Photo: Wikipedia/Gobran111

Who pays for the extra toilet paper? The big questions of the work-from-home era

By Toby Sterling

As the world convulses in crisis, and tens of millions of us dig in for the long haul of working from home, one question looms large: who pays for the tea and toilet paper?

The answer, according to the Dutch, is your bosses.

And how much? About two euros ($2.40) per working day, on average.

That's meant to cover not only coffee, tea and toilet paper used in work hours, but also the extra gas, electricity and water, plus the depreciation costs of a desk and a chair - all essentials that you'd never dream of paying for in the office."We have literally calculated down to how many teaspoons there are in an average household, so from there it's not that difficult to establish the costs," said Gabrielle Bettonville of family finances institution NIBUD, which is mainly funded by the government and researched the extra costs of remote working.

Such accounting may seem somewhat trivial at a time when the world is overwhelmed by a once-in-a-century pandemic, yet they are relevant as experts predict a deep decline in office-based work could be a permanent legacy of the crisis.

Dutch authorities have already started applying NIBUD's research, citing it to offer bureaucrats working from home a 363 euro COVID-19 "bonus" this year, starting in March when the country went into lockdown.

Of course, the 2 euros a day is for an average worker with average costs, but can be tweaked depending on measures such as home heating and water costs, or the quality of insulation.

It does not cover new furniture, computers, phones, or other equipment which NIBUD says employees should receive from their employers if necessary for their work.


Other countries are also moving to adjust to the new work-from-home reality, aware that many employees have little appetite to return to the office full-time even once the pandemic has passed.

Spain has obliged employers to pay for home office maintenance and equipment; Germany is debating a bill enshrining remote workers' rights; France has passed a law shielding them from after-hours email; while Britain has hinted that it may relax the rules on tax deductions for work-related equipment purchased during the pandemic.

But few nations have delved into the detail as deeply as the Dutch.

"The government has set a good example here," said Jose Kager of FNV, the country's largest labour union, which wants all home-workers to receive compensation along the lines laid out by NIBUD.

"We're talking about structural, ongoing costs of working from home," she added.

Many of FNV's members still have to physically show up for work, such as those at paint-maker AkzoNobel's factories and Heineken's breweries. But most bank workers, insurance company employees, call centre staffers and many others have been working from home since March. Around 80% of Dutch workers are covered by collective labour agreements.

Bank ABN Amro pays for workers to outfit their home offices, but routine expenses remain an open question. Spokesman Jarco de Swart said the bank did not believe workers would ever work from the office more than three days a week.


However, as ever, there's two sides to the story. And bosses argue extra payments make little sense at a time when the coronavirus crisis has floored the economy.

Dutch employers' association AWVN spokesman Jannes van der Velde said the NIBUD calculations did not reflect all the benefits home workers were enjoying.

"This call from unions for everybody to get compensation because people are now making their own coffee at home - one might observe that workers are also getting a lot of free time in exchange," he said, citing average time savings of one hour on daily commutes.

While workers should be compensated for home office costs, that will be offset by cuts to their compensation for lease cars and other travel benefits, he added.

"It won't be the case that people, pretty much anywhere, are going to get an extra "bonus" on top of their salary - definitely not during an economic recession."

And, of course, there are limits.

Surely it makes perfect sense for a boss to cough up for a productivity-enhancing cappuccino machine?

Apparently not, according to Jeroen van Velzen of the Dutch interior ministry, which is covering additional costs on a case-by-case basis.

"No, of course this is limited to the things that are needed to be able to perform your work," he said.

© Thomson Reuters 2020.

©2020 GPlusMedia Inc.

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Finally people are realizing the cost of working from home due to CCP virus. Company should pay for my monitor, toilet paper, electricity, housing rent, water and etc with a pay raise.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Is there a study to review the benefits of the reduced commute to work?

Apart from the obvious costs for public transportation including bus and train fares, for those who drive there would be reduced fuel costs and vehicle maintenance.

Then there is the reduce time to commute and inherent stress of being caught in traffic jams, overcrowded trains etc.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Here in Australia you can claim a deduction of 80 cents for each hour you worked from home in the 2019–20 income year during the period 1 March to 30 June 2020 as long as you: were working from home to fulfil your employment duties and not just carrying out minimal tasks such as occasionally checking emails or taking calls.

It may not be s lot but it is still something.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

My electricity bill was double one month and I expect my employer to pick up the tab in some way

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Here in Australia you can claim a reduction

Australia looks after it’s people in many ways; one area it’s lagging, however, is in not reimbursing workers for their transportation costs to and from their place of employment. During the lockdown, many Japanese working remotely, continued to receive a transportation stipend that could easily run into the tens of thousands of yen. Of course, it goes without saying, this extra perk was not extended to part timers.

I haven’t heard anything mentioned about home/office expenses tax deductibility for this year; perhaps others out there have more information about the situation here in Japan..

3 ( +3 / -0 )

When in Japan, use Toto Washlet . . . . underside wash uses less t~let paper.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

So you have the benefit of working from home, no need to get ready and get dressed for work, no need for commute, saving lots of money and lifetime, can do household stuff on the side - and want more money because of that? How about the poor people that cannot work from home, risking getting infected when boarding the trains, rushing though the weather, having to pay to get to work and basically are under surveillance during office hours. Those are the true heroes that need a pay rise for just doing that - not the ones making it comfortable at home. Just my two cents.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

I am just so happy to have 2 extra hours of my life every day.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Well working from home may be paradise Saving commuting time for many but sure does not help when you’re doing 過労死 hours.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Most western companies do not cover employees' commutation costs, so they're saving money by working from home unless their electricity costs grow dramatically.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

We had some oyajis raising the issue, they wanted extra money for working from home. The answer was sure, we pay extra for electricity, internet, etc, but we won’t pay any transportation costs. Suddenly, all complaints stopped

3 ( +3 / -0 )

My company this month asked us to stop getting any transportation fee, on the other hand work from home is now permanent. It is very interesting times. I never ever see myself fighting on the morning Tokyo commute ever again. Thank gosh.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

It's only fair that these costs are reclaimable. But if you aren't travelling to work, you can't expect to receive travel expenses.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Waste of taxpayers money to pay more money to unelected bureaucrats. Just get them a $100USD Japanese style non-electric bidet and they won't use toilet paper and would save all that money.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

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