Employees are accepting pay cuts to keep working from home. They shouldn’t

·4-min read
<span>Photograph: Joe Giddens/PA</span>
Photograph: Joe Giddens/PA

After months of remote work, many Americans are less than thrilled at the prospect of returning to the office. Despite the efforts of many employers and government officials to bring people back into the physical workplace, the last thing many employees who are at home want to do is start commuting again.

What is surprising, though, is just how much some workers are willing to surrender to their employers in order to keep the remote work arrangement going. A recent GoodHire study found that 61% of survey respondents would be willing to take a pay cut to maintain remote working status. Seventy per cent of those surveyed also said that they would forfeit benefits like health insurance, paid time off and retirement accounts in order to keep working remotely.

And this isn’t purely hypothetical. The risk of having to make that tough choice is very real, with companies like Google already threatening to cut workers’ pay by up to 25% should they choose to work from home permanently. Still, it’s not hard to see why some workers would be so desperate to keep working from home that they would consider an up to 50% pay cut in some cases.

Aside from reducing the risk of being exposed to Covid-19, remote work gives employees far more flexibility during their work day, a fact that has proven to have no bearing on their productivity. In fact, research has found that productivity is often higher when employees are permitted to work from home. Parents also save a ton of money on before- and after-school childcare, and can free themselves of sometimes long and grueling commutes.

For Black women, staying at home has meant a reprieve from some of the microaggressions that they would typically face in an in-person work environment. Other workers of color have also found it a welcome relief to not have to code-switch or keep up a performance of white-centric “professionalism”.

Aside from the fact that remote work simply makes workers’ lives easier, it seems like it’s just a more sensible alternative for most employers. Companies save serious money in overhead like office space and other administrative costs. And aside from being able to physically monitor their workers during work hours, is there any real reason why bosses have to hover over their employees day in and day out?

Thankfully, many workers are seeing this bigger picture, and choosing to do what’s best for them. According to the GoodHire study, 45% of Americans would either quit their job or immediately start a remote-work job-search if they were forced to return to their office full-time. And it’s already happening. Nearly 4 million Americans quit their jobs this past July, part of what some economists are calling the “Great Resignation”. For some workers, this mass exodus was brought on by the fact that the pandemic caused them to rethink their priorities, perhaps focusing on finding their “dream job” as opposed to the one that simply pays the bills. But for many others, the decision to leave came specifically because they were asked to come back into the office.

This is exactly the kind of defiant thinking that should be applied if workers are forced to decide between coming into the office and taking a pay cut. While I wouldn’t advocate quitting your job in these precarious times, employees should absolutely not take any kind of pay reduction or changes to their benefits package in order to be able to work from home.

From needing to have reliable internet connection, to providing your own supplies, to organizing and cleaning your own workplace, there is a lot that is required of a person who is working remotely.

And with women still responsible for the vast majority of unpaid domestic work worldwide, working from home has meant that they are doing even more parenting alongside work-related duties under the same roof. In one pandemic study, 80% of mothers who were spending more time at home with their kids reported that they are experiencing more stress during the pandemic, with 72% reporting increased anxiety. More than half reported that they are experiencing more frustrations with their kids. With this in mind, the obvious question is: why should women have to pay to do double the amount of work?

Working from home has made life easier for a lot of people. But easier or more convenient working conditions shouldn’t come at a cost to workers; they should simply be a part of good corporate practice.

  • Tayo Bero is a freelance journalist

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