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The Hidden Cost of Work From Home: Who Should Pay?

The Hidden Cost of Work From Home: Who Should Pay?

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, workers and employers alike are still adjusting to the New Normal realities. Work from home is no longer a stop gap but is now fast becoming a long-term arrangement.

Even the Philippine government has taken steps to conform to the new ways of working, as the Senate seeks to strengthen the Republic Act No. 1165 or the Telecommuting Act. In filing Senate Bill No. 1448, the new bill aims to make telecommuting a mandatory offer for employees who are still able to perform their function even while working at home. 

What can employers and employees do to survive these new challenges in the long-term? 

On social media, JobStreet recently conducted two polls related to the costs of work from home, directed towards employees.

Majority of the poll-takers answered that they were not receiving any allowance or reimbursements from their company during the quarantine period.

Overall, there is a sentiment on social media that employers should be able to provide for the costs of work from home set up. Examples of these work-from-home costs are internet fees, call and text charges, etc. 

On the other side of the coin, many employers face a hard road to recovery. As of July 2020, 26% of Philippine businesses have closed, according to the Department of Trade and Industry. Big or small companies alike are looking at tough challenges on how to weather the pandemic. News of layoffs and retrenchments prevail on social media and chat groups, with most of the employees worried about their job security. Most business owners are struggling to manage cash flow and stay afloat during the pandemic.  

What's the current scenario amongst companies? Here are some thoughts from noted Philippine HR practitioners, on how the work-from-home situation should be looked at. Read the entire discussion thread from our partner HR Shouts and Whispers.

“I'm leaning towards no. If you're still working from home, I would assume there will be more savings since you don't eat out, don't shop, and you can have more control of your own time. Yes, the cost of electricity and internet is also taken into equation, but you're just transferring the expense of you reporting to work at the office to what you need to pay for while working from home.” - Lorenz Aimee

“Conditional yes, to time-bound allowance types backed by memo telling them what it's for and how long…. Our rationale was that never has the company shouldered transport to the office and back-home. It was a form of "ayuda" only for those who risk commuting in the wee hours.” - Benjamin Caruncho III

According to General Manager and HR expert Tina Khoe Ang, a pragmatic, long-term vision must be exercised. "Companies should be careful to spend money nowadays… Conserve money, so that you can conserve the ship. Spend wisely," she shares. "Best to save the extra allowance for emergency funds and take care of staff if they contract COVID-19."

"A compromise must also be reached between the company and employer," says Cristina Estacio, a noted HR mentor. Extra expenses are expected to add up, and companies need to be wise up on how they can manage the cash flow. "The thing is, there seems to be no end to the pandemic in the Philippines. And therefore, prudence is required."

Everyone is going through a tough time while in the COVID-19 pandemic. But for better or worse, work has to continue operating. The real challenge is how to balance the survival of the company but remaining compassionate to employees' situations. 

To successfully navigate the crisis, diligently practicing consideration and empathy are essential. Employers must prudently provide whatever is crucial for their workers, and whatever that companies cannot give, they must be able to communicate the reasons well to their employees. 

In turn, employees must also endeavor to share the burden with their company, by finding ways to be more efficient and productive at work. Being transparent goes both ways for both employees and candidates.

Several companies serve as hope and inspiration for their respective industries as they were able to provide WFH benefits to employees during the pandemic. 

Hero employerHow they are helping employees work from home
Incenter Solutions LLC Philippine Branch Office
  • Complete hardware, monthly electricity and internet subsidy  

  • Employees are also given groceries, home disinfectants and health products

  • Education campaigns such as Health and Safety advisories, online exercise sessions, Zoom Wheel of Fortune Raffle draws and other employee engagement activities. 

Canva Solutions Inc.
  • Food stipend. Employees can use this to buy other needs and keep themselves healthy.

  • Internet provision for employees who do not have the means to work remotely

  • Happy Home Setups. Office chairs and monitors are delivered for free 

  • Mental Health Support: 1:1 phone or video consultations with a registered psychologist. This is extended to family members.

Stefanini Philippines, Inc
  • Deployed all the necessary support and technology to the homes of employees

  • Efforts to help its employees stay connected through activities such as online games and performances, and sharing photos of the “new normal” on social media. 

  • Sent over rewards and gifts to deserving and hardworking employees 

Supporting Enterprises Inc. (Cebu)
  • Provided employees prepaid WiFi kits

  • Given 20kg of rice to ALL employees

Amway Phillippines
  • Work-from-home arrangement for staff  

  • Reimbursable prepaid internet connection (Pocket WiFi)  

  • Continuous Salary Credit for Staff 

  • Proceeded with implementation of merit increase for staff   

  • Financial Assistance to third-party staff

Majorel Philippines Corp.
  • Regular pay for employees (actively available for work, will be paid regardless of tenure) until they can get back to work on a regular basis.

  • In recognition of the extra effort for those who continue to work, either from home or in the office, Majorel provided additional monthly allowance.   

  • Work-from-home with connectivity allowance

  • HMO coverage for COVID-19 (includes probationary staff)

Reed Elsevier Shared Services Philippines Inc.
  • Work-from-home enablement: Provided and delivered IT equipment, internet device to enable work from home.

  • Reimbursed out-of-pocket expenses for the transportation and delivery of IT equipment and internet connection devices. 

  • Pay continuation for those unable to WFH due to business reasons

  • HMO coverage for COVID-19 for affected employees and dependents  

  • Weekly “fun” activities that promote engagement and connectivity even when working from home.

Personiv Manila
  • Delivered company desktops to employees who do not have a desktop/laptop suited for the operations. A WiFi router was also provided.

  • While setting up for the WFH operations, employees were fully paid without their vacation leave credits being taken 

  • For employees using their own laptops/desktops, they are provided with $50 allowance per month and another $50 for the internet connection allowance.

  • Employees were given a financial assistance amounting to PhP10,000. 

Payreto Services Inc.
  • Equipment Transportation

  • Support for prepaid internet connection.

  • Complete compensation for all

You are not alone during these difficult times. Through JobStreet Laws of Attraction, you can have unlimited access to employer insights drawn from JobStreet's comprehensive study of more than 18,000 Filipino candidates across 25 industries. You may subscribe to get these resources straight to your inbox.

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