Despite “The Great Resignation”, companies are looking to regain control by forcing employees back into the office. Even though remote work is becoming more common and data shows that remote workers are more productive, there’s still a stigma attached to those who work from home. The common misconception is that remote workers aren’t as committed to their jobs and the company as someone who works in-office. These misconceptions lead to a variety of challenges for remote workers such as discrimination, being passed over for promotions and even having their salaries reduced.
Google has long been revered as the leader of creating a workplace for employees that other companies have strived to achieve in terms of culture, perks and benefits, and a competitive salary. However, the tech giant recently announced they’re planning to cut remote workers’ salaries by a quarter. Reuters revealed that workers with longer commutes to the Google office would receive the highest pay cuts. As such, some Google employees are choosing to make lengthy commutes of up to two hours instead of receiving a pay cut.
Polls across social media are indicating that employees would actively seek a new job if their pay were reduced due to working remotely. Across almost every poll, the comments section unanimously agrees that employers are paying workers for their skill set and experience, not their geographical location. Although commuting expenses have been eliminated, internet, utilities, groceries, equipment, supplies and rent are costs employees still incur while working remotely.
Here are three things for employers to consider before cutting the salaries of their remote workers.
It Could Be Considered Discrimination
There are a variety of reasons why employees prefer to work from home, all of which are completely valid. Here are a few reasons why an employee chooses to work remotely
- It provides flexibility for them to care for their children and/or a family member
- Their health makes them high-risk for severe illness from COVID-19 or its variants
- They have a disability where the commute takes a toll on them
- They’re more productive due to not having in-office distractions
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Erin Zadoorian, CEO and executive editor at Ministry of Hemp, asserted, “a significant part of the remote worker population is composed of people who are already underrepresented in the traditional office environment before remote work became the norm. These include stay-at-home mothers, persons with disabilities, and more.” BBC contributor, Hannah Hickok, said, remote work “intensifies gender inequality across the spectrum by reinforcing domestic roles, and stalling women’s earning potential and prospects for career advancement-many of which are positively correlated with in-person work.”
Companies that favor in-office workers over their remote counterparts is often referred to as proximity bias. Eden Cheng, cofounder of PeopleFinderFree, described proximity bias as, “when employees that have close physical proximity to their company leaders are perceived to be better workers, and as a result, they tend to find more success in the workplace.” Examples of proximity bias are
- In-office workers being given new and exciting tasks and projects to propel their careers forward
- In-office workers being given better perks
- Remote workers being paid less and demoted
- Remote workers being kept out of the loop on projects, conversations, meetings and anything else that happens in the office
Kia Roberts, principal and founder of Triangle Investigations, stated, “if two employees have the same job description and are doing the exact same work, it’s easy to see how claims of discrimination could arise with respect to salary differences. Larger forms of bias can quickly creep in when employees are categorized differently.” Trav Walkowski, Ph.D., SHRM-SCP, partner and CHRO at EmployMetrics, added, “just like someone shouldn’t be paid differently because of their race or gender, their location is also irrelevant.” He added, “remote work is no longer a novelty; it’s expected and the norm now. Once baby boomers retire, it won’t even be a question. Thus, adding conditions to remote work is a bad practice.”
It Shows Remote Workers They Aren’t Valued
Studies show that working from home has an overwhelmingly positive impact on employees productivity, happiness, well-being and performance. In fact, a study by Stanford University found that remote workers are more productive than their in-office counterparts which lead to companies earning greater revenues. As such, the argument is that remote employees should be paid more than in-office workers.
Catherine Merrill, CEO of The Washingtonian, openly voiced her lack of support for remote workers. She stated that workers who don’t return to the office should be demoted and categorized as hourly contractors, despite what federal employment law dictates. This led to Merrill’s editorial staff being outraged by her opinion towards remote work and going on strike. Some of them used their social media platforms to speak out against the CEO’s opinions.
Ben Lamarche, general manager of Lock Search Group, expressed, when a company considers paying remote workers less and overlooking them for promotions, they’re telling these employees that they’re less valuable to the company. This eventually leads to a bad employer reputation and increased turnover, which is far more expensive than paying employees a fair compensation.
The Long-Term Impact Outweighs The Short-Term Gain
Employers who are considering cutting remote workers’ wages are only seeing the short-term advantage rather than the long-term impact. While they may profit significantly, the long-term impact will grossly outweigh the short-term gain. Kimberly Back, senior job data content producer at Virtual Vocations, advised, “if employment trends over the last six to 12 months have taught us anything, it’s that the flexibility of remote work keeps businesses open—and that employees don’t have to tolerate sub-par work conditions or accept compensation packages that devalue their contributions.”
All in all, employees want to be valued, supported and compensated based on their skills, experience and hard work, rather than their presence in the office. In the current war for talent, those who don’t feel valued will undoubtedly leave for a company that provides them with a compensation package that’s aligned with their in-office counterparts.