Remote Work Shouldn’t Mean Less Pay

Toolie® Garner
5 min readMay 31, 2023

It’s time to value employees by contribution not location.

Focus on what employees add to your bottom line, not whether they’re in an office.

The pandemic knocked us all out of our comfort zones, employers and employees alike. We made it work — literally — spending hours on videoconference meetings, honing our communication skills, and hastily drawing diagrams on digital whiteboard applications. Now that it’s safer to go back to the office (COVID is not over), companies inexplicably want to return to the on-site way of working, despite the fundamental shift that mandatory remote work made in business.

Now that companies can hire from anywhere, the question of pay becomes a rather thorny issue. At the start of the pandemic, a significant number of workers moved out of cities to lower-cost locations because they could take their jobs with them. Some moved for family reasons, to look after aging or vulnerable members; some moved to have a chance at home ownership in a place they could afford. Most were re-evaluating their life choices, realizing that growing older was not the only vulnerability they faced; an invisible virus could take their lives much sooner than they expected.

Now I’m hearing from colleagues who are job hunting that companies are attempting to use the offer of a remote position as a reason to lower the pay available for the role. Strategically, it’s a foolish choice, because devaluing remote workers will not get you the talent you want. Insulting them by saying their choice to work from home makes them less desirable is short-sighted at best.

It’s the employee’s contribution that must be assessed and valued, not whether they can make it into the office. What’s the point of trying to hire from anywhere if you’re not willing to pay for the expertise and value a candidate can bring?

A Worker is a Worker is a Worker….?

So why is this happening? Well some of it is the ongoing commoditization of workers, which surprises me given the tight labor market as of this writing: just 3.4% unemployment in April 2023. That’s the lowest unemployment rate in 54 years.

Is this an age-based issue? Well, research shows that the youngest workers tend to want to be in the office more than their older co-workers because work is their social life. I remember those days; for 10 years my job at Microsoft was my whole life, even though I was already married but childless. Once younger workers partner and/or marry, or start having children, working from home becomes much more appealing.

In his blog post, “People Leadership: 3 Things for CEOs to Get Right in 2023”, Curt Steinhorst sums it up well:

“So, although a ‘take it or leave it’ negotiation style may have worked for decades with Boomers (who took it), Millennials are figuratively yawning in the face of that manipulation and choosing to ignore it. This new orientation isn’t strictly generational, because research has shown that even Boomers, who are traditionalists, have grown weary of corporate regimentation, lack of a greater purpose, and the commoditization of workers that was prevalent just prior to the pandemic.”

I can confirm that Boomers aren’t putting up with the attempts to make remote work a lower-pay proposition. Because there were more Boomers in the workforce during their working years, they had to compete for every job available. And many of these Boomers have no intention of retiring if they like their jobs! These hard-working, highly-experienced remote workers won’t settle for less pay, especially since they’re likely more capable of successfully delivering the desired work remotely than their younger counterparts.

If anyone has learned to adapt, it’s older workers. They’ve seen more change in their lifetimes and worked harder to stay current and effective in their jobs than most of their younger co-workers.

Steinhorst continues:

“Companies were surprised to learn how important working for home was for single people, as previous data hadn’t sufficiently illuminated how many were caring for ailing relatives, struggling with childcare, or running small kitchen-table side businesses in the evenings to supplement their income or satisfy their need to be creative…

“Collectively these high-impact benefits quickly overtook amenities corporations had cobbled together. Even the simplest pleasures of working from home — like wearing casual clothes and having your cat nearby — had far more value to employees than hanging out in the downtown office and using the communal rec room despite its snack wall, ping-pong table, and half-dozen bean-bag chairs.” [emphasis mine]

Evaluating Factors for Remote Worker Success

While I am highly in favor of 100% remote work for knowledge workers, it’s fair for companies to evaluate the probability of success that a candidate will deliver their value while working remotely. Assuming that they otherwise meet the job criteria and have the requisite skills, here are some things to consider in remote candidates.

Add these points to your interview checklist for remote candidates.
  1. Communication skills. This skill is at the heart of successful remote work. How do they come across in their resume? Do they indicate whether they worked remotely before the pandemic?
  2. Video interviews. Is the candidate comfortable communicating on camera? What home-based workstation do they already have? Did they set one up during the mandatory work-at-home period, or just perch on the kitchen table?
  3. Task management. How does the candidate describe the management of the work to be done? Have they used tools such as Asana, Monday.com, Trello, Basecamp, Atlassian Jira, Microsoft Azure DevOps, and others? Task management skills can indicate that a candidate is accustomed to breaking down their work into manageable chunks and delivering as promised.
  4. Tools skills. In addition to their work skills, do they list the remote work tools they used, such as Microsoft Teams, Slack, Zoom, Webex, GoToMeeting, Miro, Mural, etc.? If the candidate didn’t list them on their resume, ask about their tool usage.

This is just a short list of possible ways to evaluate candidates; I’m sure you can add to the list based on your company’s needs.

Evaluating Pay for Remote Workers

It’s simple; pay the same as if you were hiring them for the traditional, on-site role. It’s their skills and abilities you’re hiring, not their physical presence.

Remember, it’s the top talent you want, and it’s the top-talent employees who are opting for the remote-work lifestyle. If you want the best, then pay for it; it’s not only fair, it’s smart. You will out-smart the competition, and profit from your improved bottom line.

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Want to know more about how to effectively manage remote teams? I’ve got specific ways to help you, so let’s strategize together. Visit www.TalkToToolie.com to book time with me, and let’s discuss your next moves.

Download my free Executive Briefing on remote work by visiting https://www.remoteleadershipsuccess.com

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Toolie® Garner

Toolie® Garner is a remote leadership expert, technology expert, professional speaker, author, and consultant at www.RemoteLeadershipSuccess.com.