It's almost five months since many people found themselves working from home for the first time.
Covid-19 has probably done more to change attitudes towards remote working than anything else possibly could. "We'll never go back to the way we were before [the Covid-19 crisis]," said Vanessa Tierney, co-founder of Abodoo, which matches workers who want to work remotely with employers happy to take on workers on that basis.
"Remote working will be incorporated into the working week - but more likely as a mixture of remote and office working than a complete week of remote working," she said.
You may well be considering asking your boss if you can work from home permanently - either part-week or for the whole week - if you got a taste for remote working in recent months. Be fully aware of the financial implications of doing so however. Here is what you need to know.
Could it cost me a raise or promotion?
"There is a real danger that remote workers can lose out here," said Karen O'Reilly, founder of Employflex. "Remote workers miss out on rubbing shoulders with management - who will usually be onsite - and so they may be overlooked for promotion because of the whole 'out of sight, out of mind' mentality."
There are a number of steps remote workers can take to ensure they get the recognition they deserve. "Ditch the modesty," said O'Reilly. "Ensure that your bosses are aware of your achievements. Your boss may not be aware of your achievements unless you actually spell them out. Keep a daily record of all your successes - including any ideas you have brought to the table and what projects you helped bring to fruition."
It's important to be able to prove you have been productive. "There are plenty of tools - such as Zoho CRM - that allow you to track your performance," said Tierney. "So when it comes to a review, you can use these to prove how productive you have been."
Having a mentor or sponsor within the organisation can also be helpful. "This would be someone who is going to have your back and who will keep your profile alive at management level," said O'Reilly. "It's also important not to be shy: ask for the promotion or pay rise."
Be aware too that there may be a shift in thinking in your organisation as a result of the pandemic which could make it easier to get a promotion or pay rise as a remote worker than it has been in the past.
"A lot of people who struggled to trust remote workers have worked 9 to 5 in the office for the last 30 years," said Tierney. "However, many of these people have had to work remotely during the crisis."
Where could I save the most money?
Remote working could allow you to save €100,000 or more on the price of a home. The average asking price of a home in north Co Dublin, for example, is about €318,000 - but in Co Kildare, it's €257,169; in Co Wexford, it's €198,158 and in Co Carlow, it's €188,108, according to the latest Daft.ie report. So for those who haven't been able to get onto the property ladder, remote working could make the purchase of a home feasible because it could open up more areas for them to buy in. For those who already own a home and are crippled with mortgage bills, remote working could provide the opportunity to sell up, buy a cheaper home elsewhere and slash monthly mortgage bills.
Be aware, however, of the disadvantages of moving to an area far away from family and friends - as this could prove isolating, particularly if you have young children. Be comfortable too with the length and cost of the commute you would face in the event that your remote working arrangement ends quicker than you expect.
The other big savings up for grabs for remote workers are on childcare and commuting costs.
How much could I save on commuting?
You could save thousands a year on commuting costs by working from home - depending on how long your commute is and whether or not you drive or take public transport.
For example, the weekly petrol bill for a driver's commute from Gorey to Dublin city (or any other commute that involves a return trip of around 186km) could easily come to €53 a week - assuming the car uses 4.7 litres of petrol per 100km. Over a year, that fuel bill could come to about €2,544 (assuming the individual commutes for 48 weeks of the year and that petrol prices remain unchanged). The fuel bill will be much higher if driving a gas guzzler. For example, if the car uses 9.42 litres of petrol per 100km, the fuel bill for the weekly commute from Gorey to Dublin could come to about €107 a week - or €5,136 a year (assuming a 48-week working year).
Furthermore, although public transport will be cheaper than a petrol car, a Gorey commuter will still pay €1,426.55 or €1,980.55 a year for an annual Bus Éireann ticket (depending on whether or not he pays the higher rate of income tax) - or more if he doesn't qualify for the Taxsaver scheme (which offers tax relief on commuting costs).
Even the cost of a commute within Dublin can add up. An annual Dart ticket for example costs an adult either €747 or €1,037 a year, depending on whether or not he is a higher rate taxpayer and as long as he qualifies for the Taxsaver scheme. Such commuting costs can be saved - or cut back on substantially - if you work from home.
Do I face costs as a remote worker?
You can expect higher heating, electricity and phone bills if working from home. You are also likely to have some set-up costs as you may need to buy a laptop, printer, broadband, an office desk and so on. Rather than incur these costs yourself, ask your boss if they will provide you with the work equipment you need. Your boss can provide these items without triggering a tax bill for you - as long as the items are being primarily provided for business use.
Be careful not to be left footing the bill for the entire costs you run up at home as a result of remote working. You can do this by either claiming tax relief on those additional expenses (known as e-worker relief), asking your boss to pay you the e-worker tax-free allowance of €3.20 a day - or getting a working-from-home allowance from your boss. Note however that Revenue will usually treat a working-from-home allowance as additional salary and therefore that allowance will be taxable.
Furthermore, your boss is not obliged to pay the e-worker allowance but if they do, and if the cost of the work-related expenses incurred from home exceeds €3.20 per day, tax can be reclaimed on the difference. With e-worker relief, you can claim up to 40pc tax relief on work-related expenses, depending on whether or not you pay the higher rate of income tax.
Be sure you meet Revenue's definition of an e-worker if claiming the e-worker allowance or e-worker relief. "You are an e-worker if you work at home on a full or part-time basis and you either log onto a work computer remotely or you develop ideas, products or services remotely," said Marian Ryan, consumer tax manager with Taxback.com. "You will not be considered an e-worker if you bring work home outside of normal working hours. There must be a formal agreement between you and your employer that allows you to work remotely. To claim e-worker relief you must have a letter from your employer confirming that you are an e-worker and copies of all utility bills relating to the timeframe that the relief is being claimed for."
Be sure to only claim relief for the proportion of costs that relate to your time working from home. Under Revenue guidance, about a tenth of the cost of bills such as heating can be claimed back in tax - if those costs are borne from working at home.
What about my insurance?
The main issue to be aware of with your home insurance is that it is unlikely to cover you if a customer or colleague is injured while attending a business meeting in your home.
As for car insurance, you may be driving less as a result of remote working - and your premium could therefore be cheaper. FBD for example is currently offering a €100 reward to car insurance customers who drive less than 100km a week or less than 5,200km a year.
Becoming your own boss so you can work remotely
You may be tempted to set yourself up as a sole trader or contractor from home - particularly if full-time remote working appeals to you and your boss isn't open to the idea. Be aware what you're getting into however.
"While you will generally be on a higher rate per hour as a contractor, you need to consider that you will not be paid for maternity or paternity leave, sick leave or holidays," said Karen O'Reilly, of Employflex. "Also, your salary may not be consistent - you may have lean months or weeks which you will need to budget for." You also won't be able to hold onto any company pension you had as an employee if you leave your job - and so should your employer have paid pension contributions into that pension on your behalf, you will lose that valuable benefit. The money you have already put into that company pension will be held for you until you're old enough to access it - however, if you want to continue saving for your retirement, you will have to open your own pension and this pension will not have the benefit of employer contributions so it will be harder to build up a reasonable pension pot.
"Being employed is probably your safest route in a recession but if you decide to set up your own business, talk to your local enterprise office, test the market and make sure there are customers there - and that they have the money to buy your product or service," said Vanessa Tierney, of Abodoo.
If you would rather seek an employer who hires remote workers than be self-employed, a remote working platform could help you find prospective employers.
You will have to file your own tax return each year and pay the tax due on your self-employment income.
"The responsibility will lie with you to declare all of your incomes to the tax office and to include all of your work-related expenses," said Marion Ryan, of Taxback.com.
You could also face a tax bill should you sell your home after setting up your own business from home. Under a tax break known as Principal Private Residence (PPR) relief, you are usually exempt from Capital Gains Tax (CGT - the tax paid on profits made from the disposal of an asset) if you sell a property that has been your main home - as long as you used all of that property as a home. "Your PPR exemption may be denied if part of your home is used exclusively for business purposes," said Ryan. "In many cases, the business use is not exclusive - for example, if your office doubles as a spare bedroom for guests. In such cases, there will not be a problem. However, where there is exclusive business use, such as if you have a home office, then part of the gain on sale will be chargeable [to CGT] rather than exempt." Your PPR exemption, however, will not be restricted if you are an e-worker.
Sunday Indo Business