Who Pays for Teleworker’s Network Connections

Federal Computer Week recently reported on a town hall meeting of federal agencies participating in work at home programs. Both management and employees were represented at the meeting. During the town-hall the question was asked “who pays for telework network connections…. and why?”

With in the federal government and in many organizations there is a complete range of outlooks and scenarios. In many cases the employee pays, in others the agency or organization pays in part, and in still other cases agency or organization pays in full.

In each of these scenarios there are clearly good reasons why an organization would choose each of them. But before we go there lets look at some of the interesting points the article made.

First, several leaders made the point that no one is forced to work at home. As a result, in some agencies, if the employee works at home the sign an employee agreement that, in part, says the employee agrees to pay for a broadband connection in their home,

Second, in some situations in which the employee needs additional services in the home like VOIP, additional equipment like handsets and routers are provided by the agencies.

Third, there was some concerns voiced by audience members at the Town Hall about the fairness of paying for connectivity used for work and the frustrations that some experience lack of support when the connection the employee pays for goes down. One CIO suggested that the employee could come into the office when this situation occurs, but that doesn’t address the underlying frustration the employees experience when trying to troubleshoot a down circuit and do their primary job at the same time.

All these points are valid. But to me they’re all reflect personal opinion. To me there’s only one reason any organization should choose one scenario over another… because it’s the right choice for the business, and choosing that scenario helps achieve the goal and objectives the organization has set for their work at home program.

In my experience most organizations start work at home programs because they’re attempting to save on real estate cost. Often a secondary goal is often to develop a disaster recovery plan. I would encourage any organization to take a deeper look at how a work at home program can improve how they do business and achieve financial targets.

Before making decisions about what you can afford to fund and not to fund completing an initial return on investment (ROI) study is always a good way to start. Keep in mind when you start sending segments of your business home you will invariably be changing the culture and management styles of those segments. A good ROI becomes the financial interpretation of the result of that complete change and clarifies for you what the real benefits of the business will be. We’ve created an ROI model if you’d like to get into more detail. Click here to find out more.

But let’s get back to the point of the The Federal Computer Weekly article… Who pays? More and more companies are leaning towards asking the employees to pay for their internet access. On the surface this makes a lot of financial sense. Afterall you’re shedding an added monthly expense. But there are several factors you should consider before committing to the “employee pays” solution.

First,  how critical is up time and productivity to the success of your ROI model? What does an additional hour or two hours of work time mean to your bottom line. This is especially critical to those organizations sending home revenue generating  employees.

One of the downsides when the employee pays is that the organization no longer has control or the responsibility of opening trouble tickets and insuring that the data circuit stays up. When the employee is attempting to analyze and manage their own data circuit this can take them away from their core responsibilities and dramatically increase downtime and decrease productivity. This takes us back to the ROI. What is productivity worth?

Cox has developed a hybrid solution that allows the employee to pay for the service but gives the organization to open trouble tickets and maintain the circuit. You can find out more about this solution by clicking here.

Second, what is your voice solution? Different job types and different operations rely on voice quality to a varying degree. For call center operations call quality is essential. For data entry positions not so much.

Many organizations use a “dial back” solution in which the employee dials into their phone system from a home line. This solution is misleading in that from a surface level there is no additional “home” cost. However, the employee is using a channel from your PRI for the entire time they’re clocked in.

Another solution is to run voice over the data line. This can be an excellent, efficient solution, but it requires a business class circuit. Many of my customers are using an Ethernet or Layer 2 solution to the home when running voice over the data connection. In this scenario there is cost to the business. Others are using a business class Internet circuit to the home. In many cases the employee is signing an agent agreement that they will pay for the business class circuit as a requirement to work at home.

Other considerations when deciding who should pay for the home circuit are cost of turnover, the competitive hiring landscape and cost of training. All these factors can be measured with your ROI. Depending on what your competition is doing you may find that paying for the circuit gives your organization a competitive advantage when hiring and keeping your employee base. What does it cost to hire and train each employee? Are you able to hire the best candidates at a reasonable cost? It may be that the cost of providing a data circuit to the home is well justified.

I’d like to find out what your organizations outlook is.  As always I hope you enjoy this article and I look forward to your feedback.

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3 thoughts on “Who Pays for Teleworker’s Network Connections

  1. Our organization used to pay but then took it away to pay for dues instead but in the future I envision a work at home allowance to be provided on a monthly basis.

  2. As was mentioned, there are cost and productivity considerations that should be factored in that go well beyond simply the monthly cost of a circuit. The organization should own, managed, support and monitor the circuit and the connection should be business-class with all accompanying service level agreements in place, no matter who pays for it. Nothing less than this would be accepted within the corporate office and telework spaces (even home offices) should be considered an extension of the corporate space.

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