Why companies should cover the cost of office supplies for remote workers

Only 53% of organizations cover the cost of laptops, chairs, and monitors, but employees want and need that support, Procurify found.

How businesses can bolster connectivity for telecommuters during the coronavirus pandemic
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The coronavirus pandemic has pushed professionals to adapt to a remote workstyle. Many individuals have worked from home at times, but the shift to a completely remote working life is startling. Some 32% of professionals said they had never worked from home prior to COVID-19, a Procurify survey found

SEE: Coronavirus: Critical IT policies and tools every business needs (TechRepublic)

Telecommuting is an adjustment, but 69% of respondents said their companies have not offered any additional perks to ease the transition of working from home. One of the biggest problems is having all of the necessary equipment, and only 53% of respondents said their team has covered the cost of supplies, the survey found. 

With the economy in a tailspin, professionals are rightfully concerned about finances. Working from home entails having strong connectivity, a proper hardware system, and an area to conduct your work. 

However, not all employees automatically have this at their disposal, and 41% of respondents said they don't think they'll be reimbursed for expenses promptly while working from home, according to the survey.

When asked what supplies would be the most helpful in their home offices, the respondents cited the following items: 

  • A sit/stand desk 18%
  • An ergonomic chair 16%
  • A new computer monitor 15%
  • Headphones 12%
  • A printer 10%
  • A laptop stand 9%
  • A wireless keyboard and mouse 7%

"Following the rapid shift to remote work, employers may be asking themselves if they should be reimbursing employees for the business use of personal assets such as mobile devices, internet, or home offices," said Danielle Lackey, chief legal officer at Motus, a cloud-based reimbursement solution provider. 

"The answer to this, in a number of instances, is yes," Lackey said. 

Reasons supplies should be reimbursed 

Compensating individuals with necessary tools or providing those tools is critical now more than ever, since people especially need that support during the coronavirus crisis, said Jessica Lim, HR partner at MyPerfectResume. 

A company that provides supplies acts "as proof that they care for [employees'] well-being," Lim said. "The comfort and provision of necessary tools for work should be of paramount importance."

"If the office supplies were permitted and expected at the office, they should be as well when employees are forced to work remotely," Lim said. "All within a reasonable limit of course, but with a list and spending limits things which irrefutably impact your performance should be given a priority."

For companies that are debating providing equipment, Lackey outlined a few groups she felt deserved to definitely be reimbursed. 

She recommended reimbursing team members who earn at-or-close to minimum wage. Additionally, team members who live in California, Illinois, Massachusetts, Iowa, Montana, or Washington, D.C., should be compensated, as those states require the reimbursement of employee business-related expenses, regardless of wage, Lackey said.  

"Providing work from home reimbursement is especially meaningful after the recent Tax Cuts and Jobs Act tax reform, which eliminated the deduction for unreimbursed job expenses," Lackey said. "Team members who previously could have deducted many of the new costs they're experiencing now have no way to be made whole without a reimbursement provided by their employer."

Lim offered a "pro tip" for companies, suggesting they select a specific store along with a particular make and model of office supplies to make the process consistent and fair for all workers. 

Lim suggested organizations cover the cost of a laptop, ergonomic office chair (budget limited),  mouse, laptop stand, external monitor (per need basis), external keyboard (per need basis), and printer (per need basis). 

For more, check out Telecommuting 101: How to support and manage a global remote workforce on TechRepublic. 

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