Thursday, January 18, 2007

Get Your Employer to Pay For Your Broadband

Employers may seem loath to increase employee benefits. But perhaps it's more the type of benefit that makes them sneer. What employers really like is benefits that benefit THEM. So, the trick is to go for benefits that can be touted as a productivity improvement, cost reduction or both. Like, for instance ... free home broadband Internet service.

What? Your employer is going to pay for your broadband at home? No way.

Way. Not just some avant-garde employer in Silicon Valley, either. According to a news report, this is no less than the United States government ponying up for residential high speed Internet service. Specifically, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has received permission from the U.S. Government Accountability Office to reimburse potentially thousands of employees for broadband Internet connections in their homes, up to 100% of the monthly ISP connection service.

There's a catch, right? Yeah, there is. It's the one I alluded to before. Employers like benefits that benefit the company, even if they also happen to benefit the worker. To qualify for this benefit, you have to telecommute from your home up to 4 days a week using the Internet to perform your job with the Patent Office. Your productivity will be monitored to make sure you aren't really home watching ball games or surfing the Web far and wide. You also have to give up your office at the Patent Office headquarters.

What benefits does the company derive from this arrangement? Well, that prized office space will go to the next person in line. Somehow I don't see a lot of corner office executive types jumping at this opportunity. But if you're just one of the masses in the bullpen, what's the big loss? Your home office has got to be quieter even with the TV blaring. Other organizational and societal benefits are reduced traffic congestion and pollution in the Washington, DC area and the expectation that such flexibility in work arrangements will improve recruitment and retention.

OK, you'll be giving up the daily thrill of socializing with your beloved colleagues, potential office romances with the more beloved ones, all the free pens you can stuff in your inside jacket pocket and the masochistic thrill of having the boss breathing fire down your collar. But you'll also enjoy saving the rather large expense of commuting, have less need to maintain pricey power suits, easily find cheaper eats, and possibly slash child care costs. Don't forget the FREE cable or DSL broadband that is used strictly for (wink, wink) business purposes.

Telecommuting has been a win-win for employers and employees alike for what seems like eons in Silicon Valley time. Most companies nationwide have some flexible work arrangements and savvier ones figure out how to chat up the employee benefit of working from home in lieu of investing in more bricks and mortar. Now that the government is getting on board, perhaps telecommuting will become something of a national strategy to free us from the twin demons of global warming and foreign oil. All for the price of little broadband perk.

I tease, but really do applaud Uncle Sam for a smart move. Suburban commuting is a major energy and time waster as well as driving, literally, the unhealthy investment in more and bigger roadways to handle those rush hour traffic peaks. What our Uncle may have done as well is to establish home office broadband as a legitimate business expense that employers will be happy to reimburse. I gotta believe that the corporate savings in real estate, energy, office furniture & supplies can easily offset an Internet service that is regularly dropping in price. Their benevolence in helping you to work from home might yield cost savings of an order of magnitude or more. Check the going price of residential broadband service and see what a bargain it has become. Why, any decent employer should throw in a company PC and software as well. Right?

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