Who should pay for home office setup costs — the company or the worker? See what this survey found

by Brianna Crandall — November 4, 2020 — Over 80% percent of employers believe the organization should absorb the cost of a home office setup for employees that work from home full-time, according to a new study from research-based consulting firm Global Workplace Analytics and B2B and B2C furniture and technology distributor Design Public Group. This is a dramatic increase over those who did so before the COVID-19 pandemic and shutdowns.

GWA home office survey

Over 80% percent of employers believe the organization should absorb the cost of a home office setup for employees that work from home full-time, according to the new study. Image courtesy GWA

These and other findings from “The Future of Home Office Cost Sharing” survey seem to indicate profound changes coming in how companies procure and distribute technology and furniture, budget for workplaces, attract and retain talent, and manage safety risk.

According to the study, not only do organizations feel responsible for absorbing the cost of a home office setup for employees that work from home full-time, but the majority also feel responsible even when an employee is working from home 3 days/week (61% agree the organization is responsible), and some even for 1 day/week (23% agree).

GWA home office graph

Image courtesy GWA

The survey captured sentiments around provisioning for home office technology, furniture, utilities and more.

Kate Lister, president of Global Workplace Analytics, stated:

Before COVID, employees who worked from home generally saw it as a privilege and didn’t expect their employer to cover their home office expenses. The survey shows that sentiment has shifted during the pandemic.

I think three factors are at play here. First, working from home is no longer a matter of choice. Second, it’s one thing to sit in an uncomfortable chair or work with just one monitor when you are used to having two when you’re doing it one or two days a week; it’s another thing altogether when you’re doing it every day for months on end. Finally, the demographics of who’s working from home have shifted from mostly high-income older workers before COVID-19, to the full range of income classes during it, and those with lower incomes simply can’t afford ergonomic or upgraded technology solutions.

The survey also revealed:

  • The shift to work from home is definitely here to stay. Only 5% of companies expect a return to normal when the pandemic is over. Nearly half of companies have already announced a more permanent shift to work from home post-COVID.
  • Nearly 25% of organizations expect 75%+ of their workforce to work from home 3+ days/week post-COVID, and 22% are still undecided.
  • Most companies have already provided technology such as a laptop (92%), webcam (68%) and 2nd monitor (54%) for employees’ home offices. Next, companies are considering providing a chair (41% considering) and desk (31% considering).
  • More than half have allowed employees to take office equipment home; others provide discounts, stipends, monthly allowances, or pay based on invoices.
  • Nearly half of respondents said they were unaware of the worker’s comp and health insurance liabilities of not providing employees with an ergonomic home office.

Lister continued:

Leading employers are already thinking about the need for good ergonomics at home, and I suspect it won’t be long before others look to the economics of it just as they have in the office. The fact is they could pay for over 350 ergonomic office chairs for the cost of one workers’ compensation claim.

Matthew Lieb, owner and CEO of Design Public Group, remarked:

At the start of the pandemic, nobody really had a plan or policy regarding home office expenses. Many reacted quickly by letting employees take their office setups home or offering stipends via paychecks, without much oversight into how or where they’re spent. But what we’re seeing now is a realization among employers that it’s in their best interest to ensure employees have a setup that’s designed with employee health, safety, and productivity in mind.

Reflecting the home office trends shown in this report, earlier this year Design Public Group launched an innovative Work-From-Home Furniture Program that provides a platform from which employers can offer home office furniture bundles for their employees, apply stipends as available, and ensure white-glove home delivery.

The complete findings for “The Future of Home Office Cost Sharing” is available from the Global Workplace Analytics website. Over 80 organization leaders representing the C-suite, human resources and real estate who collectively oversee nearly 300,000 employees were surveyed from September 16 to September 25, 2020.