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2021: Who is paying for work from home devices?

2021 Outlook: Companies will be developing policies related to the work from home technologies, outlining who will pay for what. Will the cost be equally split? The majority handled by the employer or by the employee? These policies will set the course for remote experience success and the ethical use of technology.  Other questions to be answered include – how to ensure an equal playing field for everyone through the lens of D&I (Diversity & Inclusion). 

The Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) to work trend has been on the rise for years, with 67% of employees using one or more personal devices for work purposes. On average, this resulted in $350 savings per employee. In 2020 work from home flourished, with three to four times more people working from home per McKinsey. Work from home or Hybrid arrangements required a shift in technologies needed to remain productive and imitate office experiences. 

High internet speed, Ring light, external cameras, and better speakers  (higher quality vs. built-in laptop), large screen monitors, Orbi’s, and Mesh network systems became crucial for everyday work. Historical company policies did not have guidelines as employees had to adjust to the new requirements quickly. Less than a third of all businesses (30.7%) have changed their IT policy to accommodate the new operating model. With 2020 under their belt, companies are now making plans and developing budgets for 2021; companies have more time to evaluate the situation and develop a framework to establish new technology policies after considering various aspects of this rather complex problem.

The following framework is a suggestion on the steps and analysis to come to a balanced solution.

Evaluate the technical ecosystem

The first step is to perform a gap analysis to identify areas lacking proper equipment and software. NTT reported that only 43.3% have deployed new communication and productivity tools associated with remote working. 

A security assessment is another topic to consider, 66.9% of organizations are finding it more difficult to deliver IT security. 

Connectivity is the third component. Despite 5G rolling out across the country, bandwidth is still an issue. With the entire households now utilizing the same network (working parents combined with virtual schooling), the need for Mesh, Orbi’s, and the like spiked dramatically.

Evaluate the cost

Historically companies were paying for computers and covering cell phone expenses. Printers and scanners were readily available at the offices. This trend changed several years ago, with 2020 data showing that 67% of employees use one or more of their devices at work.

Remote work set up added more devices needed for productive communication and collaboration. The market got flooded with lights, cameras, camera stands, and speakers transforming residences into small movie production facilities. 

In addition to the cost of devices, users now are facing costs associated with the internet and higher bandwidth. With a 40%+ market share in the US, Comcast recently released a steep price increase for 2021. 

Overall, the work from home sticker price has climbed to the range of $500-3000 and higher per year depending on the employee’s line of work.

Evaluate Employee’s access to high-speed internet connections

Quality of connection is critical in the digital economy. With meetings mostly happening in a video format, many households opted for higher speed. At the same time, even with 5G rolling out across the country, it is not unusual for people in the same neighborhood or neighboring cities to have vastly different experiences with access to the internet. With the office environment, organizations ensured that enough bandwidth was secured for a given location. With the distributed workforce, evaluation of internet access is required –  who needs extra hardware and who doesn’t.

Evaluate using Technology Ethically

The last part of the framework is not cut and dry but will have the most profound impact on the current workforce from the Diversity & Inclusion standpoint. When we think of technology, we usually don’t think about ethics and the other way around. With the transitional shift in society, ethics in technology has become an evolving topic. Now that we need new devices, better software, and a robust internet connection to look more professional in a meeting, reimbursement policies will have a vastly different impact on the organization’s various groups. Career development may be sidelined or boosted by the dollars allocated to an individual for their home office setup.

Who Pays For the Technology?

This is an open question, and 2021 and beyond will identify which companies get their policies right. Some may put the bulk of the cost on the employee, some may split, and some will cover the full cost. One thing is certain – if this year, organizations did not have a chance to react to the shifting needs; in 2021, they will have to assess and find a longer, more sustainable solution.

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