Dear J.T. & Dale: My company went remote during COVID-19. They gave us the option to come back to the office or stay remote. I chose to stay remote. Now, I’ve heard they are planning to restructure all the jobs and have us reapply for our positions, with the remote jobs paying 20% less than the in-person ones. Is this just a tactic to get us back in the office? Can I fight this? — Simone
J.T.: A lot of companies have realized that letting people work remotely can translate into a savings on salaries. They know such jobs are so coveted that people will take a pay cut. That’s why I don’t think this is a ploy to get you back in the office as much as it’s a way for them to save money on salaries. Moreover, they know if you choose not to stay, they can hire someone less expensive than you who will gladly take the remote position.
DALE: I know it doesn’t seem right that those working from home should be paid less. After all, the company is already saving on workspace, equipment, utilities and in-office perks. However, as J.T. has suggested, it’s simply a matter of supply and demand, and the marketplace is fair in that it’s equally indifferent to the opinions of all those involved. Given that there’s now a separate job market for remote workers, the way to make more is to be worth more, and that means identifying which skills of yours are in demand (there’s that supply and demand again), then figuring out how to enhance and market those skills. There’s a fine line between working remotely and being a consultant and you’d benefit from thinking like the latter; that is, thinking like a service business, not like an employee.
Special report on remote work
We’ve been getting so many questions about working remotely that we thought we’d take a look at some data about remote work and its future.
J.T.: An article in “Forbes” quoted one researcher as calling remote work “the largest societal change in America since the end of World War II.” And that’s true — this isn’t just some workplace trend, it’s a societal transformation. Remote employees don’t just work differently; they live differently. And that’s why decisions on working aren’t just a matter of upper management making decrees about it being time to come back to the office.
DALE: I’ve been contending that remote work is a separate job market, and let’s take a look: The folks at Indeed.com tell us that (as of August 2022) the number of job searches for remote work was at 9.7% (which was five times the level from early 2020). On the other side of the job market, the percentage of job postings advertising remote work was 8.8%. So, with the demand side at 9.7% and supply side at 8.8% there’s a bit of an imbalance but not totally lopsided. However, if you look at those data over time, you see a consistent rise in those looking to work remotely, while the trend for posting remote work openings hit an inflection point in early 2022 and has been declining ever since. On the other side, a study from Owl Labs put the number of employees who’d like to work remotely at 42%. And here’s the problem for employees: the Owl survey found that 52% would take a pay cut of 5% or more to work from home, 24% would take a cut of 10% or more, while 2% would even endure a cut of 20% or more. Put those data together and what we have is a very different type of job market to go along with a different way of life.
J.T.: For many, it’s a better way of life. And, in some regards, a less expensive way of life, helping account for the willingness to take less pay: the Owl study found that employee work costs (commuting, lunches, etc.) were $862 a month for those going into the office while just $431 a month when working from home.
Jeanine “J.T.” Tanner O’Donnell is a career coach and the founder of the leading career site www.workitdaily.com. Dale Dauten’s latest book is “Experiments Never Fail: A Guide for the Bored, Unappreciated and Underpaid.” Please visit them at jtanddale.com, where you can send questions via email, or write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 628 Virginia Dr., Orlando, FL 32803. (c) 2023 by King Features Syndicate, Inc.