After almost a year marked by stay-at-home orders, Northern Ireland workers are counting some unexpected financial benefits arising out of working from home.
It could mean £2bn in savings has been accumulated in bank accounts here as a result of funds that have been foregone on eating out and petrol costs as well as holidays, according to Bank of England estimates that suggest £10bn in UK savings.
Neil Gibson, who is chief economist with EY Ireland, said businesses will be able to compete for funds as we exit lockdown.
"The potential for a strong consumer recovery is significant with perhaps £2bn of consumer spending but we have to be mindful that not all of that will flow back in so there is the potential for prices to rise quite significantly, which will bring challenges," he said.
A phased return to full-time office working is planned for step three of the Executive plan for easing Covid-19 restrictions.
However, analysis of day-to-day costs shows the financial benefits from home-working.
At the start of the pandemic last March, fuel prices fell to their lowest level since the 2008 financial crash. The AA had reported last February that Northern Ireland had the lowest prices in the UK, amounting to 116.4p per litre for unleaded on average, and diesel at 119.8p per litre.
A motorist with an average commute of 16,000 miles a year and a car that drives around 50 miles per gallon of petrol would save over £1,600 in petrol costs if asked to work at home.
Many office workers enjoy a coffee to start the day. In one of Northern Ireland's more ubiquitous cafes, Costa, a medium cappuccino costs £2.95. Buying just one cappuccino a day for 226 days of the year - which does not account for weekends or 28 days of holidays - will cost £666.
In comparison, a coffee made by a Nespresso machine at home costs anything from 35p to 42p per pod and a spend of £168 a year for two drinks per working day alone in comparison. Or Lidl's Deluxe Columbian Roast and Ground Coffee weighs in at £2.49. For a bag a week, this will cost £129.48 a year.
At lunchtime, workers may avail of a £3 meal deal at supermarket chain Tesco, around £678 a year if bought daily. Lunch still needs to be eaten at home and a 350g block of cheese will cost £2.59 at the same supermarket. Buying a loaf of bread for less than a pound and a packet of ham for £2 on average, will provide lunch for the week - and some money to spare.
Commuters could also save, with an adult travelling by bus from Antrim to Belfast city centre usually being charged £125.50 for a Translink 40 journey ticket. From Ballyclare to Belfast, a Smartlink ticket is £99 or to travel from Coleraine to Belfast by train is £222 for a monthly ticket. Even in the Belfast area, a dayLink ticket costs £15 for a working week, adding up to £60 a month.
The American financial planner Pete Dunn has said 5% of our take-home pay should be spent on clothing. For those earning the average Northern Ireland wage of £28,000 a year, take home pay might be in the region of £1,800 a month. That equals £90 a month for clothing. We can now get away with wearing leggings to our desks and are left with £1,080 annually.
Many households have found their spend on utilities has increased, having amounted to £500-600 a year for electricity and £400 to almost £500 for gas or £335.74 on average for 900 litres of home heating oil before lockdown, according to the Consumer Council. These bills can see a significant bump now double the time is being spent there during the day.
In the financial year ending March 2019, UK households spent £182 per week on activities now largely prevented by coronavirus restrictions, allowing room for spending or making up shortfall in other areas.
HMRC has now launched a microservice that means even those required to work at home for just a day can claim tax relief for being asked to do so, accepting expense claims for a full tax year worth £60 or £125 depending on your tax bracket.
Dr Esmond Birnie, a senior economist at Ulster University, said those of us who are now working largely from home have gained by not having to pay or spend time commuting, a reduced spend on lunch and relaxed dress code - but we have had to spend in other areas.
"In the opposite direction, perhaps more is being spent on heating the house, running gadgets, buying paper and ink for the printer and even getting more practical furniture," he said.