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Would you take a pay cut to work from home permanently?


By Megan Burns
21st Sep 2021

Mikey Harris

Would you take a pay cut to work from home permanently?

Workers in major cities often used to be paid a premium to meet their cost of living, but should this continue if people want to work from home?

Where Silicon Valley goes, many companies will follow, and so the news that Google is proposing to cut the pay of workers who choose to work remotely full-time, and who don’t live in major cities, has the potential to start a trend.

The reasoning behind the move, a Google spokesperson explained, was that their employees’ pay is based on the office they were located in. “Our compensation packages have always been determined by location, and we always pay at the top of the local market based on where an employee works from.”

This means that, for example, a Google employee who worked in the Dublin office, but commuted from Kildare, might receive a pay cut if they choose to work from home, where one who lives in the city will not.

It’s a move that seems more interested in protecting the assets of Google (i.e. their investment in huge, expensive offices) than any kind of fairness to their workers.

Because although employees who work from home may save on the price of a twice-daily train journey, or fuel for their car, they incur more costs than they would otherwise on things like heating and electricity. In the case of Google specifically, they also won’t benefit from many of the in-office perks like free meals.

Those who work from home also need a workspace, something that can be the difference between being able to rent a house with roommates or having to find somewhere by yourself at a significantly higher price, or needing to upsize your family home.

It’s a move that seems more interested in protecting the assets of Google (i.e. their investment in huge, expensive offices) than any kind of fairness to their workers.

It also has the potential to disadvantage more junior employees, who perhaps chose to live further away from the office as it was cheaper: their already lower salaries could be reduced further if they wanted to avoid the inconvenience of a long commute.

And as long as they are still completing their job to the same standard they always were, why should remote workers take a pay cut, just because the work wasn’t completed in the office?

In fact, a study by Laya Healthcare earlier this year found that 44 per cent of remote workers in Ireland work longer hours at home than when in the office. Removing a commute and having your workspace at home not only gives you more time to work, you’re more likely to ‘just check an email’ if you’re walking past your laptop in the evening rather than if you leave everything in an office at the end of the day.

Some may argue that employees have the option to go back into the office, and keep their current level of pay, but it’s a no-brainer that a company will get the best out of their employees when they can choose the setup that works best for them.

If you feel more creative and less exhausted without a long commute, surely your work will be more, not less valuable? It seems more like a way to force people back into the office than compensate employees fairly.