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The Unexpected Losses & Costs of Equipping Remote Workers

August 9, 2020


By Ben Sapet

In the early months of the Covid-19 pandemic, an estimated 62% of workers in the U.S. worked remotely as employers tried to reduce the spread of the virus. In what has been called “the world’s largest work-from-home experiment,” employers must make difficult decisions about providing office equipment to their remote workers.

When “Buy Everything” Isn’t an Option

Providing employees with a complete home office environment comes at a considerable cost. When the switch to remote work happens suddenly and happens alongside an economic downturn, the hefty price tag of the “buy everything” approach is a major barrier for companies transitioning to remote work.

Issuing company laptops to remote workers is a cost effective way to quickly establish a remote workforce. This has been an especially popular option for companies transitioning to remote work during the Covid-19 crisis. As opposed to making employees provide their own devices, company-issued laptops can ensure software compatibility and better data security.

Another increasingly common tactic is to provide remote employees with a technology stipend. While this can present problems with nonstandard equipment, it offers greater flexibility and accommodation for employees with accessibility needs. Having a workspace tailored to their needs can be a major productivity boost for employees as well.

A Prime Opportunity for Employee Theft

When setting up remote work environments must happen on short notice, urgent purchasing and lack of oversight creates vulnerabilities to employee theft. Employees tasked with placing these equipment orders can use the large scope of these purchases to steal amidst the disorder of implementing organizational change.

Fraudsters may ship equipment to personal addresses for resale or provide false billing with inflated costs. To prevent employee dishonesty with these equipment purchases, certain oversight measures can help to discover fraud, prevent fraud, and mitigate the risk of fraudulent behaviors. Assessing the validity of vendors and cross-referencing prices can catch theft early. Additionally, dividing equipment purchasing responsibilities among individuals and among departments can deter thieves and limit opportunities to steal.

As companies make difficult decisions about equipping their remote workforce, they must not only consider equipment costs, but the cost and risk of employee theft.

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