Working from home is on the rise, and employers need to know how to provide this new type of worker with the tools they need. A remote employee reimbursement policy is a key part of managing remote workers.

According to Gallup, the amount of employees who worked remotely grew in 2016 to 43 percent, compared to 39 percent in 2012.

One challenge this brings is that it is much harder to engage and develop a culture with employees that aren’t in the office everyday. Common practices like team-building activities, lunches with coworkers and company meetings aren’t available to help build camaraderie. Tuition reimbursement, or other programs not based in-office, can help extend company culture, but only to a certain extent.

Remote workers also can struggle to get the tools they need to maximize their productivity. From electronics and software to a comfortable workspace, remote workers should be given similar consideration to in-office employees.

This is where a remote employee reimbursement policy comes in. Let remote workers choose the specific items. They know what will fit into their space better than anyone else. But, also make it clear what the company will or won’t pay for.

Here are the three things that should be included in any remote employee reimbursement policy.

1. Internet

Internet access is a necessity for almost every job these days, and with remote work, the need is magnified. Any remote employee reimbursement policy should include an internet section.
There are a couple ways to go with internet reimbursement policies, and plenty of factors to consider.

In 2015, 77 percent of households had broadband internet subscriptions according to the United States Census Bureau.

This means that, most likely, remote workers already have internet in their homes and are comfortable paying for it.

Because of this, paying for a remoter worker’s internet is often not considered a necessity. And many companies don’t offer reimbursement for it. This can be a good way to help keep costs down and should be considered.

However, with more companies offering remote positions, the opportunity to skip the morning commute isn’t always enough to attract or retain key players. This is where an internet reimbursement policy can make a difference.

No one wants to feel like they are paying to work, and, if a remote workers thinks that their internet bill is largely being put toward company time, it can build resentment.

Talk to employees and ask them for input on what could improve their moral or make their lives easier.

Keep in mind picking up the whole bill isn’t always expected or necessary. An internet reimbursement policy up to a certain dollar amount can be a great way to keep things fair with different internet providers and plans among employees.

According to Quartz, the average internet bill in the United States is close to $50. Consider picking up close to the whole thing, or an amount in-line with how much is being used for company tasks.

2. Cell Phone

Communication is key in any business, and, with a dispersed team, it becomes even more vital.
It is a must to include phones in a remote employee reimbursement policy. Regardless of if remote workers are using them to communicate with coworkers or clients.

Some companies opt to buy employees company phones for work use only. But this is cumbersome for employees who will inevitably end up carrying two phones.

Reimbursing part or all of employee cell phone bills shows the company understands and respects the demands of working out of the office. This can be a big factor in acquiring and retaining remote talent.

Reimbursement based on the amount of company use the phone gets makes sense, but it can be hard to track and determine what the proper dollar amount is.

The average cell phone bill in the U.S. is $50 to $60 per month according to Quicken.

Work with your employees to find a balance that is fair for both parties. Have employees examine their bills for a few months and compare their personal use to their work use. Then, decide on a dollar amount to reimburse.

It’s fine to have different mobile phone tiers in a remote employee reimbursement policy.

Reimburse those who are required to be on the phone more at a higher amount. Just make sure to use the same dollar amount for all employees that have a similar job function.

3. Office Supplies

Remote workers use office supplies too, and it’s important they don’t compromise the quality of their work to save a few dollars.

It’s also easy to see the potential for abuse. So including home office supplies in a remote employee reimbursement policy is a must.

Not everyone is going to be using pens and paper on a daily basis in the age of computers, but some workers certainly will.

The level of reimbursement should vary by industry and job function. Employers should work with remote workers to determine what makes sense.

Don’t pay for the kids’ craft supplies every month, but certainly don’t short remote workers and risk building resentment over a few dollars.

Consider having a dollar limit that employees can spend up to each month, and have them submit itemized expense reports to be sure the supplies are in-line with the job function.

It may be necessary to define which supplies will be accepted for reimbursement in the policy. Allow employees to enquire about other items before purchasing them.

What other sort of expenses are you reimbursing your employees for? Let us know in the comments section below!