As COVID-19 necessitates the shift to remote work, employers have been forced to evaluate the resources they provide to their employees. Remote work leaves employees without the typical office setup they would have at an in-person job, requiring them to purchase supplies such as desks, chairs, and upgraded wifi for themselves. To accommodate for this, many countries or companies have implemented employee stipends to help cover any additional costs.
In the United States, work from home stipends can vary significantly. California, Illinois, Iowa, Montana, and D.C require employers to cover all business related costs incurred by their employees. More often, individual companies like Google, Twitter, and Shopify, have decided on their own stipend packages. Besides direct financial assistance, companies have offered virtual fitness classes and additional wellness benefits.
Meanwhile, in the United Kingdom, Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs states that companies must pay at least £6 a week (£26 a month), to help cover additional costs associated with remote work. This money is untaxed, however only applies to individuals who must work from home, not those who chose to.
Outside of the U.S and U.K, Germany plans to refund employees up to €600 via a tax rebate. Switzerland passed a ruling in 2019 that required companies to reimburse employees for a proportion of their rent if working from home. While not directly applicable to the pandemic, the ruling provides a strong precedent for shaping future legislation.
To better understand this shift, we reached out to four different executives to see what specific actions they have taken within their organizations.
Rocky, the founder of Melbourne based Calibre Cleaning, told us,“Unlike the new wave of home office setups due to the pandemic, our business has been entirely remote from day one. We provide our employees with a laptop and a $500 AUD annual budget for all of the remaining needs. We believe everyone works best in their own unique way, and our stipend is a reflection of that – it is a flexible budget that our team can choose how they wish to spend it.”
Kriti, co-founder of London-based startup NOVOS, explained to us, “When we moved to a remote set up last year, we allocated a budget of £500 to each employee – they used to set up their home office and buy things like desks, chairs, plants, headphones, screens etc. We normally give work laptops to employees anyway. Additionally, we have been giving approx £30 each month to each employee to cover their broadband expenses.”
Ronnie Teja, CEO of Softwarekeep, says “As a company, we’ve given our employees a stipend to cater for their internet connection and get higher bandwidths, given out new PCs with increased specs to ensure they have the right tools while working from home. But most importantly, some employees opted for co-working office spaces, an idea which we welcomed and paid for.”
Rolf Bax, the Chief Human Resources Officer for Resume.io, added that, “The allowance will be available for a number of pre-approved items, including HD webcams, noise cancelling headsets, light fixtures, stationery, room dividers for privacy, air purifiers as well as important cybersecurity software like VPNs, antivirus and firewalls. There are other items we are considering but we are thinking of allocating up to $500 dollars per employee to start.”
Together, these stakeholders emphasized the importance of providing ways for their employees to be successful from home. There was consensus on ensuring wifi connection, as well as allowing employees to use their own discretion.