Niche to Normal: Conversations and Considerations for Remote Workers

It’s clear that for many workplaces, remote work is here to stay in one form or another. This means that sponsors should anticipate (and indeed, prepare for) a rise in conversations that focus on the effects of long-term remote work situations.

It’s easy to see why remote work can be so appealing. Regardless of whether an employee is working remotely full-time or using a hybrid model that has them in the office for at least part of the week, spending one or more workday(s) out of the office can have serious benefits. For example, it cuts commuting time and costs, and some employees may even opt to ditch their cars once a daily commute is taken out of the equation. While many employees who have been working remotely may be eager to get back to the office (especially parents who have been balancing work and their children’s distance learning!), it’s clear that for many workplaces, remote work is here to stay in one form or another. This means that sponsors should anticipate (and indeed, prepare for) a rise in conversations that focus on the effects of long-term remote work situations. Here are a few topics that sponsors may want to bring to their employees’ attention.

·      Don’t Move Just Yet: Some employees may consider moving out of state (or even across the country!) now that they don’t have to worry about getting to the office. However, what they may not know is how this impacts their employers’ ability to, well, employ them. Sponsors can get ahead of the curve and inform their workers about the states in which they operate and any location-based employment limitations so workers can avoid expensive career mistakes.

·      Who’s Eligible for a Roth IRA? Some workers they may now find that they’re eligible for a Roth IRA where they previously weren’t before. In situations where commission structure has changed, hours have been reduced, or simply when new employees are being onboarded, they may be eligible for a Roth IRA and want to take advantage of this opportunity, or at least speak to their financial advisor about their IRA options.

·      Residency Requirements for 529s: While education savings plans don’t usually have residency requirements for either the saver or beneficiary, note that, “Most prepaid tuition plans are sponsored by state governments and have residency requirements for the saver and/or beneficiary.”[1] This is an easy detail to miss in the heat of the moment, so if employees do end up moving, they’ll want to check their plans’ residency requirements.

·      Work Expenses, Taxes, and You: As we’ve mentioned before, home office space that’s used exclusively for work-related purposes and is the primary place of business can be claimed on workers’ taxes, if they’re self-employed (i.e. freelancers and contractors may be able to claim this deduction, but not full-time employees).[2] This also applies to other work-related expenses, though the same limitations apply. While it’s not quite tax season yet, it’s never too early to budget—especially for those considering a move!  

·      Work/Life Balance: Working from home can quickly turn into living at work. Clarifying expectations for when employees are expected to be available and on-call can help establish better boundaries, and even improve performance. Strategies on mindfulness, destressing, and how to find the best “working rhythm” for each individual can help employees stay focused and efficient regardless of their location, and are topics that can be explored via webinars, emails, or leaflets.

·      Visibility and Equity: Studies show that remote workers are often overlooked for promotions and important projects because their bosses don’t know them as well. Especially for teams that have employees on different in-person, hybrid, and remote schedules, now’s the time to talk about how the company is going to ensure that remote workers’ are included in collaboration (especially with their colleagues who work in-person), and that their achievements and accomplishments stay visible.

Our concept of what work looks like has undergone some drastic changes over the last year and a half, and it looks like some of these changes will be at least semi-permanent. While it will still take some time to get used to, sponsors who anticipate their employees needs and address them before they become areas of acute friction will be better positioned to ease this second round of work-related transitions.



These articles are prepared for general purposes and are not intended to provide advice or encourage specific behavior. Before taking any action, Advisors and Plan Sponsors should consult with their compliance, finance and legal teams.

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