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Weekend reading: the office as a 21st century poorhouse

Weekend reading: the office as a 21st century poorhouse post image

What caught my eye this week.

Are your staff still refusing to return to the office for daily time-saving stand-up meetings where you and your pet subordinate make everyone else wait through a 25-minute back-and-forth about who will make a sales call on Thursday?

Would your employees rather start their day with a coffee in the garden than an aneurysm in the rush hour?

Are wild animals nesting beneath the ivy-strewn office football table?

Well fear not! The energy crisis might be intervening in the nick of time to preserve your position in the hierarchy. Not to mention bailing out your landlord’s commercial property empire.

According to CNBC:

High heating bills and the prospect of working in a cold and uncomfortable house this winter might soon push more Brits to go back into the office.

Of the 2,000 people surveyed by price comparison site MoneySuperMarket, 14% (280) plan to spend more time working from the office to reduce home energy bills

This figure increases to almost a quarter (23%) when looking at 18-to-24 year olds.

Running out of money seems more compelling to me than specious stuff about team building and mentorship, which may well be missed in some instances, but hardly beats working in your shorts eating Pringles when you want to.

And some of the latest predictions for energy and general inflation (links below) are truly breathtaking.

We can justifiably say we were ahead of the mainstream in flagging a coming cost-of-living squeeze.

But £5,000-a-year energy bills for the average household? Nobody foresaw that. I imagine some cash-strapped 20-somethings will go back to the office just for the snacks at meetings.

(At least if it’s within walking distance and they don’t have to buy new clothes.)

For now the debate rages on, as per these latest contributions:

  • Why more people are working from home on Fridays – BBC
  • Where is everyone? London’s 3sq km of empty office space – Guardian
  • This is why no-one wants to be a middle manager anymore – Fast Company
  • (Virtually) here to stay – City Journal
  • Remote work is sticking – New York Fed
  • Why millennials don’t have hobbies – The Walrus

I remain fascinated about how this will shake out over the next couple of years.

Your money and your life

Long bank holiday weekends aren’t the blessed relief they once were – at least not for white collar workers no longer ubiquitously shackled to a commute that turns their 9-6 into the 7-7 – but do enjoy yours anyway.

Also, thanks to everyone who answered the call for FIRE-side story candidates.

We saw dozens put their hands up on the website, and so many over email that I haven’t begun to reply. But all were gratefully received.

The first Q&As will go out shortly. With luck one of you will be baring all before October!

From Monevator

Early retirees: what would make you go back to work? – Monevator

Pros and cons of being wealthy – Monevator

From the archive-ator: When to buy insurance – Monevator


Note: Some links are Google search results – in PC/desktop view you can click to read the piece without being a paid subscriber. Try privacy/incognito mode to avoid cookies. Consider subscribing if you read them a lot!1

Energy bills to soar as price cap officially hiked to £3,549 – Sky News

What is the energy price cap and how high will bills go? – BBC

UK inflation will breach 18% in early 2023, according to Citi bank – Guardian

London’s separate Crossrail sections will be joined up in November – BBC

Narrative always follows price in the market – A Wealth of Common Sense

Products and services

Find your personal inflation rate with this ONS calculator [Tool]Guardian

How to spot fake reviews on Amazon – Wired

NS&I launches new green savings bond with a rate of 3% – Moneyfacts

Open a SIPP with Interactive Investor and pay no SIPP fee for six months. Terms apply – Interactive Investor

Motorway services ‘snack tax’ revealed – ThisIsMoney

New current account switching offers up to £175 in bonuses – Which

Open an account with InvestEngine via our affiliate link and get £25 when you invest at least £100 (new customers only, T&Cs apply) – InvestEngine

Frequent fliers reveal underrated places to visit instead of hot spots – BuzzFeed

How to save money on energy – ThisIsMoney

Energy-efficient homes for sale, in pictures – Guardian

Comment and opinion

Bo knows – Fortunes & Frictions

You should invest like a 50-year-old woman – White Coat Investor

Landlords face fresh dilemmas amid the economic storm [Search result]FT

Why bonds should still play a role in your portfolio – Morningstar

The perfectly imperfect investor – The Best Interest

Will you pay tax on your savings? – Be Clever With Your Cash

Why should we save? – One Frugal Girl [See also Swedish death cleaning]

The uphill battle women still face in high finance – Benn Eifert via Noahpinion

How do retirees actually spend their money? – Of Dollars and Data

Morgan Housel on The Psychology of Money [Podcast]NGPF

A relentless march forwards – Banker on FIRE

This wife will never share a bank account with her husband… – The Cut

…while this husband can’t imagine not sharing all with his wife – Humble Dollar

Forget what you know about stock market returns – Advisor Perspectives

Naughty corner: Active antics

The case for stockpicking à la Warren Buffett – Neckar

Small caps are trading at their steepest discount to large caps for decades… – Verdad

…but does the small-cap effect even exist? – The Evidence-based Investor

10 inflation-busting investment trusts – Interactive Investor

Why fundamentals matter [eventually]Canvas

Long volatility strategies versus tactical allocation – Factor Research

Crypt o’ crypto

Should pension funds speculate in crypocurrency? – Morningstar

The merge – AVC

Kindle book bargains

The Pay Off: How Changing the Way We Pay Changes Everything by Gottfried Leibbrandt and Natasha De Terán – £1.89 on Kindle

Why We Get The Wrong Politicians by Isabel Hardman – £1.19 on Kindle

Anthro-Vision: How Anthropology Can Explain Business and Life by Gillian Tett – £0.99 on Kindle

Money: The True Story of a Made-Up Thing by Jacob Goldstein – £1.19 on Kindle

Environmental factors

Small electric cars are £9,000 more expensive than a year ago – ThisIsMoney

Black bear den requirements conflict with [witless] old-growth logging – Hakai

Renewable power and the American West – Los Angeles Times

Want safer streets? Cover them in art – Reasons To Be Cheerful

Off our beat

Using DALL·E 2 to generate a software logo [A few weeks old]Jacob Martin

Your first brush with coronavirus could affect how boosters work [Search result]Washington Post

The lifestyle habits that slow down aging, from a 100-year old neurologist – EatThis

“I avoid them where possible”: the children’s authors who don’t like kids – Guardian

Why Prime Minister Truss would have a particularly weak mandate – Guardian

Forty-one quick tips for health, happiness, and wealth – A Teachable Moment

McLovin It: an oral history of SuperbadVanity Fair

And finally…

“To build wealth it didn’t matter when you bought U.S. stocks, just that you bought them and kept buying them. It didn’t matter if valuations were high or low. It didn’t matter if you were in a bull market or a bear market. All that mattered was that you kept buying.”
– Nick Maggiulli, Just Keep Buying

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  1. Note some articles can only be accessed through the search results if you’re using PC/desktop view (from mobile/tablet view they bring up the firewall/subscription page). To circumvent, switch your mobile browser to use the desktop view. On Chrome for Android: press the menu button followed by “Request Desktop Site”. []
{ 14 comments… add one }
  • 1 Learner August 26, 2022, 3:29 pm

    Just one more link if I may, this Odd Lots episode a few days ago was interesting following the recent energy grid chat here: https://play.acast.com/s/oddlots/d8836b40-ad78-4a3e-926e-aef401268262

    (Apologies if already linked, I’ve been in several timezones lately and quite discombobulated. Lovely to be back in London for a few days this week.)

    And on topic, in the middle of summer I was somewhat tempted to go into the office just for the air conditioning. Catching covid there – most likely – put a damper on that scheme.

  • 2 Gentleman's Family Finances August 26, 2022, 3:41 pm

    Thanks for this – except I’ll be trying to block out the outside world since everything is just going down the tubes.
    Lights out, heating off and pay no heed to 2022.

  • 3 Alan August 26, 2022, 7:13 pm

    Just wanted to say thanks for this and everything else you publish. Always thought-provoking and educational and I really appreciate it!

  • 4 G August 27, 2022, 8:58 am

    I often used to walk past an office in a basement near Kings Cross – and see rows of people at their desks busily working at their computers. I always thought, “in 50 years time, this will be as anachronistic as the b/w photos of people leaving the factory gates or engravings of the poor repairing nets in workhouses.” I reckon we are slowly seeing that change taking place now.

  • 5 PC August 27, 2022, 9:29 am

    My first thought with energy bills jumping so much is I can save money by WFH more .. saves £25-40 a day on commuting, lunch and coffee.

  • 6 ZXSpectrum48k August 27, 2022, 9:55 am

    The idea I would ever go into the office just to save money on my energy bills is borderline bonkers. I was paying £4k/annum for gas/electricity last year. If that goes to £20k so be it. This is why I save and invest: to pay for these types of liabilities. To be honest, gas prices in 1H22 only got back to early 2015 levels in real terms. Electricity is 40% more expensive but a large part of that is due to green levies (essentially poor people subsidize me to buy solar … thanks!). I won’t complain and I will suck it up.

    But will I actually pay this amount for my energy? Perhaps but I reckon, overall, I culd still come out winning. First, Truss will reverse some of those tax hikes. I could well make back far more in lower NI than I will pay out in higher energy costs. She will scrap the green levy. She will also need to win an election in two years or so. So she will bail everyone out and kick the can down the road. Fiscal disaster. I earn in USD, and hold loads of assets in USD, so could be another win. All swings and roundabouts.

  • 7 FI-FireFighter August 27, 2022, 10:11 am

    Re – The lifestyle habits that slow down aging, from a 100-year old neurologist…..Hmmmmm, hard to argue with him on one hand as he is 100, but not sure I will follow all his top tips, I am enjoying not working too much!
    Enjoyed the FT landlords article, quite balanced which is usual for BTL articles.
    I also agree with @ Alan 🙂

  • 8 JDW August 27, 2022, 10:35 am

    @Alan’s comment, another massive thanks to @TI here from me. The links (and pieces) are always interesting, I always learn something, often see things from another perspective or take something away I didn’t know previously.

    Not financially related, but I enjoyed the VF piece on Superbad. Such a great film. 15 years ago, well that shot by!

    Have a nice weekend all.

  • 9 Tom-Baker Dr Who August 27, 2022, 2:05 pm

    Long before this cost-of-living crisis, a fellow quant in my old team was busy following Jakob Lund Fisker’s extreme path to FIRE. He would shower in the office and cook using the office’s microwave oven to save on his energy bills. I learned later that after he FIREd, he started showering everyday in the gim to keep his energy bills as low as possible. It clearly worked very well, as he managed to leave work years before me and seems to live a very happy and adventurous life now.

  • 10 Tom-Baker Dr Who August 27, 2022, 2:18 pm

    @FI-FireFighter (#7)- I think you have nothing to worry about. The article’s headline says work, but what he’s actually saying is that people need to have some activity that keeps their minds and bodies active. That can be a hobby, volunteering, etc. It doesn’t need to be an ordinary full time job. In fact, there’s some research suggesting that staying for too long in an unfulfilling job/career might actually shorten one’s life.

  • 11 Bill G August 29, 2022, 9:30 am

    The extreme heat did not drive the WFH crowd back to our air-conditioned Covent Garden offices, I shall be surprised if the cold weather makes much difference.

    Tom’s comments about showering at the gym made me smile. Maybe I should add saving the cost of a shower to the benefits of cycling to work!

  • 12 SemiPassive August 29, 2022, 10:02 am

    To add to the WFH stories, even Jacob Rees-Mogg – who left those cards on WFHers desks to intimidate them – is now resigned to selling off £1.5 billion of office space due to civil servants continuing to work from home.

    There are mixed messages coming out of employers, even within the same employer where managers who like working from home are a lot more relaxed than those who either dislike it due to family tensions, or feeling a lack of control, or fear of their own impotence or lack of relevance.
    I have seen managers forced to row back from a minimum ‘3 days in the office’ hybrid model rather than lose their best people, and talk of reducing or even cancelling regional office space leases entirely if people continue to not show up in the office.

    I am fortunate in being able to work 100% from home, and it seems to frustrate recruiters who are strugging to find good candidates for office based or even hybrid roles, or roles that include a lot of travel to client sites and such. Just not interested, even if it pays more.
    I think an awful lot of office space is going to be repurposed over the next decade.

    And as to other trends, how long will ‘frequent flying’ – for business or pleasure – be socially acceptable for?
    Anyone planning for a strategic relocation better think hard about the cost and availability of flights in the future if they need to travel somewhere else on a regular basis.
    At least some of the elite are now starting to be called out for the blatant hypocrisy and double standards in use of private jets and so on.

  • 13 Learner August 29, 2022, 1:23 pm

    @SP I wonder how much of a premium office / hybrid will carry in the future. Would an employer pay me say 30% more to be in the office a few days per week? I’d definitely take that over a remote role living somewhere 30% cheaper. Seeking a better paying job, in a new city with higher COL, so quite on my mind lately.

  • 14 John Smith September 1, 2022, 12:18 pm

    @Learner: maybe you need to “learn” that a 30% increase in taxable wage (20% tax +12% NIC) is real 20% [=30%x(1-32%)], so it is less than 30% low living cost (after tax) aka REAL COL is 38% (=30% / 78%). Because COL you pay from wage (even if wage is not taxed). IMMV.

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