Should Employers Pay For Their Employee’s WFH Internet Connections?

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Written By Adeyemi Adetilewa

With the massive number of people that have taken up working from home as social distancing has forced offices closed, the big question has been whether the employer should bear some of the cost of running that home office.

Research from top analyst firms confirms that remote working is going to continue for nearly half of employees post-pandemic, so this is a conversation that has long-term implications, and there are a couple of different perspectives on it.

The employer is responsible for WFH internet

Most employee contracts (at least, for full and part-time staff) do include some kind of provision that the employer will provide the equipment necessary for the professional to do their job. For most professionals, this does include an internet connection.

When the employee is working in an office, it is a nice, neat solution; the office has a broadband connection and employees get a login either for their desktop or work laptop.

Things become more complex when working from home, however. Most significantly, the employee is likely to use that WFH Internet connection for many purposes, including recreation (Netflix in the evenings), and share it with the rest of their family (for example, so the spouse and children can also work and play online).

The logical response might be to then pay for a percentage of the WFH Internet fee, but what rate should that be set at, and how would usage be monitored?

The employee is responsible for WFH internet

Conversely, the employer might decide that since Internet connections are fairly standard to households at this point, then the employee should just use their home Internet for work.

There is, additionally, a provision that allows employees to claim back a small amount of the WFH Internet expense as a home office expense if the employer doesn’t pay for it.

There are a couple of issues with this approach, however. Firstly, the Internet demands for work tend to be higher than standard home use; when you are using video conferencing, cloud services, email, and file sharing online simultaneously, the bandwidth and data requirements are significant.

While there are ultra-fast residential Internet plans that are more than capable of handling work applications, that might require an upgrade that the employee is not willing (or unable) to pay for, and it is generally seen as a poor form for employers to force their employees to enter into contracts simply to undertake their job.

There is also a big question around legalities. For example, what happens if a hacker gains access to the business network via an employee’s home Internet service?

If they are being mandated to supply their own Internet, there is no way that an employer can legally control how an employee uses their own Internet to access the network. If, however, the employer does provide for some or all of the WFH Internet connection, it becomes a business asset, and the business can establish a more firm policy around its use for security purposes.

There won’t be any more working from home

Should WFH Internet Be Paid For By Employers or Employees?With offices now starting to re-open, the temptation for some enterprises might be to simply go back to the way they were working before and deny people the ability to remote work. While tempting for more traditionally-minded and security risk-averse companies, there are issues with this too. 

Working from home has proven productivity benefits, meaning that those companies that do allow staff to work from home get a “leg up” on the competition.

What is more, there are also staff morale benefits – people are happier when they feel like they are being trusted to work from home and are able to manage their work/life balance, meaning that those employers that offer remote working will attract the best talent.

Do work from home Internet Speeds, Matter?

Most people aren’t that technically inclined, so the numbers that get thrown at them with regards to WFH Internet speeds don’t mean that much.

Whether it is 1 Mbps or 100 Mbps, aside from the vague idea that a bigger number means “better,” most people are just looking to be able to get online.

What kind of Internet speeds do you need?

How you use the Internet will have a big impact on the kind of Internet speeds that you need. For example, Netflix and other video streaming services are the most demanding on the internet speeds, and for a high-quality, HD stream you’ll need a speed of 5 Mbps to download so that you can watch it on your TV.

For example, if you are using a home office for video conferencing, then you’ll want around 2 Mbps, both up and down as you’ll likely be broadcasting and downloading video at the same time.

Most other Internet speeds requirements are much less than these too. People often think that video games are a big consumer of Internet speeds since video games are often 50 gigabytes in size (if not greater), but actually playing online generally only requires around 3 Mbps download and 1 Mbps upload.

Of course, if you want to download those big games and play them quickly, then the entire game has to be downloaded first, and a faster Internet connection will help there.

The other important thing to consider is how many people and devices will be using the internet at the same time. Internet speed requirements are cumulative. So, for example, if there is someone in the household while two people are on video conference calls, then you’ll want a total of around 10 Mbps download and 2-3 Mbps upload, at minimum, so that no one experiences a drop in quality.

How to check your WFH internet speeds?

If you are experiencing a drop in service quality and your Netflix feed starts buffering or your video conference becomes disrupted and static-y, then the first step in troubleshooting will always be to check your Internet speeds.

There are a couple of things that you want to look for when running an Internet speed test, but the main thing to check is whether the speeds that the speed test show slowly match the Internet speeds that you are paying for through your contract with the ISP.

It is likely you will never get perfect speeds. If you are paying for a 50 Mbps speed you’ll never get exactly 50 Mbps. The reasons for this are multiple: 

  • Internet speeds decline over distance, so what your ISP is providing you will not fully match with what you end up getting. 
  • Plus, during peak hours (typically 7-11 pm), there will be a drop in speed as congestion slows the Internet for everyone. 

Troubleshooting WFH Internet

Should WFH Internet Be Paid For By Employers or Employees?However, if these speeds drop by more than a couple of percents, then it is possible that you’ve got too many devices on the network (and, possibly, some people have snuck their devices onto your network, perhaps by guessing your password), or you might need a new modem/router, or there might be an extended disruption to your area.

Contact your ISP for more information and troubleshooting in those circumstances.

Final thoughts on WFH internet

There are arguments for and against paying for an employee’s home Internet so that they can work from home. However, with remote work here to stay (at least, for those businesses that want the best people), it is a challenge that needs to be grappled with sooner rather than later.

It is therefore important to maximize what you get out of the Internet because increasingly people do wrap their lives up in it. When people are working from home, and relying on the home for entertainment, an Internet connection that is too slow will cause ongoing frustration, and potentially make it difficult to continue working at all.

One thing that is certain is that employees will certainly appreciate the gesture if their employers are willing to invest in a fast, secure home Internet connection, and employers benefit from being able to provide their staff with faster connections with greater data allowances.

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