Stipends for remote workers can vary from unbelievably amazing, to damn near worthless. Part of the reason for this is that hiring managers and companies alike are just figuring out what works and what doesn’t. Believe it or not, it can be difficult to predict what employees from Company X vs employees from Company Y want. Sometimes they’re complete opposites.
Nevertheless, stipends for remote workers are becoming increasingly popular, as companies have wised up to the fact that more creativity is needed to lure good team members to join their ranks.
If this is a completely foreign concept to you, not to worry, we’ll have plenty of information here that you can utilize. Whether you’re a remote worker or strictly WFH, these concepts should help tremendously.
What is a Remote Work Stipend?
If you’re with a traditional work stipend, it isn’t that much different, it just caters to employees that are remote and/or work from home.
Essentially, a remote work stipend is a flat rate given to the employee by the company each month that is meant to pay for work-related or recreational hard costs that the employee may incur.
In fact, unlike a traditional work stipend, it’s often viewed as a perk. It’s quite common for the stipend itself to be touted as such to interview candidates by their hiring managers. This is usually because of some of the plush items that companies often include (more on that below).
Remote Work Stipend vs. Traditional Work Stipend
You may think that the differences are slight, but there can actually be a huge gap between what the two types of stipends look like in practical terms.
Traditional Workplace Stipend
A traditional stipend from an employer is generally an “advance” of funds that help with work-related expenses that the employee has to pay for originally. This is different than a reimbursement, as that could be for anything that the company should have paid for, and is always given back to the employee to the penny (for company tax purposes).
The stipend could cover things like food, fuel, paper/ink for your printer, etc. These are costs that the company knows you’re going to use, but there’s no preset amount. Typically, if you go over the stipend allotment, you’re left paying the rest. But, if you come under budget (maybe you don’t use as much ink that month as you thought you would) you will get to keep the leftover amount.
Remote Work Stipend
Stipends for remote and WFH employees usually encompass a wider variety of options. This is for two main reasons:
Now, the first bullet there is a no-brainer, and relatively common. The second bullet is much more diverse in its offerings and amounts. Examples of stipends that would be used to lure remote workers could be:
These broader, more vague offerings are deliberately used to try and lure in talent. This has become a huge bargaining chip in the interview and hiring process. It can be huge cost savings for the employee, and companies can even negotiate lower costs on their part with the vendors themselves. Often a win-win situation.
Should You Expect a Stipend if You’re a Remote Worker?
That said, it’s definitely a seller’s market. Meaning, for any kind of specialized role the power is likely in your hands when it comes to what you can negotiate during the interview process.
If you aren’t very knowledgeable about interviewing with a remote company, just know that almost everything is negotiable.
If I asked you what was negotiable in the hiring process, what you tell me? Salary, PTO days?
You’re not wrong, but those are definitely 2003 trends. Almost anything is negotiable. Extended maternity/paternity leave, choosing your own staff that you bring on onboard with you, speaking spots, it’s endless.
The same is true with a stipend as a remote worker. Again, this is something that’s new to many companies, but that doesn’t mean that they won’t be open to granting you some of the stipend items you want. The main thing here is to be open and honest about what you’re wanting during the interview process…
Negotiate a Stipend Upfront
Companies won’t tell you this, but many of them are more than happy to give individual benefits to highly sought-after roles/employees. So just because they don’t advertise stipends for remote workers up front, doesn’t mean that they don’t offer them.
Go into the interview process with an idea of what you’re looking for from a stipend standpoint. Just like you would prepare for a salary negotiation, prepare for a stipend conversation.
Do a cost-benefit analysis. Depending on your industry, as well as your wants and needs, some stipend options can be so valuable that they make up for any kind of salary differential. Keep in mind that certain stipend options are very cheap for the company, and many can be completely written off for them. So while you may think you’re asking for a lot of money when you request $2000 in annual conference credit, it won’t be nearly that much for them after taxes.
Don’t be too aggressive. At the end of the day, you want the job. Don’t lose sight of the end goal. There’s certainly an argument for not going with a company that makes you pay all out-of-pocket costs, but keep an open mind until you know the full scope of what they’re willing to offer, and what they aren’t before making a decision.
Do your research. You don’t want to be caught with your pants down if they already offer stipend options that you want. Not only does this show some ignorance on your part, but you may inadvertently give away some of your leverage during the interview process.
No matter what, do your research and go into any potential hiring conversation knowing what’s important to you. As long as you do that, you’ll do fine when navigating the stipend world!
Jared has worked remotely for 15 years in various marketing capacities, and has managed hundreds of marketing campaigns along the way. He has held freelance, agency, and in-house positions for companies large and small.