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The True Costs of Working from Home

Make sure you understand and are compensated for what it actually costs to perform your job remotely.

In the age of social distancing due to the COVID-19 virus, millions have had to work from home instead of an office.

In many cases, the ability to work from home means you get to keep your job. With unemployment hitting millions of people during the pandemic, the ability to keep a job is imperative.

So, to keep our jobs, we quickly agree to work from home. But what are the long-term negative ramifications of working from home…for the same salary?

When you work in an office, most work-related expenses are paid by your employer. When you work from home, many hidden costs become yours. That means you essentially end up funding expenses for a company you don’t own and you make less money, all for the privilege of working from home.

In the short term, you are likely to incur small costs like paper, pens, folders, labels, paper clips, copies, post-its and general office supply costs. That may seem small until you have to spend a hundred dollars of your own money on a supply run.

What about computers? Companies that rely on specific hardware and software, like animation studios, often allow their artists to take their work computers home. But what about general office workers? Almost everybody needs to use computers for work. Do you have to use your own computer at home now? What if a family member needs to use it? What if you have problems? Who pays for the expensive maintenance of that computer? What about the recurring software costs? Upgrades? Virus protection?

Computer costs mount as you’re forced to pay for backups and external hard drives. Printer ink is the most expensive liquid on earth. Who pays for it? Do you need a better webcam for all those Zoom calls?

Internet access. There’s a monthly cost for that. If you need faster access at home, will your job reimburse you for it? What if you run over your monthly allotment? (Yes, your internet provider probably limits how much you can stream before you have to pay extra) Are you willing to limit your Netflix time so you can sit in on all those Zoom meetings?

Insurance. Does your job cover the cost of covering your work equipment at your home?

Electricity. You will use 1/3 more electricity working from home. You’ll use more water and toilet paper too (which is why we had those shortages). Those costs add up.

Now you also have to clean your own workspace. Companies hire cleaning companies to handle that when you work in an office.

What about other perks that were part of the job, like snacks and coffee? All on your dime now.

Do you have a good desk at home? What about an office chair? File cabinets for your files and work? Not everyone is set up to work comfortably from home. Why should you have to crouch over your breakfast room table and disrupt your home life?

Google announced that it will let workers expense $1,000 worth of office furniture so they can work properly from home. That’s fantastic, but still doesn’t cover the other ongoing expenses.

And then there are the long-term costs of working from home. Things like rent.

As companies get used to working virtually, more and more are electing to continue working that way. Some are reducing the amount of office space they rent to reduce their costs. But you then have to dedicate room in your home for work. Room that you pay for. You can’t write off a portion of your rent or mortgage when you are a salaried employee. You would then be subsidizing the rent for your employer with no tax benefits for yourself.

As entertainment industry freelancers, we know how to deal with these extra costs. When we supply our own equipment for a job, we charge a “kit fee.” A Kit Fee is billed as a daily expense, on top of our working fee, to cover our hard and soft costs such as supplies, software and computers.

As we get back to normal, (if we get back to normal) working at home for no extra compensation could be considered the norm. Don’t let the “norm” cost you money.

Every situation will be different, but understand the new additional costs that you incur from working at home and make sure you are compensated for them.

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Mark Simon, the Godfather of Storyboarding, has over 5,000 production credits including Stranger Things and The Walking Dead. His latest book is the memoir Attacked! about when he was bullied, his family was attacked and he fought them in court. More information on his story at www.MarkSimonBooks.com/Attacked

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