If You Don’t Want To Be in the Office, Get Ready To Make Less Money


When the pandemic struck, the idea of working remotely was a great way to ensure at least some work was getting done every day. As many were working with and around their children’s schedules, many employers were gravely concerned about how this would impact their work performance.

Suddenly the data started rolling in, and on average people were at least as productive as in the office, if not more so.

Then again, people were happier. If their situation allowed it, they could roll out of bed at 8:45 for a 9:00 start time. They could work in their pajamas from the comfort of the kitchen table, or literally in bed. Should they need to work late to finish a project, they could start dinner while working. In general, this was the best development for the modern office worker.

Now, a firm in the UK named Stephenson Harwood announced that those looking to remain working from home would be taking a 20% pay cut. With no direct word about what is prompting their move or what options their workers are being given, it’s hard to imagine how they can justify this as a good idea.

Here in the US, this idea already has roots forming.

Before the pandemic, remote workers accounted for 5% of the workforce. Currently, they account for 30%. This huge swing has created drastic changes in how employers provide working conditions, and what they would do with their salaries. Even before the pandemic, Google and Facebook were paying remote workers less, especially if their home of record was in a lower cost of living area.

While remote workers often don’t like the pay cut for working in a lower-income area, they are more than happy to accept it for the savings and the freedom from the desk. Now employers are trying to figure out how they can justify paying someone who lives in Columbia, SC the same as someone living in San Francisco, CA. They are also questioning if they need to raise the pay if someone relocated to a more expensive place.

Compensation experts say that this idea of paying remote workers less undercuts the biggest gains of giving people the option of working remotely- enhanced productivity, a bigger pool from which to attract skilled workers, and much lower turnover. When working in an office they lose these perks, at least to some degree. David Buckmaster, a senior compensation director at Wildlife Studios said “That feels like a shell game to me. I don’t like it. It could be demoralizing.”

Raphael Kelly, an operations manager at FedEx believes that this idea isn’t like healthcare, and employers cannot put a monetary value on it. Although, she does the point of employers considering it as a part of the employee’s compensation package. “I think it is a perk and a benefit. And the perk is that you can be accessible to your family, you’re able to put your dinner on during your breaks, and it’s a benefit also because it’s work-life balance.”

At 47, Kelly has been working remotely for 10 years, and currently manages a team of 25. When the idea of employees returning to company buildings to work started up she noticed a change. “They are not happy.”

Who can blame them for not being happy? By working from home they don’t have to make small talk with the coworker who stares at them more than they like, but not enough for HR to do anything. They can save gas money and wear on a car. No more spending hours a week commuting. Yet remotely they are as productive or more, and their employer can even save on costs by downsizing or closing the physical office. Why any employer would ever want their people back on site besides to flex their strength as a manager is inconceivable.