Ask HR: Do We Have to Provide Workstations for Remote Employees?

March 21, 2016

Ask HR: Do We Have to Provide Workstations for Remote Employees?

Companies of all types are hiring increasing numbers of remote workers, or starting to hire them for the first time. When you hire a remote worker, are you obligated to provide them with a desk and chair for their home office? This seems like a question with many variables. Let’s let the expert HR professionals at HR Support Center take it from here.

Question:

Our employees are mostly remote workers. Do we have to provide their workstation desk and chair or are the employees responsible for this equipment?

Answer from Eric, HR Pro:

You can provide this equipment for your remote employees, but you usually do not have to do so.

In some states (such as California), an employer is required either to provide employees with the tools and items necessary to complete the job or to reimburse employees for these expenses. However, workstation equipment like desks and chairs is usually not included in this category of necessary items.

The advantage of providing such equipment is that employees may be happier with their work situation and might use company equipment in a safer manner than they would their own. The disadvantage is shipping costs and the potential for waste. Some employees may not want this equipment in their homes, already having their own preferred workstation.

In nearly every telework arrangement I have been involved in or analyzed, the employee provided their own workstation. The bottom line is that employees can often work wherever they prefer: a home office, their kitchen, the local coffee shop. The place an employee does their work is really up to them. In addition, OHSA has stated that they have no intention to inspect employees’ homes for workplace safety. The safety of an employee’s home workstation is their own personal responsibility.

There is one exception, however. An employee might request a device or some form of furniture as a reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) so they can perform the essential functions of their job. In such cases, you would consider it like any other ADA request. Providing a back support cushion or computer stand, for example, would probably not be an undue hardship, and therefore something you should do.


Eric, HR ProEric has extensive experience in HR, management, and training. He has held several senior HR positions, including as the HR & Operations Manager for an award-winning interactive marketing agency and as HR Director for a national law firm. Eric graduated with a Bachelor’s of Science in Economics from the University of Oregon with a minor in Business Administration. Eric is also active in the community, volunteering with the regional Human Resources Management Association Advocacy Team and with youth training programs.


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