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COVID-19

Some companies help employees cover costs of working from home

Erika Beras Aug 13, 2020
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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
Heard on:
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’s the outlook for vaccine supply?

Chief executives of America’s COVID-19 vaccine makers promised in congressional testimony to deliver the doses promised to the U.S. government by summer. The projections of confidence come after months of supply chain challenges and companies falling short of year-end projections for 2020. What changed? In part, drugmakers that normally compete are now actually helping one another. This has helped solve several supply chain issues, but not all of them.

How has the pandemic changed scientific research?

Over the past year, while some scientists turned their attention to COVID-19 and creating vaccines to fight it, most others had to pause their research — and re-imagine how to do it. Social distancing, limited lab capacity — “It’s less fun, I have to say. Like, for me the big part of the science is discussing the science with other people, getting excited about projects,” said Isabella Rauch, an immunologist at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland. Funding is also a big question for many.

What happened to all of the hazard pay essential workers were getting at the beginning of the pandemic?

Almost a year ago, when the pandemic began, essential workers were hailed as heroes. Back then, many companies gave hazard pay, an extra $2 or so per hour, for coming in to work. That quietly went away for most of them last summer. Without federal action, it’s mostly been up to local governments to create programs and mandates. They’ve helped compensate front-line workers, but they haven’t been perfect. “The solutions are small. They’re piecemeal,” said Molly Kinder at the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program. “You’re seeing these innovative pop-ups because we have failed overall to do something systematically.”

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