How does your company budget for telecommuters?

Reducing overhead is one of the key advantages of allowing employees to work from home, but what constitutes reasonable accommodation for technology and office supplies? The answer varies from firm to firm, but the majority of telecommuting operations furnish technology and other work-related items for their virtual office staff. 

According to Staples Advantage, 59 percent of purchasing departments factor telecommuting into their budgetary requirements, while 33 percent expect telecommuters to pay for devices and materials out of pocket. With a growing trend of bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies in brick-and-mortar offices, expecting telecommuters to provide their own supplies and equipment might not be such an extraordinary proposition. But that doesn't mean incidental costs don't arise. Neil Ringel, executive vice president of Staples Advantage, says it's incumbent upon managers to plan for expenditures for their virtual teams. 

"For many companies and employees, telecommuting makes good business sense," said Ringel. "However, if organizations don't budget accordingly and provide appropriate oversight, there is significant risk for rogue spending and inconsistencies in the tools provided to telecommuters. Organizations can reduce their overall spend with upfront planning, streamlined purchasing and procurement oversight."

For many companies, policy may be determined by industry norms. Creative professionals like photographers or designers may apply for telecommuting jobs with their own home studios already up and running. Fresh college graduates who go to work in marketing or consulting, however, might require an update to their tech capabilities at home, and lack the means to do it by themselves. Either way, employers should be sensitive to the needs and limitations of personal budgets to cover business expenses.

One way to boost employee satisfaction is to be sure they aren't footing the bill for your company's growth. 

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