Saturday Feb 04, 2023

Remote-working expenses: from business travel to home-office equipment – how tech can make life easier – The Guardian


As the pandemic recedes and staff trickle back to their offices, they will find a very different world of work. Employees will have to make a whole new set of decisions – when and where they work, how much time they spend in the office and at home, whether to work with non-vaccinated co-workers and customers – and for some, whether to start business travel again.

Staff are likely to feel uneasy and unsure unless their employers can give them clarity about where they stand on these issues. Any confusion risks eroding employee satisfaction and could lead to decision fatigue, frustration and ambiguity over their role. If employees get fed up, their productivity will suffer and they may even look around for another job.

As Ryan Demaray, managing director of small and medium businesses, EMEA at SAP Concur says: “If businesses are to win the recovery they need all of their people in the boat, fired up and rowing in the right direction.”

Our studies have shown that 65% of employees don’t even know their company’s expense policy

Businesses will need to create a whole new set of policies that clarify the rules for remote working, claiming expenses and business travel. Demaray adds: “Our studies have shown that 65% of employees don’t even know their company’s expense policy with regard to what they can expense and what they can’t. It is a problem when employees don’t understand what they are allowed to do, creating uncertainty, fear and doubt.

“Employees don’t know if they can order that monitor for their home office. Or if they are allowed to go for coffee with someone to discuss work – can they claim expenses for that? If they are not clear, they may just avoid it and just have a Zoom call instead.”

Employers will have to give staff extra guidance around business travel for the foreseeable future. Photograph: Oscar Wong/Getty Images

New remote working rules being laid down by companies include, for instance, allowing staff to work from home indefinitely but requiring that they stay within a two-hour travel time of the office in case they need to be called in for specific tasks.

On the question of expenses, many organisations will probably exclude travel to the office if staff need to attend a meeting, but they would include business travel. Businesses will also need to decide which types of home equipment staff can claim expenses for. Who pays for a mobile phone upgrade when that device is being used as a work and personal tool, or buying a new desk for the home office?

Demaray says the complexities of these policies can be overwhelming for staff who often end up not claiming their full expenses for fear of falling foul of the rules. But technology can help solve some of these problems. Expense processing apps on staff mobile phones can clarify the situation by automatically telling employees whether an expense claim is valid or not. This tells them what is and isn’t allowed and enables them to work within the rapidly changing rules. Apps and software can also keep staff apprised …….


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