My mornings start with a shrill drill. At least that’s how they did for the last 4 weeks. My improvised office in the living room turned into a dentist appointment for my eardrums. Anyone who knows me understands how bad is for me: I hate dentist drills from the bottom of my heart, there’s nothing else I hate more! (Okay, maybe spinach, but that’s a story for another day.)

I did try to work from other spaces. Yesterday I worked from GreenTea, a nice tea place 25 minutes away from my home. It was quiet, the internet connection worked just fine and I could stare at a green tree instead of a white wall. But it cost me money out of my own pocket. And it made me think: how much does work from home actually cost?

Don’t get me wrong. I love, love, love avoiding the 2 hour daily commute.

I appreciate the flexibility it gives me and, I’ll admit, working in my yoga pants is as comfortable as it gets.

I also enjoy being able to prepare my own meals to take better care of my diet, I lost almost 20 pounds in the last couple of months because of that.

And I like being in control of the environment I work in. If I’m working on a tedious report with lots of numbers and chunky spreadsheets I’d blare out my favorite rock songs to get some adrenaline in the system and focus on the work at hand.

What I don’t like are the costs associated with working from home. Yes, I’m talking about money here. But also about more insidious costs. Let’s break down some of them.

The thing I miss most about office life if the real life connection with other people. The morning coffees, the smiles, our squeaky voices when we sang Happy Birthday to a colleague who brought cookies and soda (and, man, were there some amazing cookies in our office!). I miss getting to know my new colleagues and exchanging thoughts. strategies, tips & tricks. And I don’t think it’s just me being sentimental. I think it’s the same for most people across companies.

It affects the organization culture and it affects how we, the employees, relate to each other and empathize. It puts a dent in the solidarity among people working for the same company. I can only imagine that unions would not exist if the entire world had worked remote/from home. Goodbye collective worker contracts, bid farewell to negotiating work conditions/benefits because people would have had no power to do so. Nowadays full WFH companies could easily water down their requirements/benefits package.

Who’s the cheapest of them all: will going full WFH hurt our paychecks?

If I were a big bad company looking to cut costs for the sake of shareholder value and I saw how much $$$ the company saved for not paying headquarter bills, the first question that would pop into my head: ok, where’s the place I can get the cheapest work? And I’d hire there. This is already a common practice, Romania and other Eastern European countries welcomed foreign companies.

I do hope that organizations going full remote due to COVID will democratize access to work and to better pay. But the pessimist in me worries that more and more companies going full remote will actually translate into them looking to buy cheaper and cheaper labor from anywhere they can source it.

Who foots the bill for the working space? Workers do.

Internet connection is mandatory in any work from home situation. But what happens if you lose it? It happened to me last week when my internet provider had to do repairs on the network. Around 12 streets had no connection. It was midday so I had to figure out a solution. So I took out my personal phone and connected my laptop to the hotspot. Not great, not terrible. But expensive.

If employees are to be entrepreneurial, we need to talk about expenses just the way a business does. Right now our employer is not paying rent. But we are. We are paying for all commodities needed in our home. Granted, we would be paying them even if we worked out of the headquarters, but the utilities bill would not be this high. And however bad that coffee in the office was, it was free. The office fruit, too. It might seem petty of me to think about the cost of coffee and fruit, but check this out:

Pinterest pays $89.5 million to terminate San Francisco office lease.

The company cited a shift to work-from-home due to the coronavirus pandemic in its decision.

$89.5M! If they were willing to pay that much, just imagine how much they’re saving for restructuring their SF headquarters. I imagine it’s at least double that amount, Pinterest is saving at least $179M. How much did you save on rent & utilities during the pandemic?

The situation is unfolding as we speak. COVID is changing the way we work and that comes with costs. For now it seems that employees are to pay some of those, not quite sure how much this affects the companies, we’ll just have to wait and see.