More than ever, companies are hiring remote. 3.7 million employees now work from home half the time, and the overall telecommuter population grew by 6.5% between 2013 and 2014 (GlobalWorkplaceAnalytics.com, 2016).
While the benefits of having a remote workforce—such as saving on real estate and increasing productivity—are palpable, there are also certain risks. Remote employees, for instance, tend to incur more expenses than your average office Joe. They travel more often, don’t have instant access to pre-purchased office supplies, and adhere to schedules that might not fall directly between 9 and 5.
If they’re not managed properly, remote employee expenses can end up costing your company a lot. Between setting up an at-home office space and traveling to big industry conferences, there could be numerous transactions you’ll be expected to cover. But do your homework beforehand and you can make sure your remote employees’ expenses are kept under control.
Be clear about travel and expense management policies from the get-go.
Let’s start with the most important point: If your employees don’t know the rules, they won’t be able to follow them. Make sure all of your travel and expense management policies are documented and easily accessible online, and then instruct your remote employees to read them on their very first day. If they have any questions or need any further clarity, make sure you’re available to help them understand what can and cannot be expensed.
Read up on state employment and tax laws.
Every state handles the rules of employment and income taxation differently. Make sure you do your due diligence to avoid complicating matters for yourself, your employee, and your business.
Equip your employees with the right tools.
Research what tools, hardware, and software your remote employee will need from Day One. If you’re the one with the initial purchasing power, you won’t be the last to know when the expense report comes in and lists a slew of items that you never signed up to pay for. Ask your remote employees for a list of what they need to successfully perform their roles so that you aren’t surprised (or required to initiate awkward conversations) down the line.
Recycle office hardware.
Instead of allowing your remote employees to purchase and then expense brand new laptops or smartphones, send out the same models you would use for those working in your office.
Help employees submit expense reports on time.
Nobody likes filling in spreadsheets or collecting piles of receipts to send via snail mail to the HQ. As a result, expense reports can get pushed to the bottom of employees’ to-do lists. Adopting a simpler solution—one that lets you capture expenses at the point of transaction using their smartphone or tablet, store everything together in a digital wallet, and submit with the push of a button—encourages remote employees to file their reports in a more timely manner, and with less pain on their end (and yours).
Encourage a healthy work-life balance.
If employees are regularly working outside of regular office hours, it’s bad for several reasons. Firstly, it’s not healthy to expect employees to forgo their weekends or vacation time, especially since most of us really need a break. But secondly, more time on the clock for your remote employees means more work-related expenses that get sent to you for reimbursement. Let your employees know that you don’t want them to sacrifice their personal hours by default—you’ll both appreciate it.
There are pros and cons that go along with every type of workforce, and one that’s remote and scattered across the country or globe is no exception. But recognizing places where you can nip expense management issues in the bud can help you run a more efficient business and keep your remote workers happier down the line.
Take a Deem Test Drive and make expense management easy for everyone across your organization, no matter where they are.