More questions to consider

By David Strom  |  Posted 2008-04-07 Print this article Print

The Strominator delves into questions of handling how to pay for on-call IT duties.

Same for cell service. Should you require your staff to carry two phones, one personal and one work related? Pick up the entire bill? Reimburse staff a fixed amount that estimates what work-related charges would be? Have a special phone that is rotated to different people as a sort of hotline? Allow Blackberrys or iPhones on the theory that IT staff will be more productive with them than without them?

Then there is the record-keeping and reimbursement policy. Should you include your telecom costs in your regular T&E reports? Just include it as part of the employee's paycheck? Or some other arrangement that doesn't have tax consequences, such as a gift Amex cheque? (One of my former employers was fond of this off-the-book method.)

And do you reward people who can get their jobs done before 5 p.m., or are you setting up a system to make people less productive? Do you really need to have staff answer questions in the middle of the night? Is it part of their job description or just something that is nice to provide? Do you have separate reimbursement policies based on usage, how high up the corporate food chain, politics, or one rate for everyone?

I thought about one of my first IT jobs, where I worked for a large Los Angeles insurance company in the mid-1980s, at the dawn of the PC era. Our IT manager was fond of messing up his Lotus 1-2-3 copy-protected floppies on weekends. (Nostalgia alert: For those of you who don't remember, 1-2-3 was the precursor to Excel. While not the first spreadsheet program, it was the one that made spreadsheets popular with corporate workers. Floppies are those 5-¼ inch plastic disks that could store a whole 360 kB of data. And copy-protection was the precursor to digital rights management that tried to prevent users from copying digital files without paying for them.)

Was it part of my job to support him? I guess so. Should my company have paid for my phone bill? Well, luckily I didn't get that many calls.

As you can see, I ask more questions than I answer in this column. I think it is worthwhile to step back, examine your corporation's off-hours telecom reimbursement policies, and make it consistent and credible for all of your IT staff. 


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