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COVID-19

Some companies help employees cover costs of working from home

Erika Beras Aug 13, 2020
Heard on: Marketplace
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Some employers are providing stipends to employees for ergonomic chairs, file cabinets and other needs while the pandemic keeps them working at home. FreshSplash/Getty Images
COVID-19

Some companies help employees cover costs of working from home

Erika Beras Aug 13, 2020
Some employers are providing stipends to employees for ergonomic chairs, file cabinets and other needs while the pandemic keeps them working at home. FreshSplash/Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
COPY

As more companies decide that their employees can work from home indefinitely, some of them are paying remote-work stipends — among them, Google, Twitter and Shopify.

The stipends let employees buy themselves things they need to recreate the office at home. And what those things are varies from company to company.

Sean Page already worked from home when the pandemic started. His employer, tech company Webflow, paid him a home office stipend of $250 a month, then upped it by 50%. Page has used the money to buy things like a chair and wellness apps. 

“My charger crapped out just because I’ve been using my laptop nonstop. So it was really nice having that remote stipend to kind of cover that cost when that occurred,” Page said.

More companies are following Webflow’s lead. Peter Cappelli, director of the Center for Human Resources at the Wharton School, said that’s the kind of thing potential employees look for. 

“They check what we know about this company and what they’ve done and how they’ve treated their employees before,” Cappelli said. “It’s kind of an investment in future recruiting.”

There are legal reasons for companies to spend this money, said Bradford Bell, a human resources professor at Cornell. 

“You certainly have issues around employee health and wellness,” he said.

So an ergonomic chair might make sense, and if they’re dealing with sensitive information and data, they might need file cabinets that lock, for example.

These stipends can’t provide the perks that a lot of workplaces offer. The cloud computing company Box in Redwood City, California, fed workers breakfast, lunch and snacks. Since lockdown, they got $600 in stipends. Chief People Officer Jessica Swank said the company isn’t trying to recreate its office experience.

“We recognize that we can’t duplicate it 1 to 1,” she said.

Swank said she hopes the stipends make working more comfortable for employees until they get back to the office — whenever that is.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

What does the unemployment picture look like?

It depends on where you live. The national unemployment rate has fallen from nearly 15% in April down to 8.4% percent last month. That number, however, masks some big differences in how states are recovering from the huge job losses resulting from the pandemic. Nevada, Hawaii, California and New York have unemployment rates ranging from 11% to more than 13%. Unemployment rates in Idaho, Nebraska, South Dakota and Vermont have now fallen below 5%.

Will it work to fine people who refuse to wear a mask?

Travelers in the New York City transit system are subject to $50 fines for not wearing masks. It’s one of many jurisdictions imposing financial penalties: It’s $220 in Singapore, $130 in the United Kingdom and a whopping $400 in Glendale, California. And losses loom larger than gains, behavioral scientists say. So that principle suggests that for policymakers trying to nudge people’s public behavior, it may be better to take away than to give.

How are restaurants recovering?

Nearly 100,000 restaurants are closed either permanently or for the long term — nearly 1 in 6, according to a new survey by the National Restaurant Association. Almost 4.5 million jobs still haven’t come back. Some restaurants have been able to get by on innovation, focusing on delivery, selling meal or cocktail kits, dining outside — though that option that will disappear in northern states as temperatures fall. But however you slice it, one analyst said, the United States will end the year with fewer restaurants than it began with. And it’s the larger chains that are more likely to survive.

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