Expense Management

Published September 5, 2020

Tips for Managing and Tracking Work-From-Home Expenses

The global COVID-19 pandemic has caused considerable disruptions in everyone’s lives. One major resulting change we have seen happening worldwide is the implementation of “work-from-home” arrangements. With most employees now working remotely under limited supervision, companies might face a hard time managing and keeping track of their expenses.

Despite the physical distance, it is important that you find an efficient way to keep track of expenses so that you continue to have visibility into company spend especially during this crucial period of time. 

For those of you who are having trouble grappling with these changes, don’t worry we’ve got you covered. Here are some tips for you to better manage and track work-from-home (WFH) expenses.

1. Create a new policy specifically designed for “WFH”

Now that the circumstances are vastly different, your existing expense policy is likely not going to remain relevant.

Amidst city lockdowns and activity restrictions, expenditures are no longer what they used to be. While some expenses would vanish, new expenses may become the norm. Entertainment and travel expenses may no longer be valid when physical meetings and travel activities are avoided or even prohibited. On the other hand, the company may want to contribute to helping employees set up their individual home offices to enable them to work productively during periods of lockdown.

Expense claims and reimbursement processes would likely also be radically different, especially if the company was originally functioning with manual processes.

Evidently, having employees work remotely calls for an overhaul of the existing policies with a new set of rules. It is understandable that employees would be uncertain of what they should do in view of all these changes and especially if they are working remotely for the first time. Creating a new work-from-home policy that addresses these changes can help to clear the air of uncertainty for everyone.

To start, the company could re-design a policy with a new set of expenses that are relevant and reimbursable for employees in the current environment. Here are some examples of expenses that you can consider including when crafting your work-from-home policy:

  • Computer equipment
  • Software expenses
  • Furniture
  • Office stationeries and supplies
  • Medical fees
  • Meals
  • WFH allowances

Budgets for expenses might be temporarily different given the circumstances. To reflect these changes, expense limits could be adjusted just for the WFH policy while keeping your original policy settings intact. This ensures you could easily switch back to the original policies when you are ready to revert back to normal operations.

2. Notify your employees 

After creating a new work-from-home policy, the next thing would be to ensure that everyone is notified of it. Communication could in itself be a challenge in these times when employees are all geographically scattered working from their respective homes.

When deciding on the appropriate method to notify your employees, you should take into account the complexity of the new policy, the extent of deviation from original policies, as well as your company’s culture. Emails as the usual means of business communications could be useful to disseminate written guidelines to all employees. However, given that it is likely the new policy would be very different from the original policies, it might be advisable to hold tele-conferences to brief employees, or schedule calls with employees to explain in detail.

When communicating the changes, make sure to let your employees know that the company will still take care of their needs despite all the chaos brought about by the global pandemic. By showing employees that these policy changes are made largely to support employees in these difficult times, it makes it more likely that employees would be more appreciative and cooperative in following expense policies.

3. Automate your expense management

If you have not already done so, this is the time to hop on the bandwagon of automation and digitisation. While manual expense management processes may still work in the past, many companies and employees are thrown into a frenzy when city-wide lockdowns are suddenly imposed. With crucial hardcopy documents left deserted in the office, employee claims become delayed indefinitely.

By using a cloud-based solution such as Navisteps, expense management can continue without a hitch even when employees are working from home. With the digitisation of invoice and receipt images, employees no longer require physical documents to process claims, and each person can perform their respective claimant or approver duties remotely.

In addition, expense management solutions typically come with automation tools. This not only makes everyone’s lives easier in terms of submission and approval of expenses, but also eases the load of your finance team.

Having more data digitised also means that the company will have greater visibility into employee expenditure. When the company is in control of its expenses, it becomes easier to manage and make appropriate changes when something seems amiss.

4. Introduce new expense categories or labels

With an expense management software, it would be a breeze to track work-from-home expenses either by its dedicated expense category, or by using a work-from-home label on expenses in different categories. The same could be done in manual systems but would likely require deliberate human effort in each step.

It depends very much on each company’s circumstance and preference for how they wish to track and record these work-from-home (WFH) expenses. If the company wishes to record new WFH expenses in a new expense ledger account for bookkeeping purposes, they could create the corresponding new WFH expense category in the expense management software as well. By matching expense categories with bookkeeping accounts, it ensures proper allocation of expenses at source and hence minimises processing efforts for the Finance team.

Alternatively, the company may have a whole range of expenses relating to WFH that they may wish to track without wanting to consolidate these expenses in a single expense category or bookkeeping ledger account. For such instances, you may choose to create new labels instead, to track WFH expenses spanning different expense categories. Employees can be submitting expense claims allocating to a whole range of expense categories such as WFH allowances, stationery expenses and computer equipment purchases, but have them all tagged to the WFH label. The expenses will still be allocated to the respective expense categories, but adding a WFH label enables the company to filter expenses by the WFH label for further analysis and reporting.

5. Offer quicker reimbursements 

It is important that companies are able to process reimbursements faster especially during this crucial period when employees may have to incur increased expenses to set up and run their workspaces at home. Although the company may be reimbursing employees for these expenses, it is critical that reimbursements are prompt to help employees cope with higher expenditures arising from the work-from-home arrangements.

With tools like Navisteps, employees can easily draft or submit their claims anytime and anywhere without tedious manual processes. Receipts remain tagged to the respective claims record so none of the parties would need to sieve through piles of documents just to check an item. Totals are also automatically calculated so all parties save time not having to manually sum up the amounts. By using such systems, claims can be processed very much faster so that employees receive quicker reimbursements.

Even if the company has committed to helping its employees pay for investments toward work set-ups, there could still be some other expenses that remain unsupported. For example, now that people are working at home full-time, chances are the household electricity bills would have skyrocketed. It is times like these that employees would be really grateful for quick reimbursements from the company, and a little help goes a long way to improving job satisfaction and employee loyalty.

When quicker reimbursements and easier processes are dangled, it is almost a sure bet that employees would file their claims faster. Apart from helping employees and generating staff goodwill in the process, the company would also receive more timely data which it can then use to better monitor, analyse and keep on top of its expenses. This is as vital for the company as it is for the employee, to ensure survival in such uncertain times.

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