Back when I worked for an ISP, my employer paid for me to have broadband. I was expected to work from home a few days a month and they needed their workers to have high-bandwidth connectivity. Because it was a business expense, we all received BIG SCARY WARNINGS that the broadband was only to be used for work. Absolutely no domestic use allowed.
*nudge nudge wink wink*
Of course, everyone ignored that directive and used it for web-surfing after-hours.
Was that theft? Our employer paid the same amount whether we used it for a few emails during the day or for all-night Xbox sessions. Our extra-curricular use didn't cost the business any money. There may have been some tax implications for receiving a Benefit-In-Kind, but how do you apportion usage of a service?
Whatever the future brings, I think it's clear that lots of office workers are going to be working from home a few days a week now. So should your employer pay for broadband? If so, are you allowed to use it for non-work purposes?
It got me thinking about all the costs I already have to personally bear when working.
- Commuting. The big one! £3,000ish per year. Most large employers offer a loan to help offset the cost.
- Home office costs. Buying or renting a place with enough space to have an office is a significant expense.
- Clothing. I've worked jobs where I had to buy the uniform. While I wouldn't usually turn up to work naked, I occasionally have to buy smart-looking clothes.
- Lunch. Sure, I could pack sandwiches - but they're yucky after an hour-long commute. So I buy something overpriced from a local shop.
- Beer. No, it isn't mandatory to go to after-work drinks. But you want to be a team player, don't you?
I'm sure you can add your own examples.
In the UK, top price broadband maxes out at about £50 per month. I don't think that's a huge expense for a business - especially if they're saving on office costs.
Or, am I expected to pay for broadband myself in the same way that I'm expected to own a suit, tie, and sensible shoes?
If not, is it OK to use my work-provided broadband for watching Netflix?
A few years ago, someone was arrested for allegedly using someone else's unsecured WiFi. Is that theft?
"It is a bit like reading your book from the light coming out from someone's window"
Julian Baggini, Philosopher
BBC News (2007)
My wife has written about this from a philosophical perspective - you should go read her eloquent take on the issue.