If you bought a new iPad with LTE today, you may already be using it at the office or planning to do so on Monday morning. The iPad is a great business device and it’s becoming more commonplace for workers to provide their own smartphones and other mobile devices. The addition of LTE really bumps up what you can do on the road or after hours.
But that LTE service, which expands how productive you can be away from your desk comes with a price tag that you’re probably paying out of your own pocket. If you regularly use LTE (or even 3G) service on your new iPad or other device for work, should your employer be footing part of the bill?
That isn’t really a question with Wi-Fi iPads because you’re most likely not paying for service by the gigabyte as you are with either LTE or 3G service.
The closest analogy to this question in the business world is when employees use their personal vehicles to get to off-site meetings, pickup supplies or equipment, or drive between two or more work locations. If you use your own car, chances are that you track the milage you drive during the workday and submit it to your employer periodically for a reimbursement check. The amount of that check is most likely computed using a standard fee per mile figure updated each year by the IRS that is intended to cover the cost of gas and wear and tear on the car.
Calculating how much data you’ve used in a given month for work isn’t nearly so simple as calculating how many miles you’ve driven. But even the milage counting isn’t a direct reflection of how much the driving actually costs you – if you drive a Prius, for example, you’ll use less gas and have a lower personal expense than if you drive a Hummer. Not to mention that gas prices can fluctuate widely over the course of a year. Compensation based on milage is an approximation that’s usually pretty fair and easy to track.
The car analogy may not be perfect, but it’s a great way to start the conversation with your boss or your companies HR department. Here are some ways that you can approach the subject:
- You can simply take the financial hit and not be reimbursed – depending on your job, there’s a good chance that you may be able to write part of you data plan’s expense off your taxes next year
- Your company may be able provide a mobile hotspot that it pays for – this may not seem like an ideal option compared to using your new iPad’s built-in LTE capabilities, but it is the easiest way to ensure that you aren’t footing the bill for work-related data (though you’ll likely want an LTE or other 4G device)
- You can discuss the idea of a flat rate reimbursement by your employer – this will be one of the simplest options, but you may want to measure your personal LTE data use to create a baseline before proposing or agreeing to such an arrangement
- You may want to try simply designating a percentage of your service as work-related each month, which can be helpful if your personal and/or work use fluctuates
- If you’re only using LTE service for work while on the road or at certain event, you might want to discuss reimbursement around other travel or event-related expenses rather than as a regular and recurring expense
One advantage to the iPads LTE plans is that they are month-to-month plans, meaning you can adjust them as needed depending on your personal or work-related usage. In fact, it may be an effective argument to note your current plan and simply ask your employer to pay the difference between that plan and the next one up from it.
Unfortunately, not all employers are going to easily agree to reimbursing you for a personal data plan. Those that have already embraced the consumerization of IT and/or BYOD trends are probably going to be easier to convince than those that haven’t (and if there’s an outright ban on personal tech, you’re probably out of luck).
The one key point to push is that you’re already saving your company money by providing the device (and potentially the apps that you’ll need) and improving your productivity at the same time – equally important is that you’re not asking them to pay the entire bill, you’re just asking for a reasonable reimbursement. Likewise, you’ll do better if you can define specific ways in which your iPad and LTE will benefit your department or company.