Should employers pay for home internet during remote work?

With the switch to remote work, employees have been left to foot the internet bill and many workers believe some changes are in order.

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Image: GettyImages/Kelvin Murray

In the traditional office, employees log on for the workday via company-provided internet connectivity. With the switch to remote work due to COVID-19, many employees have been left to foot the bill for the internet access necessary to fulfill their occupational duties. On Wednesday, AppNeta published its “Future of the Internet Outlook” report about WFH-related internet “pain points,” sentiments regarding who should foot the bill for work-related connectivity and more.

A portion of the report is dedicated to the “connectivity catastrophe” and sheds light on the disruptions people have experienced due to less-than-optimal internet service since the switch to remote work last March. During this time period, slow website loading times is the top connectivity complaint (49%) followed by “video calls freezing” (34%) and service outages (33%). Issues involving internet providers (29%) and streaming content (25%) round out the top five, in order.

“When collaboration was asynchronous (email, voice mail, etc.), the quality of the connectivity wasn’t really an issue—even sporadic outages, while annoying, were not material blockers.  That’s completely changed—when it comes to virtual collaboration, it’s either real-time or it’s obsolescence,” said Matt Stevens, AppNeta CEO.

SEE: IT expense reimbursement policy (TechRepublic Premium)

The survey asked respondents to identify specific scenarios or updates they’ve had to make due to internet connectivity challenges. About one-third of respondents (37%) said they “had to go off of video on calls due to freezing or poor audio,” 28% said they’d updated their “internet-related equipment” and 20% updated their provider plan or internet package.

WFH connectivity and billing

The vast majority of respondents (79%) said they pay for their internet, according to the report, while a partner (10%) or parents (5%) are footing the bill in other instances. The government covers internet access for 2% of respondents, doubling the number of respondents who said their company or employer picks up their internet tab (1%).

Interestingly, 38% of respondents said their employer should be monetarily responsible for connectivity if a person uses “the internet at home for work purposes.” One-third of respondents (33%) believed they personally should foot the bill, 24% said they did not require internet access while working at home, and the same number of respondents believed the government (3%) or building owners/landlords (3%) should cover internet costs in these situations.

SEE: Juggling remote work with kids’ education is a mammoth task. Here’s how employers can help (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

Interestingly, the majority of respondents (61%) said their opinion about “who should be responsible for paying for the internet” has not changed due to COVID-19 and the switch to remote work. Among people who believe employers should cover home internet costs, 26% believed employers should pay some of the bill directly, 40% believed employers should pay the full bill directly and 34% felt this should be covered via a routine stipend.

In the future, Stevens said he believes more employers will pay for employees’ internet coverage as an employment perk, adding that there are many “dimensions where employers can contribute to make it easier for their employees to work,” such as assisting with childcare costs, “offsetting commuting costs” or making contributions related to other home office expenditures.

“They all have merit and need to be examined within the context of a given firm and the mix of employees and their individual circumstances,” he said.

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