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COVID-19, remote work is "strongly recommended" by the company I work for. I live in a place where the internet bills/plans are ridiculous. (I am not paid a competitive market salary rate if relevant.) I have chosen a capped internet plan and have been happy with it. I am concerned as my usage has increased and I could be charged if I go over. I can briefly tether to a workphone's data plan but that has a tiny quantity of data (2 gb)

Is it reasonable that I ask my manager/the company to pay for overages (or a temporary upgrade to unlimited, if my ISP would allow that but probably not) while I work remotely?

Edit: I work as a software developer, my company does not pay for my regular travel expenses to and from work under normal circumstances. I have not measured how much data transmission my normal day to day at work takes.

2nd edit: Unexpectedly my ISP has temporarily uncapped and the company has said they will expense overages.

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    Does the company pay for your travel expenses to and from your normal place of work? – gidds Mar 13 at 23:37
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    There is rarely a problem with asking your company about their policies. Most policies would be pointless if employees don't know what they are. – Bernhard Barker Mar 14 at 3:11
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    How much data transmission does your job actually entail? Do you have to be connected to your office all day, or could you just e.g. download a bit of source code and work disconnected all day? – jamesqf Mar 14 at 4:31
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    @gnasher729 But yes, you can use up 2 GB pretty quickly from even just either browsing websites or sending or receiving too many or too large emails. Perhaps I should've said "it's possible for 2 GB to get you quite far", and that some bandwidth-heavy tasks can use it up in a day, or even in an hour. – Bernhard Barker Mar 14 at 14:35
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    Presumably, your housing costs are lower than people with good internet. There's a trade-off you made, so it's complicated as to who should absorb the unexpected cost. – Acccumulation Mar 16 at 3:19
82

If this is at the company's recommendation and you would be incurring additional costs that you wouldn't face normally I think it's reasonable to ask for reimbursement, either that or ask whether it would be feasible to get the data plan increased for the company mobile.

The latter option might well be easier for the company to deal with as they won't have to deal with expenses claims etc. Although depending on costs for mobile data where you are it might be more expensive than just giving you an amount to cover the excess charges.

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    +1 for asking the company to increase their data availability. That's something they have direct control of – Noel Mar 13 at 16:04
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    Plus, it's in the company's favor to reimburse you for the additional costs. It allows you to work better and get quicker access to your data, meaning less time is lost. – Lucas Mar 13 at 16:30
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    As a slight aside, how much are you saving on commute costs / lunches? This assumes that your travel costs aren't wholly on a season ticket, and you go to a shop/cafe for lunch – CSM Mar 14 at 14:38
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    @CSM I usually don't take my own water, soap, or toilet paper. One should factor this in too, right? Oh and I don't pay towards electricity costs either. Of course, if someone worked from home before any lock downs then they would have similar costs, but the difference is the employee doesn't have a choice during lock downs. – Monstar Mar 15 at 10:36
  • At least in Germany costs for mobile internet are so high, no-one (neither private nor business) would ever regularly work on this connection. Getting reimbursement on landline costs is making more sense here. Working together with the employer to find a solution is key here. – Jessica Mar 17 at 9:27
35

Keep business and personal separate.

If you are already provided a company resource for internet connectivity then use it. If you reach your limit on this resource, then let your company know and let them fix the issue. If they need you to continue to work remotely, it is their responsibility to make sure that you can.

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  • I agree with this answer the most. I think a company would want to know if you are really doing work on their network or watching countless netflix movies. So I imagine they could offer a cell phone or whatnot to monitor traffic and pay only data for company usage. – Dan Mar 13 at 17:02
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    OP should raise this as a potential issue beforehand. If they wait until they run out of bandwidth to tell the company, their boss will not be happy. (It might not even occur to the company that this might be a problem, if most employees are on some kind of flatrate.) – Llewellyn Mar 13 at 17:09
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    Always separate as much as possible. I have a company phone and a personal phone, as well as work and personal laptop. You wouldn't be expected to pay for your own work station would you? Why should you have to provide your own service if it's dedicated to work? My opinion is that the company should either reimburse you or just add extra data to your mobile hot spot. (I would suggest asking for this before you run out.) – Justice Mar 13 at 17:23
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    @Dan If I could get away with it, I'd be thrilled to be able to reimburse my employees for watching netflix movies. I pay money in the form of payroll tax to compensate my employees while reimbursements are tax free. Any opportunity to reimburse an employee for something they see as compensation (assuming it's legal, of course) is one no rational company should let pass. – David Schwartz Mar 14 at 19:55
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It's always reasonable to make a reasonable request. You should be prepared to have your request denied, though.

It may be reasonable to ask your company's bosses or your local politicians to put pressure on the internet service provider to lower their rates to help their customers deal with this pandemic.

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    Not sure why downvoted. Perfectly reasonable to call the internet provider to ask if they have any sort of crisis rate. – Dan Mar 13 at 17:27
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    Comcast and TMobile in the US just eliminated data caps temporarily. Comcast also opened up their hotspot network. Good for them. arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2020/03/… – O. Jones Mar 16 at 11:06
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Yes, absolutely, you should make it clear that you'd be happy to work from home but do not currently have the setup to make it possible. If you were a high-level salaried manager, they might reasonably say, we pay you big bucks to just cover things like this, but if you're a lower-paid operational employee, you should treat this as if they'd asked you to use your own car for a work-related errand, or take a business trip, and expect them to cover the direct costs.

They might respond, ok, you keep coming into the office. That would be their call.

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I believe you should be able to ask, as long as you're willing to accept no for an answer, which is basically in line with what the other answers are saying.

However, I think discussing the problem is more productive than just requesting compensation. I would recommend explaining the situation and asking them if they have suggestions on how to proceed. Then, if they respond to that without a clear idea on how to solve the problem, that's when I would suggest compensation. Even if that's what you end up with, I think that they will be more likely to agree with it if it was just a suggested solution to the problem (and if they come up with it themselves that would be even better).

And who knows, they might actually come up with another solution. For example, depending on your mode of transport and the number of people not working remotely, it might actually be okay to work in a mostly empty office, which they could give you explicit permission to do.

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Don't be that guy

Unless you really can't afford the service extension suck it up.
It is a really though time for you, for your company, the broader economy and the procurement people as well. Imagine they have to organize for you to get a package while they themselves are also worried for their families and work while stuck in their homes.
For a practical reason why not to do that: Being that guy will put you in a worse position when your company may consider making people redundant after a prolonged economic downturn to make their bottom line.

Edit: If you work in the pharma industry or similar then consider the other answers relevant, you should not take on additional costs while the company is soaring.

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Is it reasonable that I ask my manager/the company to pay for overages (or a temporary upgrade to unlimited, if my ISP would allow that but probably not) while I work remotely?

I'll answer you question directly, yes. It is perfectly reasonable to ask for this to be paid. The followup that most people are answering is will the company actually pay and in your case none of us have any idea whatsoever. I suspect that the company will not pay given that they aren't paying you less that market salary they are probably cheap skates.

If you don't ask you don't get.

Hopefully this extra expense won't affect you in a large manner you should only be working from home for a few months tops so hopefully that won't cause you any large financial distress.

As a secondary point, bear in mind that the response you get from your company dictates the type of company you are working for. It's not how we deal with things when times are good but times are bad that determines what type of person we are and it's the same for companies. Companies that are willing to shit all over their employees at this time aren't worth working for and you should look at moving company after this is all over if they treat you poorly. Plenty of companies out there plenty of jobs don't feel in any way attached to any company ever period.

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-2

I don't think you'd get anywhere with that kind of request. If your employer reimbursed you for that, they'd also have to reimburse everyone else's internet costs every time they worked remotely. No organization is gonna agree to that.

HOWEVER, you may be able to claim the amount you spent on your entire internet access fees while you were working from home on your tax bill.

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    A lot of companies, including mine, do cover Internet at home as long as it's a clear job requirement (eg. on call duty on the weekends). – lambshaanxy Mar 14 at 1:59
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    The company should certainly plan to compensate for direct costs incurred at their request; every employer should have a per-km rate for using your own car for company business, for example. Yes, for every employee, every time it is requested, if it was at the request of the company. And I can't see at all how the whole ISP bill would be tax-deductable. Work-from-home costs are deductable here in Canada, on a strict calculation of what's actually dedicated to the work function. If you print a dozen pages a day for work, you can't deduct the rest of the ream that your kids used up. – CCTO Mar 14 at 18:59
  • tax write-off, +1 – Mazura Mar 14 at 19:54
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    I don't know about the US but here in Germany, some Companies like Insurance Companies are even obligated to install an entire separate Internet Access at your home at their expenses if they need you to work remotely. Yes, we are talking "last-mile-access-point", router, ISP, ... the whole thing. – Fildor Mar 16 at 7:53

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