A reader writes:
At what point should you ask your boss to pay for your cell phone, or give you a company phone? I am a personal assistant to a realtor, and I’m starting to wonder if I should ask her to pay my monthly cell phone bill. Not only do her clients call me on my cell when they cannot reach her, but I also am occasionally instructed to text her clients using my phone. As you probably suspect, there are no “business hours” that clients are given to call within — they call anytime, day or night. My cell phone number is also on the company roster and is given out by the receptionist to anyone who calls and asks for it. At this point, I believe my phone is less “personal” and more “business.”
What’s your advice on this? Should I ask for my number to be removed from the roster and only used for my boss to contact me, or since the number is already out there, should I ask her to pay the bill? Or is this an expected expense as a personal assistant that I should just suck up?
There are varying opinions on this, but I tend to think that your employer should pay for whatever portion of your cell phone bill that you wouldn’t be incurring if it weren’t for your job. So if you have unlimited minutes and you’d have that plan even if you didn’t work there, then you’re not losing any money and there’s no reason to ask your employer to pay. But if you’re going over your minutes or switching to a higher plan to accommodate the work calls, your employer should pay the difference. (I feel the same about things like Internet service; if you work at home but you’d have that same Internet service plan regardless, it doesn’t make sense to expect your employer to pay for it, because that’s a cost you’d be incurring on your own. In other words, the question to ask is, “What portion of this cost would I not have if not for my job?” Obviously this doesn’t work for things like commuting expenses or work clothes, but it does work for things like technology.)
On the other hand, if you’re expected to be available to clients at all hours, then I do think that you have an argument for asking your company to pay for the phone regardless. That’s enough of an intrusion into your off hours that it’s a reasonable request for you to make, as just kind of making up for the inconvenience of dealing with phone calls from clients at 11:00 at night.
Now, you didn’t ask about this, but have you considered getting a Google Voice number for your office to give out, so that you can set it to send calls straight to voicemail at certain hours? Unless your office truly requires you to answer calls at any hour of the day, this might be worth doing to preserve your time off.