If your company asks you to work from home you may be able use the opportunity to negotiate additional benefits. These benefits are rooted in your firm’s desire to empower you and in the fact that the firm will likely save considerable money by giving up your office desk.
Before going into those benefits, we want to explain the types of expenses your company likely accrues as a result of having an office for you to work in. Some of these expenses are obvious, others less so. Because we want you to be fully informed about the costs your firm is saving as a result of having you work from home full or part time, let us start by explaining the concept of operating expenses.
In order to negotiate new benefits, you must first understand how the costs and financial structures of your firm work. You can’t negotiate for added benefits if you don’t know how these benefits will be financed. In short, your firm will save money by having you work from home. You should be able to access some of these savings and obtain new perks.
Understanding Business Finance
Before jumping into the benefits you should ask for, you need to know where these benefits exist today. Every firm keeps financial statements, including one called the income statement. In this statement, your firm will state how much money they have made, their costs, and earnings. For the sake of simplicity, let’s assume that your firm has normal operating costs. These are items that they pay in order to maintain their routine daily operation, including:
- Maintenance and repairs of offices, such as snow removal, trash removal, janitorial service, pest control, and lawn care
- Miscellaneous office expenses
- General supplies
- Office utilities
- Leases or mortgage for real estate holdings
- Telephone and internet
- Property management, including a resident manager
- Cleaning fees
- Property taxes
By having a percentage (large or small) of it’s staff working remotely, a firm can greatly reduce its operating costs (also known as operating expenditures). Some firms, like Google, provide three meals a day to each staff member. Other firms provide coffee or fruit. In short, companies spend huge sums of their budgets on salaries, operating costs, and their staff’s working environments. Office space is expensive – the sooner your firm has you out of the office the sooner they can reduce their lease obligations and real estate holdings.
Working from Home changes this equation. According to some estimates, an employee costs roughly 10% of their salary as a result of needing an office (and the holistic costs outlined above that that entails). When your firm asks you to work from home, the firm no longer is paying these fees. Their office real estate footprint shirks, their taxes may shrink, their fixed costs go down, and their variable costs flatten as well (they are making way less coffee when nobody is there to drink it). You, the employee, will have to shoulder some of these costs. For example, you will need home wifi in order to work from home. You will need to do your own cleaning, make your own coffee, and use your own phone to call clients. You will need to cool your home in the summer and heat it in the winter. Of course the list keeps going, but we wanted to frame these general costs for you.
If your employer asks why you feel entitled to new benefits you can now use the general logic above to explain it to them. You are not asking for more benefits; you are asking for the same benefits distributed differently.
What You Must Ask For
Here are costs that you will certainly see change as a result of working from home:
- Your utility bill will increase
- You won’t have access to an office phone
- You likely need additional office equipment, and you should be able to make specific preferences here (vertical monitor, mechanical keyboard, mid century modern desk, kneeling chair)
- You might face more demands on your time as people will schedule earlier or later meetings figuring you can easily attend since you are “at home” anyway
Wifi, Mobile Phone, Equipment,
Given these realities you should ask for (and negotiate) additional work from home benefits. Here are a number of such benefits you should request:
- Home Wifi bill: many firms don’t cover this. You should ask for having all or a portion of your home wifi bill covered as you will be required to have it for work.
- Mobile phone bill: if you were using an office phone and must use your own cell phone to sync with clients and partners your firm should cover your mobile data plan. If you need a secondary phone (only used for work) ask for it. If speaking on the phone is a core part of your job this is a perk you should advocate for.
- Office Equipment: you can’t work as effectively without basic office equipment. You might need headphones to hear clients, a desk to work, a chair, and a monitor or mouse. Perhaps you own some of these items already but you should ask for a one time annual stipend to upgrade and improve your working environment. As you transition to work from home you may not have a home office setup that is as comfortable and effective as possible. To help make working from home easier for you, ask for the following: the ability to purchase products that you need to create a comfortable work from home space (for example: desk, standing desk, gel mat for a standing desk, chair, webcam, lighting). While equipment is one essential part of creating your space, other tools might also be helpful like a subscription to Calm, Headspace or other apps that improve your overall well being. Ideally you can avoid spending money on core technology that your firm should provide (laptop, chargers, dongles, other IT equipment).
- Utilities (or a percentage of utilities): this might strike you or your employer as a non-standard item but do note that your heating, cooling, and electric bills will be far higher if you work from home all of the time.
This list is a start – and is intended to empower you as you transition from an office to a Working From Home set up. Before negotiations commence, you should know what you care most about and why. The first rule of negotiations, according to research conducted by Harvard University is to “know thyself”. Know what you want, and what you don’t care about. For example, if heating is included in your rent but you don’t have a desk, go for the higher value item.
Likewise, if you share utilities with roommates and are indifferent to this but must purchase an expensive phone plan to reach clients, ask for help with this from your employer. Your management and firm will want you to be successful as long as you are on payroll. By standing up for yourself and asking for new benefits, you are informing them that you care about doing good work.
When you respectfully inform them of their aggregate cost saving (reference their operating costs in the income statement) they will know that your request is rooted in research. And as they ponder what to do next (for you, and your colleagues) the outcome will likely be in your favor.