Switch to home offices leads to bump in utility bills

Published: Feb. 10, 2021 at 6:34 PM EST
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Nearly a year has passed since Governor Phil Scott issued a stay-at-home order to contain the pandemic. Many Vermont employees packed up their desks and haven’t been back to the office since. While telecommuting has cut commuting expenses and improved the quality of life, it’s also increased utility costs for some.

If your kitchen is your remote office, you’ve probably been relying on the internet, home heating, and other utility expenses day in and day out. We spoke with Vermonters about the convenience of working from home as well as the costs.

“Having the extra time in my day is the biggest value there is,” said Jessica Moore, an employee at Blue Cross Blue Shield.

Nicholas Hogan, another BCBS employee, says it meant more time with loved ones. “I get to spend a lot more time with my dog,” he said.

And fewer distractions. “I find myself being more effective,” Moore said.

“I find I have more time to think, more time to focus,” Hogan said.

These workers say the switch to work from home has priceless advantages. And for former commuters like Moore, who traveled upwards of 90 minutes daily pre-pandemic, it has a significant financial one. “I’m definitely not spending as much in gas because it was, I think, total 60-miles each day I was driving, as well as the wear and tear on your car with the oil changes and the tires and the brakes,” she said.

Moore and Hogan say creating a comfortable at-home office hasn’t cost them. “I don’t see my usage really changing,” Hogan said.

“Internet is basically a set charge, whether I’m here or not, and my electric has not changed so much. I’m definitely keeping the house warmer with the wood stove, but other than that, the actual utility bills have not shown a change,” Moore said.

Data from the Vermont Department of Public Service does show about a nine percent increase in residential utility usage correlating with an average seven percent decrease in commercial and industrial usage. Because the changes might be slight, customers may not notice a difference. Similarly, while only about a dozen of the more than 400 Blue Cross Blue Shield employees are going into the office, the company says the savings on utilities are modest.

Moore and Hogan says even if they do eventually see a bump in their bills because of rate increases, they’ll happily stick to their current setup. “The balance of having more time, more flexibility, is worth it to me in the long-run. If Blue Cross chooses to support us in that way, that would be great, but it’s not something I would drive into the office to avoid working at home to save on those costs,” Moore said.

Blue Cross Blue Shield says its hundreds of employees will likely continue working at home for the rest of the year. Once the pandemic subsides, the company plans to make it a permanent option.

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