If you’re smart and pre-plan ahead of time, you can get a monthly stipend from your company to help cover work from home expenses.
Your home office isn’t exactly set-up for full-time use. It’s more along the lines of occasional use during the evenings and weekends for cyberloafing, surfing social media and online shopping.

When your job shifts to remote work from home, you quickly realize how shitty your current set-up is. It falls short of what you need to be really productive.

That cheap-ass all-in-one printer that constantly seems low on ink isn’t up to the demands of real work. Yes, it can print out the occasional airline e-ticket and maybe a printout or two, but anything beyond that is like someone asking you to do ten pull-ups when you can barely manage one.

The basic internet access connection is perfectly fine for simple browsing and NetFlix streaming but when you’re on back-to-back Brady Bunch style video conference calls, it gets laggy. It’s one of the most annoying WFH pet peeves.

Then, there’s your phone plan. Just one week’s worth of conference calls will totally blow through any voice minute caps if you have any.

At work, you’ve got a dual monitor set-up but at home, you’re relegated to using the laptop monitor and have to constantly flip and toggle between apps.

Plus, there are a bunch of things that you need to upgrade to optimize your home workspace into a kick-ass set-up. But, this shit ain’t free.

What you need is some financial support from your company to help upgrade and improve your home office.

However, you can’t just go up to your boss and ask for money. It’s not that simple. You need to plan ahead and do some prep work to increase the odds of getting a monthly allowance.

Today’s Corporate Stipends

For most companies, a monthly stipend isn’t something that is normal and routine for all employees. In most cases, it’s really limited to employees who are “in the field” in a roaming sales capacity, covering a territory or region.

Traveling salespeople often get a monthly expense budget to cover their day-to-day expenses related to their job. This can include things like vehicle mileage/maintenance, cell phone service, internet access, meal allowances, etc.

Normal office-going folks don’t typically get these kinds of expense allowances.

However, as more companies consider and implement remote work policies, the number of people working from home will inevitably increase. Thankfully, this also means that you no longer have to trick your boss into letting you work from home.

Companies will often provide a laptop set-up with special remote access to the corporate network using encryption or VPN. And if you’re lucky, a work cell phone.

What most companies forget about is that there are other needs beyond the basics of a laptop and phone.

Most employers think that a properly configured laptop is sufficient. Everything else can rely on the existing home infrastructure that the employee already has at home. But, it’s not that simple.

Everybody has different set-ups and requirements. And work from home employees have different needs than roaming salespeople. So, the usual expense reimbursements don’t fit the same way.

This has led many companies to try to figure out if they should provide monthly stipends to remote employees and how to provide them.

Monthly Stipends vs. Expense Reimbursements

There is a distinct difference between a monthly stipend and monthly expense reimbursement.

The big key difference between the two is that a monthly stipend is considered an additional source of taxable income to help cover expenses related to your job. Whereas, monthly expense reimbursement is not considered taxable income.

If you’re good at stretching a budget and finding deals on goods and services, having a monthly stipend can be ideal. Any amount that you don’t spend, you can pocket.

Stipends are also easier in the sense that you don’t have to go through the weekly or monthly task of filling out and completing expense reports for reimbursement. 
If you’re not exactly an organized person, then keeping track of receipts, itemizations, etc. can be a royal pain in the ass.
There’s nothing worse than having to eat a business expense because you lost the fucking receipt.

Lastly, stipends are typically for covering on-going expenses rather than one-time purchases, which are usually handled via expense reimbursements.

On-going expenses are things like monthly service utilities and consumable supplies that need to be replenished.

Knowing which category of expense you have is important when building your case for financial support.

Building Your Case For A Monthly Work From Home Stipend

Asking your boss for a monthly stipend out of nowhere won’t work. You need to clearly show and prove why you need additional financial support and more importantly, how it benefits the company.

That last part is key.

In other words, you have to prove how this additional monthly stipend can boost your productivity and output, which has a direct impact on your project progress and ultimately, the company’s success.

You need to explain how this will help you get more shit done.

If you just go and ask for more money, you’ll get shot down.

You need to prepare a gameplan.

1) Document Monthly Home Office Expenses

You know the typical monthly expenses you have for remote work. The obvious ones are the high-speed internet connection, phone service, electricity and heating/cooling.

However, there are other expenses that you may not have thought about.

The headset mic you bought because of the shitty laptop mic, the extra ream of paper, yet another toner cartridge, another 4-pack of AA batteries, etc. All of these purchases are one-time costs while others may be on-going.

Gather up all of your monthly recurring expenses and one-time purchases. Make copies or scans of the receipts. These are your hard costs.

2) Estimate Current Lost Productivity

There are countless times when you’re banging your head against the wall because of various reasons. Whenever you find yourself struggling to get shit done, it’s a clear signal that there’s friction in your workflow.

A lot of the time, it’s because of tech limitations like having a slow-ass internet connection, not having enough display real-estate, shitty cell service, etc.

Think about how much time during the day that you’ve lost due to these tech-related issues. Try to quantify that in terms of minutes and/or hours. Then, translate that into how much the company is losing in terms of your equivalent salary.

These are the soft costs related to the various work issues.

3) Estimate Gains In Productivity

On the flipside, take the above losses in productivity time and estimate how much more you could’ve got done if there wasn’t any friction in your workflow and you’re able to get in the zone more often.

The aim here is to show how much more you could’ve got done.

If you estimate a loss of an hour each day and forecast that you could recover that and increase it by another hour, then the net gain for the company is two more hours of productivity.

This will serve as a basis to show that the small monthly stipend cost will result in much bigger gains from your productivity.

4) Consolidate Everything & Review

Now, take everything that you’ve gathered and consolidate it into one document for discussion and review with your manager. Use whatever format that works best for you - Word doc or Powerpoint or Excel.

The main point is to have everything unified into one document so that it’s easy to follow, understand and review.

You don’t want all of your information digitally scattered all over the place. You need to have all your shit in order and organized. Being prepared and showing that you’ve done your homework will go a long way in showing that you’re serious about this.

5) Present Your Case 

Once you have everything ready-to-go, set up a time with your manager to review your request and proposal for a monthly stipend to boost your output and productivity.

Understand that this is your initial presentation and review with your manager. Most likely, you will not get an answer right away. Typically, your manager will not have the authority to create a monthly stipend for you. This needs to be reviewed with your manager’s boss and with HR.

This is why it’s important that you do your homework and prepare everything well. This way, it’ll make it easier for your manager to back your request.

6) Be Patient And See What Happens

After presenting your case, let your manager work through the process of internal review. This can take several weeks, so be patient. Don’t get all anxious. It’ll just make it harder for you to manage work stress effectively.

If things work out, congrats. You’ll get a nice little monthly stipend to help offset some or maybe even all of your expenses.

If things don’t work out, don’t get pissed off.

Have a follow-up request and ask for a one-time expense reimbursement instead for the directly related expenses related to your work from home set-up. These are things like an extra monitor, headset, printer, etc.

And if you get shot down on the one-time reimbursement request, you may have another possible option with...

Work From Home Tax Deductions

You may also be able to take advantage of potential tax deductions for expenses related to your home office.

This is all depending upon the current year’s tax rules and whether or not you’d qualify.

Most recently, if you’re a full-time employee and just happen to work remotely from home, then you don’t qualify for a home office tax deduction. However, tax rules can change from year to year, so it’s best to check with your tax advisor.

However, if you’re also working side hustle gigs for extra income in addition to your full-time job, then it’s very possible that you can take tax deductions for your home office.

Check out this short 4-min clip from the tax experts at Jackson Hewitt and it’ll help to clear things up a bit.

VIDEO: Is My Home Office Tax Deductible?
YOUTUBE: Jackson Hewitt
LENGTH: 4:31
Summary points:
  • Full-time employees don’t qualify for home office deductions
  • Freelancers and those who also have side gigs can qualify
  • Check with your tax advisor to be sure
If you do happen to qualify, there are two types of expenses that you’d be able to deduct - direct and indirect expenses.

Direct expenses are those that are specific to your home office like the desk, chair, lighting, other equipment and office supplies. It can also include things like repainting or doing some Feng Shui renovations your office space. Direct expenses can be deducted on your tax return.

Indirect expenses are things that are shared with the rest of the house like electricity, internet access, heating/cooling etc. Indirect expenses are deducted proportionately, based upon the office square footage compared to the square footage of the total house.

Again, check with your tax accountant and see what you qualify for and be sure to take advantage of it. Otherwise, you may end up paying more tax than you need to.

Stay Positive No Matter What Happens

Getting some financial help from your company to cover home office expenses is always a great thing. And, even if it only covers a portion of your expenses, that’s a good thing too.

It doesn’t hurt to ask and see what happens, but don’t get angry, upset or take it personally if it doesn’t work out.

The key thing here is to not lose sight of the big picture.

Remember, you have the luxury and privilege of being able to work from home unlike the millions of other workers that need to be “on-site” to do their job. Being able to work from home has a ton of intrinsic value.

Things like sleeping in a bit more, a more chill WFH morning routine, not having to deal with a stressful commute, working in your PJs or even working with no pants on and even taking a mid-afternoon nap etc. all offer incredible benefits that money just can’t buy.

Shit, there are a ton of people that would absolutely take a pay cut right now if they could work remotely from home.

So, no matter what happens, whether you get a monthly stipend, one-time reimbursement or nothing at all, stay positive because there are 101 reasons to smile everyday.

You’re in a good spot. 😉

Feel Better,
[Cubicle Therapy]

more on cubicle life