Ah, the remote work life. You get to sleep a little longer, squeeze in breakfast with your family, and skip the morning commute. 


But the downside is that your home office setup isn’t as well-equipped as your in-office workstation. Shifting your weight around in a cheap chair or squinting through lousy lighting can make the workday feel like a grind, no matter where you are.


The number of Americans working from home tripled from 2019 to 2021, so you’re not alone if you’re loving the remote life but not really loving your makeshift home office setup. 


Luckily, home office stipends are becoming the norm, and they can help you get the upgrade you need to get your work done without weird neck pain. Now’s definitely the time to ask for a home office stipend. 


We’ll walk you through everything you need to know about home office stipends, including all your burning questions: 

  • Is your employer required to give you a home office stipend?

  • What can you buy with your stipend? And do you get to keep what you buy?

  • What’s the best way to ask for a home office stipend?

  • Can a stipend impact your taxes?


Let’s get to it.

What’s a Home Office Stipend, Exactly?

A home office stipend is a fixed amount of money given to you by your employer to cover the costs of working from home. A stipend is paid in addition to your salary and may be given as a lump sum or a recurring payment. 


Typically, your company policy—in accordance with state law—will dictate that the stipend must be spent on equipment or expenses required to adequately perform your job or provide you with a more productive, comfortable working experience. This could include computers, office furniture, internet bills, digital subscriptions, and more. 


Unless you’re self-employed or working as an independent contractor, a home office stipend is considered taxable income, which means it’ll be included in your W-2. Consider this additional income when doing your annual financial planning so you aren’t surprised at tax time. 


Anything you purchase with a home office stipend while employed is yours to keep, even if you or your employer end your working relationship afterward. For ongoing expenses like digital subscriptions, you’ll be responsible for maintaining payments once your employment ends.


It’s important to note that home office reimbursements work a little differently than stipends: Your employer maintains ownership of any tangible home office items they reimburse you for. This means you’ll need to return any computers, furniture, or other equipment when your employment ends. And since your employer paid for and owns these items, they won’t impact your taxable income in any way. 

Is Your Employer Required to Give You a Home Office Stipend? 

3 factors dictate whether your employer is required to cover the costs of your home office expenses: 

  1. The state you live in

  2. Whether you have the option to work in-office but choose to work remotely

  3. Whether the costs of working from home lower your earnings below minimum wage


Although federal law doesn’t require employers to reimburse the costs you incur by working from home, some states mandate it. The specific laws around covered costs, timing of payments, and how those payments are made vary from state to state. 


For example, California and Illinois require employers to reimburse all necessary business expenses (including internet access and phone bills) for remote workers, while Iowa requires that only expenses authorized by the employer be reimbursed. Both Iowa and New Hampshire require reimbursements to be paid out within 30-day timelines, while Minnesota requires payment upon termination of employment. 


Whether you’re opting out of in-person work can also impact your employer’s financial obligations. If you’re within a reasonable commuting distance of your workplace but you’ve chosen to work remotely, your employer may not be required to cover any of your home office costs. 


However, if you’re required to work remotely, aren’t within commuting distance of your workplace, or have disabilities that make it difficult for you to successfully work in-office, your employer may be required to cover some or all of your home office costs.


Your overall earnings can also impact eligibility for home office stipends or reimbursements. The Fair Labor Standards Act has protections in place for lower-wage employees: If the expenses you incur to adequately work lower your earnings below minimum wage, your employer is likely required to cover the costs.


Here’s a list of states that have specific laws pertaining to home office stipends or reimbursements:

  • California

  • Illinois

  • Iowa

  • Massachusetts

  • Minnesota

  • Montana

  • New Hampshire

  • New York

  • North Dakota

  • Pennsylvania

  • South Dakota

  • Washington, DC


Of course, we’re not lawyers—so be sure to check your state laws to ensure your employer covers everything they’re required to. Also, remember that just because your employer isn’t required to cover home office costs doesn’t mean they won’t—asking is the only way to know for sure.

How Can You Ask for a Home Office Stipend? 

Now that you know the basics, it’s time to do a little prep work and make the ask. Here are 4 pointers to help you ask for your home office stipend.

1. Do your homework.

You don’t want to ask for less than what your employer is required to cover, nor do you want to ask for something your employer might consider unreasonable. Set yourself up for success by getting familiar with state laws and your company’s existing policies before you make the ask. 

2. Estimate your home office costs.

To ensure you ask for enough to cover all your costs, you’ll want to estimate how much you need before talking with your employer.


While costs and requirements can vary, here’s a list of some expenses that are commonly included in home office stipends: 

  • Desk and chair

  • Computer and secondary monitor, keyboard, mouse, or other accessories

  • Required software subscriptions such as LastPass or Zoom

  • Ergonomic devices such as wrist supports or laptop stands

  • Organizational items like whiteboards or file cabinets

  • Webcam or microphone for virtual meetings

  • High-speed internet and cell phone plans

  • Office lighting

Put together a list of the equipment and resources necessary for you to do your job effectively and the cost of each. You’ll want to have this ready when you make the ask.

3. Keep the ask focused on work and mutual benefits. 

A home office stipend is intended to help you be as productive and comfortable as possible so you perform your job well—don’t lose sight of this when you make the ask. 

Yes, it would be awesome if you got approval for that top-of-the-line standing desk you’ve had your eye on. But you want to keep the focus on what’s necessary to help you do a good job rather than giving the impression that you’re just ticking off a shopping list. Trust us—your employer will appreciate your business-minded approach to the conversation.

4. Make the ask, smoothly and succinctly.

With all this in mind, here’s a short script you can use as a template to ask for your home office stipend: 

Hi, [name of boss or HR rep]. 

I’d like to request a home office stipend.

I’ve put together a list of all the hardware, software, and resources that are required for me to do my job effectively at home, and I estimate the total cost to be [dollar amount or range]. The list is included for you to review. 

I believe this stipend will ensure I’ve got everything I need to be as productive and comfortable as possible so I can do my best work and continue driving the business forward. And it’s my understanding that this would be in line with state law and/or our company’s existing policies. 

I’m eager to hear your thoughts on this. Can we talk about this in more detail at our next 1:1?

And that’s it—you’ve made the ask. Well done!

Remember that your employer may only cover certain expenses or may cover a portion of some expenses rather than the full amount. As long as your employer is meeting the minimum state requirements, they don’t necessarily have to pay for the full list—but every dollar you save on your home office is a win for you, and every dollar your employer invests into a happy, productive employee is a win for them.

Spend Your Home Office Stipend Wisely 

Once you’ve received your home office stipend, it’s time for the best part—spending it. 


Pro tip: Prioritize the big-ticket purchases like desks and chairs. That way, the most expensive items are taken care of if your stipend isn’t enough to cover everything you need.


And remember to stay in compliance with your company’s policies by making sure you spend your stipend only on approved expenses. 


If you need help getting started, check out our buying guides for standing desks, office chairs, filing cabinets, and much more. They’ll walk you through common questions and help you determine the sizes and styles that will fit your needs. Happy shopping! 


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