Workers and businesses are seeing the benefits of work-from-home flexibility. But if your employer isn’t covering or subsidizing your home office expenses, they may be taking advantage of you. After all, hybrid and remote workers save employers money, so why are you footing the bill for your work expenses?
Now is the time to negotiate.
More people than ever are set to work from home—at least part of the time—as we recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, in part because they’ve found it’s better for their work performance and health. In May of 2021, a Bloomberg survey found that 39% of workers would consider quitting their jobs if they were not provided with a remote work option going forward. Accenture found that 83% of workers want to work remotely 25–75% of the time.
Hybrid work is the future, and while there will be growing pains, there will also be financial benefits (such as decreased real estate costs) for companies in the long term. That’s why it makes sense for you to negotiate fair compensation for your expenses as they relate to working from home.
Do your research on home office expenses.
The federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) generally does not entitle an employee to be reimbursed for expenses they incur while working from home. However, some states do have more generous reimbursement requirements, so it’s important to do your research so you know what you’re entitled to.
However, even if you don’t live in a state with reimbursement requirements, employees are in a good position to negotiate right now. The current labor shortage across many industries is providing extra leverage to workers since employers are eager to retain and recruit reliable talent.
What You Can—And Should—Ask For
The first step: Figure out what extra expenses you might be accruing so you can develop a plan to negotiate payment for your remote work needs with your employer.
Here are some home office expenses to ask about:
- Computer and/or laptop—This is a no-brainer, especially if you need to keep your work secure. Your employer should also pay for any necessary software.
- External monitor and peripherals—Employees often need multiple screens to view business documents in detail or multitask. A separate keyboard and mouse is also necessary for laptop-to-desk transitions.
- Webcam—Nothing makes you look more amateur on those Zoom calls than a fuzzy or lagging visual feed during a meeting. This is one area where it’s critical not to cut corners. We recommend the Logitech Brio 4K business webcam—it’s small and unobtrusive, and has state-of-the-art HDR technology as well as smart settings for different environments.
- A professional backdrop for online meetings—You want to look professional for online meetings, but you also need to maintain the privacy of your home. Anyvoo makes lightweight, portable video backdrops that can be easily set up anywhere in your house (or anywhere you happen to be traveling). And if you flip them over when you’re not working, they can even act as décor.
- Microphone—This needs to be unobtrusive and allow your voice to come through clearly to help recreate the intimacy of face-to-face conversation.
- Auxiliary lighting—Ring lights won’t cut it when you’re trying to make a conversation feel natural. Try LED panels to create the ideal environment for your meeting or presentation.
Utilities, Data Plans, & Subscriptions
- High-speed internet—It’s crucial that you have the highest speed internet available for no-lag communications. Nothing ruins a meeting faster than having audio or video cut out because of poor internet service.
- Cell phone plan—If you’re expected to answer work calls on your personal phone, it’s not unreasonable to think about asking your boss to at least subsidize your data plan, or perhaps the device itself.
- Utility expenses—Most of us aren’t racking up higher energy bills just by working from home, but a few are truly spending extra unnecessarily.
- Subscriptions—Any requirements you have that improve your ability to be productive or enhance your professional development should be reimbursed by your employer. This includes membership in professional organizations; upgrades to Zoom, Slack, etc. accounts; password managers or other security services.
- Ergonomic seating—You can put yourself in real pain with bad posture. Ergonomic chairs are a must.
- A sit-to-stand desk—Avoid skimping here as well. Constant sitting will lead to suboptimal health, so (barring any injuries or disabilities) employees should have an allowance for a desk that allows them to sit as well as stand comfortably. Fully makes a wonderful product, and employers should aim to spend around $500-$1,000 for this equipment if their employees can accommodate it in their homes.
Other Office Supplies
- Printers (if necessary)
- Postage (if relevant)
- Miscellaneous items such as envelopes, printer paper, notepads, etc. can represent a significant expense to you, depending on your job. If you need more office supplies than what you would normally have lying around the house (and that would be provided in an office), you should ask about being reimbursed for them.
Negotiating Your Benefits
You’re an asset to your company and it benefits them to spend money to make your working conditions optimal. In the end, this allows you to work smarter and be an actively contributing member of your team.
It’s also important to research your expenses in the event you have to justify them. There’s no doubt your boss will be seeing more articles about what remote workers need in order to be happy and productive, so just remember—they’re probably expecting this conversation!