Are Morgan Stanley, Google and Microsoft right about home working pay?

Money, Should homeworkers be paid less?

In recent times many large corporations have been making noises about cutting the pay of staff who decide to work from home to a lower 'local' rate. Morgan Stanley, Google and Microsoft are some of the leading names that have been mentioned on this issue. However, they are not the only ones to be considering this. Are these companies right - should the pay of homeworkers be cut?

We are going to take a look at both sides of this argument with our reasons why homeworkers pay should be cut and why it should not be cut.

The argument for

1) Pay is based on geography not output

Traditionally for most corporations, the salary that a worker receives is based on the location of the office they work in, as well as the role they do. So an Accountant in the Headquarters of Microsoft is likely to be paid way more, than an Accountant in the Microsoft office in Reading, England. Due both to Seattle being the Headquarters office and Seatlle being more expensive.

If a homeworker has moved to the wilds of the Scottish Highlands or the backwoods of Nebraska, is it not fair that they get paid a wage that is consummate with local conditions?

2) Working from home is less stressful and unfair on office-based roles

Sitting at home, not having to do the daily commute, or go through round after round of meetings. 

Homeworkers have it sweet. 

Indeed are they even working? 

Homeworkers have less stress, less pressure and less daily involvement in the work they are doing so why should they get paid the same as the worker who has to get up at 6 am, pop onto the train at 7:15 am, who gets into work for 9 am, do a days work, then finally gets home at 7/8 pm.

Seems mighty unfair that the homeworkers get the same as the office worker.

3) Homeworkers are less productive

Of course, homeworkers are less productive. They are sat there watching daytime television whilst answering emails and probably working on some side hustle on company time. 

How can they be busy, they are not walking around the office with a pad and paper, going from internal meeting to internal meeting, being "proper busy", like Karen and Derek. They always have a pad of paper with them and are always super-busy-productive.

4) Homeworkers require less money

Why does a homeworker need all that money, when corporate has a quarterly result to post?

They are not commuting into the office, nor do they need to have a suit on. And if they have to have a suit on for a zoom call, they do not need to buy the trousers.

See, they really do not need all that money.

5) How can staff be managed when working from home

If a worker is not properly "managed" how can they ever be fully productive members of staff? 

It goes without saying that the unmanaged worker is not really working, are they? 

Their KPI's might not be any different, but is it really work, if I, the regional head of sales and marketing for paperclips is not watching my teamwork? 

Are they even working?

The argument against 

1) Work is work - whatever the location

If you are writing code for a website, preparing the month-end accounts, or designing that advertisement, the work is all that matters. Not is location or the presence of management whilst it is being created, completed or actioned.

Work is work.

Labour is labour.

Output is output.

That is all that should matter. Being present seems in many workplaces to be more important than productive.

2) Homeworking is just, if not more stressful for some

Working in a tiny room, or on a kitchen table, with the kids and your significant other in the room is not easy. 

Trying to fit homelife around work is not easy. 

Having zero psychological breaks between the office and home is stressful. 

Living in a shared house, without a separate workspace from your bedroom is stressful. The work itself is stressful.

People talk about homeworking as if it is a long procession of easy work, no work, days out with the family instead of working, bunking off, or being sat in your pyjamas eating toast and watching loose women instead of working.

Which can not be further from the truth. Modern work is stressful, working from home for a lot of people is less stressful, others it is more stressful than the office.

However, to think that we should tie stress with payment or see only office-based stress as valid is very wrong.

3) Homeworkers are more productive and put in more hours

Corporate jobs almost always are paid as a salary, indeed so many jobs these days are paid as a salary, yet seem to expect more hours than stated in the contract.

Yet this culture that always wants more from its employees seems to be so against employees putting in more work.

Anecdotal evidence from around the world is pointing to workers putting in more hours at home compared with working in the office.

If this is the case, which as someone who has worked from home can tell you this is true.

Why cut staff pay when they are putting in more hours?

4) Reducing pay - borders on discrimination and denies people the chance to thrive

Not everyone can cope with the noise and excitement of office life.

Some people are disabled and find it hard to get into and out of the workplace.

Others are introverts and find they work best on their own.

Some people are on the autism spectrum and find the noise of an office hard to deal with.

Mothers with children can find it hard to get affordable childcare.

Working from home offers these groups (and more) the chance to thrive when they would have had the 
chance prior to homeworking.

Reducing these peoples pay seems both discriminatory and foolish as giving people the tools and environment to thrive is only ever going to increase productivity and profits.

5) Homeworking promotes motivated workers

Homeworking promotes self-starting and motivation amongst workers. 

This self-directed working is only going to increase as technology makes it easier and easier to work from home and work independently.

Homeworking is likely to further cut the need for excess management in many workforces.

The idea that people have to see work is a strange overhang from the pre-digital age and hopefully we move past this. However, my gut says that the human condition is always going to value what is seen versus what is unseen.

Conclusion and final thoughts

Looking at both sides of the argument, for me anyway, it seems pretty clear that pay homeworkers less is a foolish thing too, is bad management and in the long run will only lead to problems in retention amongst the most important, talented and mobile employees.

For too long, far too many workplaces have based their promotions, pay and perks on being present over being productive. 

Covid and the great WFH Revolution offers a chance for corporations and small businesses to change for the better. Sadly, it seems companies like Google, Microsoft and Morgan Stanley are using it as an exercise in cost-cutting instead of using it as an exercise in mass flexibility, inclusivity and productiveness.

Hopefully, the lessons and opportunities that homeworking and the WFH revolution will not be lost on everyone.

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