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Will it Pay to Stay Remote?

Remote Working

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

With high profile employers stating workers who opt to work from home could see reduced pay we look at the reality of such decision making in the UK.

Last month Reuters reported on Google breaking cover on the debate over home working by stating that staff who decided to be home based would have their remuneration determined by their location.

A Google spokesperson confirmed “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”.

It’s true, the tech sector has been an obvious early adopter of flexible, working from home options however in the US this is very closely aligned to remuneration based on the physical location of the employee.

Mark Zuckerberg made it clear that his workforce at Facebook would need to decide on their place of work. He wasn’t suggesting they would stop anyone from remote working but made it crystal clear that their location would be identified and be used to assess pay.

In truth the above is not new.  Many companies in the UK have introduced remuneration schemes where a “weighting” is applied for staff who incur the cost of living in a particularly expensive area to ensure accessibility to a work location. London being one prime example.

The Call to Return to the Office

As an employer you are perfectly within your rights to assert that staff should attend the office to fulfil their responsibilities as engaged and contracted by the organisation.  Refusal to return by an employee may be justified if the employer has failed to offer sufficient protection and consideration for the health and safety of staff.  If the employee refuses to attend simply because they feel they can undertake their work remotely they may run the risk of disciplinary action based on their non-compliance with reasonable and justifiable requests.

No employer will be wish to see such a scenario leading to disciplinary action yet this could well be the reality for many businesses given their desire to see a workforce engaging within a common space.  There are genuine, well-founded reasons for seeking this migration back to the workplace, these include accessing in person training, coaching and attending regular face to face meetings.

The use of remuneration as a “carrot” (or in the case of reduced pay “stick”) to bring employees back to the workplace is a blunt some may say unnecessary strategy.  The employer should be mindful of the impact on their workforce and assess the pros and cons of extending remote working as an option, if practicable.

Managing expectations is critical and the senior management team should be mindful to impress on staff the importance of engagement, interaction and face to face exchanges and benefits of sharing a workplace.  Rather than stake a strident position it should be conveyed whilst understanding and acknowledging employee’s concerns.

Many companies are adopting “hybrid” models which encompass a mixture of remote and workplace commitment and if this proves to be possible without disrupting the productivity or operational efficiency of the business it should be considered.

One important consideration for adopting a full return to the workplace, remote working or hybrid model is to put in place measures to monitor and manage the process beyond its implementation.  Consider steps that could be taken to accurately reflect the employee’s performance, outlook, and contribution.

A recent survey of 1,500 decision makers by Ricoh Europe proves the need for effective management in these circumstances.  The research identified that hat 65% of them did not trust employees to properly fulfil their roles when they worked from home.  By contrast in the same study only 19% reported a decrease in productivity when staff worked from home.

Ricoh’s research highlights the disconnect between perception and reality and the need to ground any decisions in logical and inclusive plans and processes rather than a “gut feel” of what the right steps should be.

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