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Are there really cost savings to the remote workforce?

May 21, 2021
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A bright spot for companies in the shift to a remote workforce is upfront cost savings. Freed from not maintaining on-site employees, businesses have seen a reduction in some of their operating costs, such as dramatically lower utility bills and less upkeep of the physical office space. A recent study found that employers could save almost $11,000 a year for each employee who telecommuted just 2.5 days per week. 

Yet, as attractive as these benefits seem at the outset, companies also need to examine the hidden costs of remote work and the impact on their bottom-line, starting with these considerations.

Investing in home offices

More than half the people in a recent survey said that they didn't have a home office in place when remote working went into effect, and 57% of respondents in another survey said that their employers would not let them bring work-related equipment home with them. It is essential for employers to determine their ethical and fiscal responsibilities for providing the equipment and support services to help remote workers do their jobs and then factor those costs into their financial projections.   

Reimbursing employees for working from home

Federal law says that employers for the most part do not have to reimburse remote workers for work-related expenses, but state law varies. For example, states such as California, Illinois, and Montana have robust laws that require employers to cover reasonable expenses, whereas states like Alaska and Arkansas are less stringent. Also, what is considered a reasonable expense? Items such as printers, paper, and ink would likely fall under that category, but is the employer responsible, in whole or in part, for paying an employee's internet connection? Electricity usage? Telephone? With so many people now seeing their own cost from home, the conversation surrounding reimbursement will likely grow.

The cost of added security

Since remote work began, a new study found that there has been a correlating rise in cyberattacks, including phishing, credential theft and account takeover -- any of which can cost companies millions of dollars. But perhaps more disturbing is that remote workers said that they either didn't get training from their companies on how to handle this or that their companies didn't have any clear policies. To protect their assets, companies need to invest in different layers of security for their remote workers. For example, companies might need to pay for the installation and upkeep of a secure Virtual Private Network (VPN) with two-factor authentication for their remote workers. 

The expense of company-issued devices

Remote workers who use their own personal digital devices for work -- their home computer, laptop, tablet, even mobile phone -- pose a grave danger to companies. Often these devices don't have adequate antivirus software or employees conduct company business across unsecure internet connections. One solution is to have remote workers do work only on company-issued devices with proper security protection. It's an upfront expense, but a lot less costly than having to repair a security breach of company files down the road. And if an employee leaves, the employer still owns the device.

Whether or not you have existing policies about remote work, examining apparent savings as well as hidden costs can help you figure out the most responsible way to serve your workers and your business.   

Ricoh has Cloud, Security and a wide range of remote work solutions to meet your digital transformation needs. Watch the video to learn more: