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Are you wanting to remain remote? You’ll have to take a pay cut

(BUSINESS) Both employers and employees have come to crossroads with remaining to work remotely, but we can guarantee a pay cut is no way to approach it

Woman in hijab sitting on couch, working from home on a laptop

After a tumultuous couple of years comprising multiple shifts from having employees in-office to at home, employers are still grappling with whether or not to increase their remote workforce. One business’ solution was to offer the option to work from home if employees were willing to take a 5% pay cut–something that, despite employees’ outrage, may appeal to employers who are looking for a compromise to mitigate the COVID whiplash.

Much like the employees in question, Allison Green, author of Ask a Manager, strongly condemns this idea.

“Are you going to be contributing less? Producing less work?” Green asks. “Are the metrics by which your performance is judged going to be lowered by 5%? I’m guessing not.”

Green goes on to explain that the issue lies with the blanket 5% cut regardless of skill, position, or performance, making it seem like–as the original question posed–the cut is more punitive in nature than anything else.

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“It’s just a remote work penalty because they think they can do it. And who knows, maybe they can…But it’s a crap move on [the] company’s part,” she concludes.

From an employer standpoint, one can see the rationale: Rumors of decreased productivity from remote workers coupled with the perception of added strain for in-office employees could serve as a justification for a small pay cut to employees who choose (within reason) to work remotely, and one might not even see that pay cut as punitive. Unfortunately, the employees who decide to stay home–be it for personal preference or safety concerns–will.

The originator of the question on Green’s website about the 5% pay cut had perhaps the best solution to the problem of missing employees in the workplace: an incentive bonus for returning to the office. Unfortunately, even that idea has problems, the largest of which is that employers who are looking to mitigate perceived damages (illusory or otherwise) from remote workers probably won’t be stoked at the idea of paying more for the ones who do show up.

Ultimately, incentivizing attendance–implying that it is volitional and that one’s work structure can handle alternatives–while COVID continues to hospitalize and kill large numbers of people is a poor idea, to say nothing of punishing those who work remotely. Employers who want to retain employees and keep them on-site should be prepared to examine other options; even then, they may need to wait out the pandemic for a while longer.

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Jack Lloyd has a BA in Creative Writing from Forest Grove's Pacific University; he spends his writing days using his degree to pursue semicolons, freelance writing and editing, oxford commas, and enough coffee to kill a bear. His infatuation with rain is matched only by his dry sense of humor.

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