Why Remote Workers Pay for Internet Expenses

There is an expectation by remote workers that internet and phone expenses should be reimbursed by the employer. Whether you work from home or are a digital nomad, there are good reasons you or your employer may want you to cover these costs.

In my early days of telecommuting, my employer offered to reimburse my internet fees, and even supplied networking equipment. It was around 1999, and I may have had a Wi-Fi router before I had my own cellphone. The company wanted to establish a baseline and secure network. In less than a year, these perks were dropped, having nothing to do with saving money for these incidentals.

I am not a lawyer, and likely can’t explain this in proper lawyer-ish correctness, only in the way I see it. When my employer changed direction on expensing internet access for us early work from home adoptees, it was done to protect the company from liability. Someone in the organization realized that company-paid internet access for at-home employees did not ensure how access was used. It could be used by anyone in the home for any purpose. If the usage was illicit, the company could be complicit.

Now laptops and cellphones are company provided, work is connected through a corporate virtual private network (VPN), and internet access is the employee responsibility. The VPN and company assets protect the company network and data, and it protects the remote worker.

It may not be obvious how this arrangement protects the employee. In simplest form, the company business has no awareness of your personal business. It limits actions the company may take if there is disagreement with your online activities. Surfing for porn on the company laptop is understandably forbidden (unless, perhaps, you work for Pornhub). If your internet access is company paid, the company may be liable on how the access is used, regardless of who is using it.

One way to skirt the liability issue, and offer a negotiable benefit for the digital nomad, is to have a generic home office company stipend. This gives the remote worker a flexible budget, without having to expense items explicitly. As the money is spent at the discretion of the virtual employee, the liability issues become mute while accommodating other intangible costs.

If you are not getting any compensation for work from home expenses, it may be a good time to ask. There are companies offering it as a new-hire allowance. It may be a trivial grant by a current employer to enhance retention.

Other Articles of Interest

A Beginners Guide To VPNs And Working Remotely | OpenVPN
“Today, you are more likely to be the victim of a cyberattack than you are to be in a car accident, or to experience a physical break-in. Criminals know cybercrime has a much higher ROI — which means it has a much higher risk for you.”

5 reasons why home and remote workers must use a VPN (techgenix.com)
“A VPN is a must for remote workers. Many people think that VPN networks are only necessary for streaming, shopping, browsing, gaming, or watching prohibited sports and movie channels.”

Who pays for remote work expenses? – Clockify Blog
“According to research that covered 1,900 remote workers from 90 countries, 78% of remote workers pay for their own internet connection.”

Remote Worker FAQs: How to Comply with Employment Laws (adpinfo.com)
“Where the expense may be used for work and personal use (such as having an Internet connection), consider a system to help employees monitor and record how much of the cost is related to conducting business activities, and reimburse employees at least that amount.”

Buffer | State Of Remote Work 2019
“In fact, 75% of respondents said their company does not pay for home internet, and 71% said their company does not cover the cost of a coworking membership.”