are  few things you can do that might have some longer-term impact on your savings. 

Create an emergency fund

An emergency savings fund can really help you out in a crisis, like unexpected medical or vet bills, car repairs, or even if you’ve lost your job. 

Consider saving the amount you would usually spend on coffee, lunch, and public transport each time you’re not in the office and watch your emergency fund bolster itself.  

Not only will you have access to a bunch of money in a pinch, but you may even feel more secure. 

Invest in a high interest savings account

High interest savings accounts are a great way to take advantage of the rising interest rates we’re currently seeing. 

Set-up auto-deposits for the money you’d usually spend on lunch, coffee, and transport, along with your pay, and you could see your savings grow without having to lift a finger (figuratively). 

Put your work from home savings towards your utility bills 

One of the potential downsides of working from home is that you’re likely to use a little more electricity and water than you might if you were in the office all day. 

Naturally, this means that your utility bills are probably going to rise, especially during winter. 

According to the Citrix survey, 16% of Australians said they’d work in the office during the colder months to reduce the costs of heating their homes if high energy prices continue. 

Luckily, you’re probably going to be able to offset it to a degree if you’ve been diligent about your spending habits while working from home.

How can employers attract their staff to come back into the office?

According to Citrix, almost 7 in 10 Australian workers (68%) said they think their employers should help them offset the cost of travelling to the office by increasing salaries or providing a fuel allowance.

Whatever you decide to do, one way that could help you boost your savings and offset the cost of living rise is to look into a high interest savings account.