Implementing and Modifying your Company’s “Home Office Stipend”

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to have an impact on the global workforce, every day is a new day and a new chance for corporate leaders to re-evaluate and improve changes made to help workers adapt to remote work. A large part of that includes implanting and/or modifying a “home office stipend.”

Before the pandemic, an estimated 70 percent of the global workforce already worked remotely at least once a week. But now, after changes that practically happened overnight, that number is certainly growing, with most employees working remotely all days of the week. The change will likely be felt after the pandemic, as Global Workplace Analytics estimates 25% to 35% of the workforce will work remotely by the end of 2021. As a result, home office stipends are becoming crucial for company operations and an important part of yearly budgets.

In a recent Aon survey, one in five companies said they were helping to pay for their employees’ remote desks, chairs, and computers. The #1 given tool is a laptop, which is essential for remote work and was common prior to the pandemic. But because of new remote working requirements, some companies also now provide items such as ergonomic chairs, to help ensure employee productivity and wellness during these often challenging times.

Why You Should Implement a Home Office Stipend

  1. Improved Productivity
    By ensuring your employees have access to tools, and potentially a nice desk and chair, at their home, you are encouraging a dedicated workspace. The area can be a free area of their home – or for those with smaller spaces, the corner of a designated room or living room. Regardless of where, having that designated workspace helps prevent distractions and promotes a focused mindset. It also helps to create work-life balance and differentiate “work” from “relaxation” which is sometimes hard to do, if 100% of your work is also happening in your home. When done correctly with the right tools, up to 65% of remote workers report feeling a productivity boost. In fact, another survey from FlexJobs found that only 3% of remote workers surveyed felt they were less productive.
  2. Promoting Loyalty
    Providing your remote employees with items they need to create an office at home is a nice and appreciated gesture. You are essentially taking care of the employee by offering the resources and tools that they would receive in a traditional office environment. Despite the pandemic environment, the number of people in the U.S. voluntarily quitting their jobs increased by 344,000 to 2.9 million in July 2020. The numbers might be a bit surprising, as during times of uncertainty, people who feel somewhat secure in their jobs will try to hold on, until after uncertainty passes. To help increase employee retention both during and after this pandemic, it’s important to continuously re-evaluate policies and work to ensure you are providing the best employee experience possible, especially in light of unpredictable times.
  3. Decreased Costs, Regardless
    Most likely you are going to save more corporate dollars by having employees work remotely, even with a uniform home office stipend. It’s estimated companies can save $11k per remote employee, each year. Increased productivity, lower real estate costs, reduced absenteeism and turnover – all contribute to those costs. Not to mention cost savings from coffee, snacks, and office events and happy hours. During the COVID-19 environment, due to leases and the hope of returning to an office, while your traditional office real estate costs might not be lower, chances are your corporate electricity bill is lower, along with things like company travel budgets.
  4. Increased Recruitment Success

One in three millennials have turned down a job because of poor insurance offerings or other considerations regarding benefits. As the workforce changes, and corporate cultures are now dependent on Zoom and Microsoft Teams meetings virtually from individual home offices, companies that quickly adapt and keep up with trends, by offering tools for remote success, will be “ahead of the pack”, regarding recruiting top talent.

How to Implement a Home Office Stipend

Establish Guidelines
Home office stipends come in all different amounts and types. For example, do you want to have a one-time stipend, followed by monthly, quarterly, or yearly smaller allowances? The larger, one-time payment could include larger office equipment, like a desk and a chair, along with other essential items, such as a keyboard and mouse. Then the smaller allowances could be used so employees can purchase items like pens and notebooks.

  • Individual Roles
    Other considerations could include individual roles and the types of equipment different departments may need. Perhaps one role requires printing of materials. In that case you’d likely need a printer and possibly a document shredder.

Here at Papaya Global, we kept it streamlined, implementing a $500 per year “home office allowance” for our employees. This seems to work really well, so that everyone is able to have the items they’ll need at their desk to be productive during the workday. Then, for larger items, requests can be made and approved by our human resources department on a case-by-case basis.

  • Additional Perks
    To further boost morale, and provide a comfortable home-office working environment, some companies are offering additional “stipend-like” perks, such as replacing office snacks with home delivery. Basically, you can bring some of your “traditional office culture” to a home office environment. For an even more innovative method, consider encouraging your employees to use a food and snack stipend at small and locally owned businesses, which may be hurting and struggling financially from the pandemic. This is great for your company’s reputation, as well, as you could add “supporting local business during tough times” to your cultural values.

In addition to snacks, consider offering a stipend for health and wellness. You could partner with an app for mediation and yoga – or you could add consideration for subscription services for exercise and well-being to your stipend plan.

If you are going to provide a stipend that includes access to additional perks, one effective method would be to “put the ball in each employees’ court” in how they would like to spend the stipend, but to offer suggestions and regularly communicate through employee newsletters the benefits of allocating money from a stipend to use toward a meditation app.

The extra care will not only help increase productivity and help encourage and keep employees’ creativity sparked, but it could also make an impact in the lives of others, as cases of depression tripled in the U.S. last year.

Global Considerations
Just across generations within the U.S. alone, there is truly a “one size fits none” for benefit preferences for Baby Boomers, Generation X, Millennials, and the now, up-and-coming Generation Z. Just as generational differences are true, the same goes for your global audience, and it’s important to make considerations about your global home office stipend program, based on regional differences.

Due to differences in currency and differences in prices for common goods, you might want to consider having separate policies for offices by country. Also, some of your global workforce may be more likely to spend a day or two per work week in the office, depending on safety issues, regional circumstances, and the location of your home office.

How you implement your global strategy also depends on how your organization is structured. If you are using regional centers of operations, you could have a policy that varies based on each regional office.

The decision is also largely based on company culture. For example, at Papaya Global, we are very dedicated to providing a uniform employee benefits’ experience, regardless of where each employee is located throughout the world. For example, we offer a $500 fitness stipend to every employee, which is translated via each employee’s individual currency, depending on his or her country of residence.

Modify as Needed
The great thing about having a new home office allowance is that you can study your results and how your first policy impacts your organization and make modifications based on those results and feedback from your senior managers and their teams. If you are looking for streamlined feedback that’s easy to access, send out a survey to managers, or you could always take a more casual word-of-mouth approach to gage the success of your program.

Another best practice is to study programs offered by larger companies, smaller companies – and even your competitors. Home office stipends are fairly new and there will likely be new research and new models introduced in the future, which can also be beneficial in making decisions surrounding these programs. The sky is the limit, as we all move forward, navigating changes in the global workforce, together.

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