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Should You Pay for Employees’ Home Office Furniture?

Over the past 10 years, e-commuting has become more and more common. Businesses that offer this type of flexible work arrangement have a good shot at attracting top talent. The increased productivity associated with cutting down on commuting and allowing workers more control over their schedule can be substantial. Some employers are even able to save money by leasing less square footage for their traditional office as more employees work remotely. The idea of “externalizing” costs associated with maintaining office space is very attractive. Letting employees take full financial responsibility for designing and furnishing their work environment at home seems like a win-win.

But it’s not the only way to go. In some cases, employees may expect you to defray some of the costs for their home office furniture. Here are some of the pros and cons to consider:

  • If you supply the furniture, you can ensure that it is ergonomic (this is especially important for task chairs). High quality furniture supports productive work and reduces repetitive motion injuries.
  • Employees may be more willing to take responsibility for ongoing work-related costs like high speed internet connection or cellphone usage if they get office furniture supplied for free. A one-time cost for furniture is easier to handle from an administrative standpoint compared to tracking and reimbursing monthly bills.
  • Standardized office furniture selections may not fit in the employee’s home. Figuring out which office furniture to buy for them on a case-by-case basis would take a lot of time. Employees may also be dissatisfied if they think they didn’t get the “best” stuff compared to coworkers.
  • Simply providing employees with a reimbursement budget and having them buy their own furniture means they may decide to skimp or overspend on the wrong items – leading to poor ergonomic choices. For example, they might splurge on a desk and not leave enough money for a decent chair.
  • If you lend office furniture out, it can be awkward or difficult to go pick it up when an employee is terminated. You might simply have to write it off as a loss.

One option that might keep everyone happy is letting employees purchase gently used office furniture that your company would otherwise liquidate or place in storage. With that approach:

  • The employee saves money on home office furniture
  • You recoup some of the costs of the furniture
  • You know they are using high quality furniture that supports productive work

What’s your policy on furnishing home offices for e-commuters? Let us know in the comments.


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