October's price cap hike will make it more expensive for many professionals to work from home. DERIN CLARK looks at whether this could force employees back into the workplace

Skyrocketing energy bills this autumn could force staff back to the office - reversing the working from home pandemic trend.

A survey carried out by MoneySupermarket.com found that 14pc of workers in the UK are planning to spend more time working in the office when the temperature drops.

This rises to nearly a quarter (23pc) among the age group 18 to 24.

For remote workers, the potential financial benefits of returning to the office will likely be a key factor when choosing whether or not to return to the workplace.

Eastern Daily Press: The pandemic saw a shift to working from homeThe pandemic saw a shift to working from home (Image: PA Wire/PA Images)

Households are set to see their energy bills rise by 80pc in October due to energy regulator Ofgem's price cap hike.

This will see the average annual bill surge to £3,549 from £1,971.

Price comparison website, Uswitch, estimates that home working households use 25pc more electricity and 75pc more gas in the winter.

It estimates that they could cut their monthly bill by £131 from October by returning to the office.

January is set to see another price cap rise, which Norwich-based energy research firm Cornwall Insight forecasts will rise to £4,266.

According to Uswitch, this would see workers save an average £209 a month by returning to the workplace compared to working from home.

Although it is clear that remote working is set to become more expensive, petrol prices could convince many employees that working from home remains the better option.

Rebecca Headden, co-director of Norwich-based recruitment agency R13, has noticed that increasing petrol, travel and other costs associated with working in the office are impacting employees decisions as to whether or not they return to the office.

She said: "While the costs of energy are increasing, so too are the costs of travel and fuel. As such, we are still seeing the theme of people wishing to be home based or hybrid working.

"We could also consider the additional costs of 'office clothing' and the reduced level of flexibility with being based in the office which may also be seen as detrimental to workers.

"We may see this change as the colder months set in, or we may see the use of flexible working spaces change and indeed cafe spaces where people can work as hoc."

Prior to the pandemic many professionals never considered working from home as a long-term option.

The first lockdown in March 2020, however, signalled an overnight shift to where employees worked.

Figures released by the Office for National Statistics in 2021 reveal that the proportion of working adults who did any work from home in 2020 increased to 37pc on average from 27pc in 2019.

Meanwhile, 24pc of businesses that continued to trade during the pandemic said that they intended to use increased home working going forward.

Eastern Daily Press: The proportion of working adults reporting working from home exclusively has varied over the course of the past yearThe proportion of working adults reporting working from home exclusively has varied over the course of the past year (Image: Office for National Statistics)

For firms that have had to adapt quickly to the move towards staff being out of the office, this autumn could see them having to pivot again to accommodate staff wanting to return to the workplace.

Some of the region's largest employers have said that they are prepared for the return of employees.

Aviva, which has offices in Norwich city centre, said: ‘The wellbeing of our colleagues is top priority, and our offices are open as usual for people who need to use them."

The insurance giant is already giving staff earning £35,000 or less a one-off payment of £1,000 in October to help with the rising cost of living.

Eastern Daily Press: Aviva said its offices were open for staff wanting to come into the workplaceAviva said its offices were open for staff wanting to come into the workplace (Image: Archant)

Meanwhile, Diss-based firm Midwich said that it is fully equipped to accommodate staff wanting to work from the office.

Ben Thompson , engagement lead at Midwich, said: “We have a flexible working policy at Midwich which offers colleagues the freedom to increase the number of days they work in the office.

"Our head office underwent a full refurbishment about a year ago, so we are fully equipped to accommodate our 250-plus colleagues in Diss.”

Businesses are also facing their own energy bill hikes this autumn.

Unlike households, there is no price cap on commercial energy bills which has led to warnings that smaller firms will struggle to pay their bills over the colder months.

Candy Richards, development manager at Federation of Small Businesses, which represents companies in East Anglia, said: "Small businesses and many are being hit with energy bills that have risen by as much as 500pc, adding tens of thousands of pounds to the average bill."

In the worst case scenario this could put jobs at risk as it could force small businesses to downsize or close completely.