Hidden work costs are a financial drain worth considering

How much of your wallet do you sacrifice for your job? No, I’m not talking about pay gaps, commuting costs or taking a salary hit to get that dream role. I mean actual, cold-hard cash stumped up that your employer should be paying.

Burning money in conical flask

Source: © Cultura Creative (RF)/Alamy Stock Photo

Earlier this year, a PhD dissertation by Emily Cayton of North Carolina State University, US, conducted a survey of school teachers in the US. The researchers aimed to find out the cost of materials to run a course and the potential shortfall. Chemistry, for example, cost up to $10,400 to implement – half of the cost being taken up by materials and equipment, with textbooks making up the majority of the rest. The good news is that chemistry seemed better funded for instructional materials than other subjects. Despite this, 63% of chemistry teachers still felt they were being under-funded.

Which is where we get to the problem. Around 95% of teachers surveyed reported buying equipment themselves. Chemistry teachers spent, on average, $422 of their own money every year on behalf of their classes. This was worst in rural areas ($482), with the burden lightest in wealthy, suburban schools ($337). One chemistry teacher even reported simplifying experiments and doing ‘less intricate labs with things I could do from the grocery store’.

This isn’t just an issue in teaching. In every walk of life, we incur little invisible expenses when the employer should really foot the bill. A few years ago #SciSpends trended on Twitter, with postdoc Edd Hind calculating he had forked out $1000 of his own money on conference travel, fees, posters, memberships, software and books. This is also a problem largely at the bottom, too; higher up the corporate or academic ladder, you’re more likely to have the materials you need, or have access to an expense account when you do have to put your hand in your pocket.

So before you shell out for something you don’t have to, pause for a moment. Ask yourself if you are paying for a burden that isn’t yours to carry. And if you are, are you willing to keep paying, or is it time to look for somewhere new?