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As the global coronavirus pandemic continues, businesses that rapidly adopted a work-from-home strategy are starting to realize this new way of working is not a temporary ordeal. Instead, work from home could be a lasting situation.
While many companies have plans to return to the office, many others -- like Dell and Twitter -- have said work from home would be a permanent component of their workforce accommodation. While this change may have a long-term effect on commercial real estate, the near-term fallout affects an organization's work-from-home reimbursement policy, especially with regard to network technology expenses.
To start, companies should consider their existing expense reimbursement rules and procedures and assume that any new work-from-home reimbursement policy is in line with their current guidelines. Understanding that network technology will be key to any reimbursement plan, companies should establish some minimum guidelines around work-from-home technology expenses.
For instance, establishing a minimum connection rate and equipment standard ensures that work from home is as close to an on-premises experience as possible. Some employees may have opted for a lower-speed ISP package and now must also contend with children at home doing distance learning, leading to an overall connection experience back to headquarters that is lacking.
Establishing a reimbursement rule for internet connectivity should include some parameter about the connection as well. The goal should be using reimbursement to drive better overall network connectivity, not just offsetting an employee's existing bills.
Align investments with job functions and productivity
As employees will be connected to headquarters via a VPN in most cases, VPN monitoring is essential. With the proper monitoring tools, a company can see how employees are connecting and at what rate.
A creative reimbursement plan may be not basing reimbursement on the cost of the employee's monthly bill, but instead paying the employee on a graduated scale based on average monthly connection rate. This will help emphasize that the company is making an investment in the overall customer experience.
For some knowledge workers, like engineers, lawyers or executives, high-bandwidth connectivity could be critical. In these cases, instead of reimbursing a monthly ISP bill, it may make sense to extend the network edge and provide a software-defined WAN appliance and connection to the employee at home.
Just because employees are now working from home, don't assume any and every technology expense is a net positive. Investments in different areas can benefit a company if they are aligned to actual job responsibilities. Building a work-from-home reimbursement matrix -- like the sample below -- can help target company investments into the right areas based on job function.
While most companies will probably need to start some type of reimbursement for employees who work from home, these costs will not necessarily offset many of the existing expenses that a company will continue to accrue. A comprehensive and deliberate strategy of tying the work-from-home reimbursement policy to areas that are driving the greatest productivity can bring more success in these trying times.