4.12.21 – CI
Workplace trends expert says businesses could face lawsuits if they base employee pay on where they work, but different perks might be OK.
Companies are saving big money in office supplies and lack of utility bills while most of their workers are toiling from home more than a year after the coronavirus pandemic began its spread, but now there’s some talk that remote workers shouldn’t be paid what their office-based colleagues do.
Workplace trends expert Rick Grimaldi explains why paying lower wages for remote employees could be a bad idea. AV integrators haven’t given any indication they’re planning to adopt that approach with their companies, although many integrators and manufacturers have to be in the office regularly.
“People should be paid what the job is worth no matter where they do it,” said Grimaldi, attorney at the forefront of COVID-19 workplace issues and author of the new book “FLEX: A Leader’s Guide to Staying Nimble and Mastering Transformative Change in the American Workplace.”
“If employers approach compensation with the attitude that remote workers are less valuable than in-office employees, they will not attract the best talent,” he said.
The most important consideration for leaders, says Grimaldi, is the question, “What makes sense for the job?” Figure out what you really need from your employees, he says.
But if a job can be performed from anywhere, and you allow workers to stay remote, pay them the same as you would pay an in-office employee doing the same work.
“If you allowed employees to work virtually during COVID-19, it’s hard to justify lowering their wages if they want to continue working from home once the pandemic is over,” says Grimaldi. “Unless you want to open a legal and employee relations can of worms, keep their wages consistent.”
Why Employees Should Be Paid Based on Job
While compensation should stay the same, it may make sense to offer the two groups different perks. As long as you are not discriminating against any particular individual or group, in-office workers might be reimbursed for commuting expenses while remote workers might receive reimbursement for their internet bill, for example.
Know that an employee that needs to work remotely but takes the in-office job won’t be successful or happy. Instead, they will feel resentment, their productivity or quality of work could suffer, and you will ultimately risk losing that employee (and the investment you made in hiring them).
The same goes for remote workers who begrudgingly accept a lower salary than their colleagues that go into the office each day.
Remember above all, flexibility is key.
“Consider adopting a hybrid model which allows for both in-person and remote workers and offers equal pay for equal work,” says Grimaldi. “Having fewer employees in the office could allow employers to cut down on office space or use concepts like ‘hoteling’—where remote workers share on-site office space by reserving a desk—in cases where normally remote employees must be onsite.”
Surveys suggest most employees want to go back to the office but with the flexibility to be able to work from home periodically as needed. This is an example of the new work-life integration that many workers (especially millennials) now crave.
“The past year shows us that many employees make a valuable contribution even when they work from home,” says Grimaldi. “Employers must compensate workers for good work no matter where that work takes place.
“Being flexible so that your employees feel happy and more in control of their workdays is good for business too,” he says.
About the Author
D. CRAIG MACCORMACK, Executive Editor
Craig MacCormack is a veteran journalist with more than 25 years of experience covering local and national news and sports as well as architecture and engineering before moving into his current role. He joined Commercial Integrator in January 2011.