Ask Sheri

Company Supplies For Home Offices

Mar 11th, 2021

As our workforce remains remote, many employees are now requesting company provided supplies for their home offices. What should we be offering and are any of these items mandated by law?  

Sheri's Response

Who would’ve thought we’d still be experiencing this scenario one year later? We’ve all watched employers push back return-to-office dates, first being the day after Labor Day, 2020 then January 2, 2021, then June 1, 2021 and now the majority discussing “indefinite” remote working arrangements.  While progressive employers have been offering telework benefits for years, never have we witnessed the majority of employers (public and private sector) contemplating their entire workforce working offsite.  Obvious exceptions include retail, fast food, manufacturing and other onsite essential staff.  We are also witnessing a trend where employees are choosing to place their Midwest homes on the market and move to Florida, Georgia, Tennessee or Arizona to work remotely full-time.  Global companies are quickly defining approval protocols and other tracking measures that ensure these unique conditions run smoothly. While some of these organizations are open to these types of relocation, most are prohibiting international relocations.

Now relative to your specific question regarding supplies, I would suggest generating a list of what might be needed to perform essential functions eg. hardware needs, office chair, files, paper, phone, etc.  Some organizations have provided a one-time financial allotment for employees to use as they please, while others are arranging for employees to simply come into the office and take what they need to perform their work.  Now, there is no legal requirement to provide supplies or even reimburse employees for example for internet charges, with the exception of a few states in the U.S.  

My advice would be to simply compensate employees for a proper office chair or at the very least, give  employees their chair from the onsite office, which could help prevent any unwanted workers compensation claims.  The HR community has been buzzing about what they expect will be rising (and popular) worker compensation charges in 2021, as home environments will probably fall short of ergonomic safety. Even the simple dining room table aka employee’s desk, is probably not at the proper height to work from 8 hours/day.  Last, I would suggest to simply use common sense and treat employees with respect regarding supply requests. Many are balancing their demanding home and work lives, and your best retention strategy is to support and respect your staff’s needs, especially during these critical times.