company will let us work from home — but our pay will fluctuate based on our productivity

A reader writes:

My husband has been working from home for the past year and is expecting to return to the office in September. His company just announced that they will be offering the option to continue working from home permanently for those who want to.

However, anyone who elects this option will have to take a lower pay rate than they have now (everyone is hourly/non-exempt) AND their base pay rate will fluctuate month to month based on productivity/quality from then onward. They’re calling it P4P, “Pay for Performance.” They’re planning to let employees know ahead of time what their new pay rate would be under this plan so they can make an informed decision, but the decision will be permanent. And this will be the pay structure going forward for all new hires.

This is objectively terrible, right? Sure if you have a really productive month you might get a little pay bump, but then if you have a bad month you presumably have to take a pay cut. And to have this be the policy for all new hires? Who would want to work there?

What’s your take on this? Is this part of a new trend with companies and work-from-home policies?

It’s not a trend! It’s just one really terrible company.

And this is terrible. Part of being an employee of a company, as opposed to a freelancer, is that you have a relatively predictable stream of income if you’re working consistently. You don’t need to worry about your pay rate rising and falling from month to month based on what could be small variations in your performance if you’re sick, stressed, dealing with more challenging projects than usual, etc.

My strong suspicion is that the company came up with this because they don’t know how to manage remote workers effectively. Someone there thought, “Well, we could let people keep working from home, but what if they’re not as productive? How will we know if they spend an afternoon doing laundry instead of working? I know! We’ll just make their pay dependent on what they achieve in a given month, so we can never be taken advantage of.”

Instead, what they should be thinking is, “If we’re going to let people work from home permanently, we need to make sure all our managers are managing really effectively — and we need to give them the training and support to do that.” If they’re actively managing people to outcome-based goals — including providing regular feedback, paying enough attention to spot problems early, and addressing any issues forthrightly if they come up — they won’t need to worry about ebbs and flows in people’s work from month to month. If something becomes a pattern, good managers will address it — through actual conversation, not through people’s paychecks.

In fact, in many ways this system disincentivizes good management, because a lot of managers will figure they don’t need to do the work of addressing problems quickly or forthrightly because the pay decrease will deliver the message for them.

And frankly, good companies already have a better version of “pay for performance” — it’s what happens when you’re paid a salary to do a job, given regular feedback throughout, moved out of the job if you’re not performing well after warnings and chances to improve, and rewarded if you excel.

This is just a company avoiding the real work of management and trying to shift those costs to employees.

{ 278 comments… read them below }

    1. Person from the Resume*

      I think what they want is you to decide to return to the office over this instead of working from home because people in the office are not subject to this terrible pay determination system.

      1. jm*

        yeah, they’re clearly disincentivizing working from home, which is a scummy thing to do.

      2. Justice*

        Yeah, this smells like a poison pill to force as many employees as possible to be butts in seats. Totally crappy.

      3. Forrest*

        yes, although if all new hires are going to be put on this system regardless of whether they work from home or not, it’s probably going to go downhill as a place to work. The types of employees the company can attract and the atmosphere around working with them is going to change dramatically.

        1. Librarian of SHIELD*

          Yeah, if I were offered this job and given the salary explanation, I’d nope right the hell back out again and tell all my industry friends not to apply there.

      4. Gilbert Blythe*

        Exactly. They want everyone in the office but want to say the employees themselves chose to be in the office. Some people put more value on being physically present than being productive. I had a boss who allowed one employee to do basically no work for years despite the questions and concerns of middle management. It was only when she asked to work from home a couple days a week that he was adamant that he wasn’t going to “pay her to sit home and play with her baby.” No one could understand what the difference was between her sitting at home not doing work or driving to the office and not doing work, but it was his dividing line. FYI, when she realized she wasn’t going to get paid for the days sitting at home not working, she quit because she didn’t want to come back to the office full-time.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          Exactly. The stupid part of butt-in-seat is the people who come to the office and do nothing. I’ve worked with those people. They shop online, play on their phones, ignore their calls, whatever. The only work they actively do is warming up the seat.

          So any employer who would do this is seriously clueless.

          1. Cat Tree*

            Even worse is those who come in, do nothing, AND disrupt others who are trying to get work done. If the company really wants to keep paying them to do online shopping and play with their phones, at least let them do that at home where they’re not distracting me.

          2. JJJBB*

            Also, the company is saving a lot of money with people at home. The have lower overhead costs, etc. They are very short sighted and will be losing a lot of employees, or, they will just choose to go into the office. Stupid management.

      5. Richard Hershberger*

        “…people in the office are not subject to this terrible pay determination system.”

        Not yet. The OP seems to be saying that all new hires will be under this system whether working from home or the office. If I am reading this right, I suspect the grandfathering in of the old system will be temporary.

        1. Person from the Resume*

          Ah; missed that.

          I predict that this won’t last longer than a year or two if the company actually manages to get implemented. There may be enough of an outcry to prevent it.

        2. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

          I interpret that to mean that new hires will also be given the choice and the pay structure, not that new hires are forced to WFH with a fluctuating pay scale. I wonder how this would fly legally though; in a way, they are treating WFH employees like gig workers instead of employees. They’re certainly starting to skirt the distinction.

          1. Marple*

            It sounds like “piecework” to me. I’m not super familiar with wage laws related to this, but I think it’s complicated.

          2. Princess Trachea-Aurelia Belaroth*

            I think it depends, on stuff I’m not clear about from what OP says.

            I THINK, if what OP is saying is that they look at your performance and re-figure your pay GOING FORWARD every month, and they alert you what it will be before it goes into effect, that might be legal. Still terrible.

            If they look at your productivity for the month that just ended and then determine your pay for THAT PERIOD, I think that’s illegal, because they are essentially not paying you an agreed-upon rate for work done.

            If they only pay you for what you deliver, I think that’s probably illegal unless the reconfigure everything to make the workers freelance, since it sounds like they are currently hourly.

            1. BookMom*

              Woe to the payroll person who has to refigure everybody’s paycheck every single month. No way.

              1. MCL*

                I was just thinking about the massive amount of overhead required to determine everyone’s rate every month. Assuming the employees are not paid by the number of widgets produced, this just seems like a waste of admin time.

                1. fhqwhgads*

                  It almost sounds like what they’re really doing is reducing everyone’s base pay (which OP said) and then introducing a bonus system? So all the extra “output” pay is just bonuses based on the previous month, not necessarily actual changes to rate of pay.

                2. Princess Trachea-Aurelia Belaroth*

                  Yeah, in the back of my mind I was thinking that this sounds like something a Big Man thinks up, states as fact, and then leaves everyone else to figure out how to implement (and as a result, sometimes just doesn’t happen because it turns out to be a bloated system more trouble than it’s worth. And in this case it isn’t even worth anything to begin with).

                  @fhqwhgads That would be the way that makes the most sense, but unless this was explained in the absolute worst way possible to OP, it doesn’t sound like that’s how they envision it.

        3. The More You Know*

          I know we’re not supposed to pick on grammar/language, but I think it’s important to note that the phrase “grandfathering in” has a racial/racist history (15th amendment voting rights) in the US. Knowing that you may decide whether you want to continue using it or not.

          (I mean no offense; I personally appreciate it when things like this are pointed out to me so I can make an informed decision about the words I choose.)

          1. Rage*

            I didn’t know that about the phrase, but I’m curious: is there an alternative phrase that people can use? Because changing that up to “having an old rule continue to apply to some existing situations while a new rule will apply to all future cases” seems a trifle unwieldy.

            1. Person from the Resume*

              You can rewrite the sentence using legacy and exempted i.e. legacy employees are exempted from the policy change.

        4. Now I Know More*

          (Reply to The More You Know over here because the reply option just… isn’t there?)

          Wait, “grandfathering” (grandfathered, to grandfather, variations thereof) has race implications too? And here I’d just switched to variations of “legacy” (I’m sure some less legitimate than others) because it felt odd having to pick a gendered variant (and everyone seemed to be going masculine anyway, and there’s other systemic stuff there too). I mean, there exist definitions of legacy that aren’t awesome to draw association to either, but at least some of the definitions don’t have horrible ties.

          I’d also initially interpreted the letter to mean that only folks working at the moment could be on the legacy pay system, but now I’m curious too if it meant that or if new hires would be offered the same choice that would ultimately be designed to trend towards more people physically showing up again?

      6. pbnj*

        Also seems like a way to discourage taking PTO. Would they adjust productivity numbers if someone took a week or two off for vacation? What about sick leave?

        1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

          Also seems like a way to discourage taking PTO. Would they adjust productivity numbers if someone took a week or two off for vacation? What about sick leave?

          Are they able to objectively measure performance at all?

          1. Kaiko*

            Ding ding ding. Here’s the real question. What are the measurements and how are the outputs judged? Who assigns the work? How are onboarding, slow seasons, or other “slow periods” paid out? Is there a base pay that the company won’t dip below? Is there a max pay they won’t go above? If I’m so productive that I get a day’s worth of work done in an hour, what’s my pay rate for that hour?

            In short: this system is terrible and makes no sense.

      7. singlemaltgirl*

        +1. definitely trying to force people to ‘choose’ to work in the office. and to alison’s point, probably b/c they don’t know how to manage wfh effectively.

      8. One Who Knows*

        This actually happened at my office. They wanted us to return to the office/field, and when people protested they said if we didn’t like it we could leave. And then a third of the employees quit within a month.

    2. Momma Bear*

      I had an hourly job where you got bonuses for hitting goals – that was how they increased your pay if you were productive, but they didn’t decrease your pay if you didn’t hit them. I would be actively looking if my job told me that my pay would fluctuate at their discretion month to month. It is one thing to have your pay fluctuate b/c your hours did, but this feels like you wouldn’t know until you got hit with it. I’d work in the office…until I could find another job.

    3. Seeking Second Childhood*

      My productivity depends more on other people planning ahead and not causing rework. Hell to the no.

      1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        Yeah at my former employer’s, my productivity depended on people from another city sending me work. I’d email to let them know I had availability, but if I finished everything up before the weekend, I was mostly twiddling my thumbs on Monday morning, then work would start to trickle in come the afternoon.
        Then they introduced a project management system and the project managers figured that if they “forgot” to log my name as the person doing the work, their profit margins looked much higher, because as a salaried worker, I didn’t send in a bill like the freelancers would. The management system thus showed that my productivity was close to zero when in fact I was doing double the work of my colleague, in less time, paid the same hourly rate.
        I never got a bonus or a promotion for producing double the work, so then I slacked off and finally managed to get myself made redundant when they decided to close that office down.

  1. Murphy*

    If you can monitor employee’s productivity to the point that you can adjust their pay on a a monthly basis, you have enough data to approach those employees who may be less productive than they should and have a conversation with them about expectations instead of whatever nonsense this is.

    1. Allonge*

      Oh no, see you are goin in the wrong direction with this. Obviously this system can just post everyone’s relative productivity on a monthly basis to a big (virtual) board, and employees should just find out from one another how to be even more productive. Be your own manager! Bootstraps! /s

      Seriously though: if the system actually exists, why would you not use it for everyone, regardless of where they work? There are plenty of places where you have a base salary and bonuses structure.

      1. Carolthe happy elf*

        I hated the Leader Board system. We had a system that gave out assignments to employees, but the assignments were doled out by alphabetical order. Poor “Zinnia Wakefield” never got to choose, whether it was last name or first name, so her assignments were crap, plus the company culture was “Intensely Competitive”…which meant we.all.loathed.Adam.Abbott.and.Bethany.Bingham. And the sniping, gossip, and the meetings (!) where we were lectured on giving leads to each other so we could “All Be Our Own Success Story”.
        I quit.
        The company was sold, and when I went back for a retirement party, the leader board was still there, just reconfigured. Congrats column, vacation schedule, and open leads to check out. Sniping and backstabbing got them fired. Nobody regretted the first letter of their last name, and the new company was wonderful.

          1. Librolover*

            So, could i just…change my name to aardvark aardvark? What about trans ppl?

        1. Your Local Password Resetter*

          That sounds like some extremely lazy management.
          Glad the company changed for the better.

      2. JustaTech*

        The only places/departments I’ve seen that have worked like this (complete with leaderboard) are commissioned sales departments. There the productivity metrics are super obvious (did you land a sale or not?), and their pay depends in part on how many sales they make.

        But when this was explained to the regularly-salaried staff, along with the fact that, to be eligible for the big sales award the sales folks couldn’t have a single slow month, we were kind of horrified. “What if you want to take a vacation?” “Counts against your month.” “What if you get the flu?” “Counts against your month.”

        And they wonder why we can’t keep a sales team – if they want to keep making the same money they can’t take a vacation, so if they want to take a break they have to quit and move to another company (which they do all the time, and boy did that piss off our last CEO to no end).

        But for everyone who’s work doesn’t have those super easy to read productivity metrics? They’re just hosed.

    2. Keymaster of Gozer*

      Additionally if you can afford to have people analysing that data month in and month out and getting the details to finance to adjust the pay…

      …you can definitely afford to NOT do this.

      Treat staff like adults. There’s no need for ‘if you do all your chores you get your pocket money, but if I think you did them too slowly then you’ll get less’ bull.

      Additionally, one wonders how they’d deal with someone pointing out that they have a disability that means they have to work from home and asking the company to justify why cutting their salary for that is a reasonable accommodation.

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        Or what about those of us whose productivity is based on that of others? I can have a super slow day followed by a crazy busy one based on what comes my way.

        1. Anon for this*

          I did not do anything I intended to do yesterday because my day got warped into “deal with crazy phishing email”. If you’re looking at sheer productivity, yesterday was incredibly unproductive. If you’re looking at number of informational meetings I got hauled into as the designated person who was keeping other people informed, yesterday was a nightmare and I get to leave early on Friday as a reward for my hard work.

        2. Empress Matilda*

          I was going to say the same! A lot of my work depends on other people, either to initiate something or to respond to something I’ve initiated.

          I work in the head office of a large retail organization, which means everyone is super busy in December and never gets back to me about anything – because they’re busy doing their primary jobs. Should I be penalized for that? Or should we drag them away from their primary jobs so they can respond to me? And if so, will they then be penalized for their own lost productivity?

          TL;DR – nope. To this entire plan.

        3. turquoisecow*

          Yeah, I’m a data analyst. If people don’t give me data to analyze, I don’t have much to do, but then there are other times when I’m cramming to get a bunch of stuff done all at once. It’s the nature of how my job works that there are some days I’m busy and some days I’m kind of just twiddling my thumbs (which is why WFH is really great for this position – I can twiddle my thumbs at home instead of having to commute into an office to do very little).

        4. Keymaster of Gozer*

          Heck, my job is IT. A good day for us is no systems going face first into the tarmac, but if we were ranked on the number of calls closed per day (which btw I’m not implementing with my staff ever) we’d look lazy.

          If I told the team that they’d be paid more for closing more calls there’d be a colossal epidemic of software bugs through the company in under a week.

        5. SimonTheGreyWarden*

          It isn’t exactly the same, but my Monday was crazy busy with students coming in for help with final papers etc. Yesterday also. I stayed late and was back to back full. Today, half my appointments just didn’t show up. It is hard to plan for a day like that!

        6. JustaTech*

          I didn’t get any experiments done for a MONTH because our vendor couldn’t secure the needed donors.
          This happens. When you depend on the kindness of strangers (even strangers you’re paying) you have to expect that some times they won’t be able to show up. I build this into my study plans.

          But to the higher ups this looks like I was slacking off, goofing off, or just not working.

    3. Anonys*

      Yeah! I don’t even understand how they can easily measure performance like that for ALL jobs in all departments? My team for example doesnt have any “hard” performance KPIs or numbers we have to hit. The work is more of a combination of qualitative work and just keeping certain processes running smoothly. Of course my performance can still be and is regularly evaluated, but having to review my performance every month would drive my boss insane.

      From a merely practical standpoint, I think this only works for certain roles where you can easily define: “achieve amount x to get salary y”. Of course the idea is still terrible anway.

      1. londonedit*

        Exactly – my work involves making sure books go to press on time. Along the way there are all sorts of processes that can take more or less time depending on complexity, what the author’s like, other people’s schedules, unforeseen lateness, etc etc etc. My job is to manage all of that and make sure the thing still goes to press when it’s meant to. That’s how my performance is measured – are things on time and on budget, barring major unforeseen disasters? Are the authors and freelancers happy? Yes? OK, great. If the company suddenly wanted to try to introduce all sorts of other monitoring, rather than allowing me to manage my own schedules in order to get the best out of the time I have, it would be horrendous. And to then use that monitoring to determine whether or not I’d be paid my full salary? Hell no.

      2. alienor*

        Same here. About the only hard metric I could be measured on is how many projects that I was assigned to got marked complete in a month. And that still wouldn’t work, because every project is a team effort where I could do my part perfectly and on time, and then circumstances beyond my control could still prevent it from being delivered. I’d be livid if my pay got cut because the client dragged their feet on an approval.

    4. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

      Yes, I’m surprised that the OP didn’t include that they are required to download a keystroke monitor or other surveillance technology.

    5. meyer lemon*

      My less charitable take was that from that moment on, everyone’s productivity scores would just happen to hit the pay-docking threshold every month.

      1. Luke G*

        Mmhmm. This has big blinking warning signs all over it. It’s not even necessary to set the full-pay threshold to superhuman levels, it’s enough to say “you should be able to get this much done in a month… ASSUMING nothing gets delayed before making it onto your desk, everyone responds to all of your e-mails in a timely and helpful manner, management approves of everything quickly, a goal never gets changed and forces you to re-do completed work, there’s never anything weird on a spreadsheet that merits investigating, and you’re never sick or tired.” Once you tie full pay to that level of wishful thinking, you’re well on the road to convincing yourself that you’re giving your employees the chance to make good money, and they just keep messing it up.

        1. Self Employed*

          Last night, I made a small mistake in my bookkeeping so that either one account or another didn’t balance. It took me THREE HOURS to figure out what I did wrong. It’s my own company’s books so nobody’s going to complain, but that’s three hours I wasn’t doing something useful like updating my website.

      2. Princess Trachea-Aurelia Belaroth*

        Bet. Similar to how in my school system, as a principal you are softly “not allowed” to give teachers the highest rating (highly effective), because that comes with the highest raise. Everyone is “effective,” and no more.

    6. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      Sigh. This makes so much sense. Are you a well-paid manager at least?

  2. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    An adjusted base rate + bonus system is exactly the same mathematically, but would come across much better emotionally to the employees.

    1. Cant remember my old name*

      Is it the same mathematically? What you described has a lower limit, correct? What the LW describe has an average pay with an undetermined lower limit, and I am not fully convinced that those who increase productivity will actually receive that bonus pay.

    2. Anonys*

      but then EVERYONE should be paid according to this system. Why only wfh people? Employees who work in the office can have just as much productivity fluctuation as those working from home. If you basically tell people “ok, if you work from home, you get a lower base salarary and have to prove that you ‘deserve’ what you would make as an in office employee each month based on your productivity”, that’s still very punitive.

    3. AndersonDarling*

      I was also thinking that this is what the company may be doing, but they communicated it poorly. So instead of earning $20 per hour, the new rate is $19.50 per hour plus monthly bonuses for regular performance ($100), or excellent performance ($200). A regular performer would still earn $20/hour when the bonus is taken into account. And a very productive month would earn above the previous rate.
      But if this was a business where performance could be quantified so easily and clearly, then the pay structure would already be based on output. So I’m guessing that it’s not so straightforward. What happens when you have a week of meetings? You earn less because you are communicating information rather than creating documentable output? And if you use PTO is your bonus cut as well? Nope, I doubt this is the kind of business where this will work.

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        We actually have done this in the past – expected productivity is 17 widgets per hour, people get an extra $100 bonus if they do 20+ widgets per hour in a month and $200 bonus if they do 23+ widgets per hour. (We don’t currently do the bonuses, just base hourly salary, but we do still have a quantitative productivity standard for “meeting expectations” at review time.)

        For our productivity measurements, team members track nonproductive time – everyone’s clocked hours automatically get reduced by one hour per 8 hour shift to allow for email reading and small daily tasks, then beyond that, if they have meetings or IT issues or whatnot, they track those as well and the nonproductive hours are deducted. So in an 8 hour shift, where someone had a one-hour meeting and spent 45 minutes working on an issue with the help desk, their productive time would be 5 hours and 15 minutes, for an expectation of (17*5.25) 89 widgets for that shift rather than (17*8) 136.

        1. Amaranth*

          So your company basically tells employees they should waste an hour each day since they won’t be paid for it anyway?

          1. SimonTheGreyWarden*

            I understood it to mean that the hour wouldn’t count against expected productivity in terms of bonuses (i.e. you still have to get 136 widgets done, but you only have 7 hours instead of the usual 8 to do it).

          2. Alice Quinn*

            I believe Red Reader is saying the company adjust the expected number of widgets for planned non-productive time, not that they don’t pay employees for that time.

            1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

              Yes — sorry, the beginning of my comment was weirdly phrased, my bad. I meant that the starting value of “productive hours” is equal to “7/8 of clocked (paid) hours” :) Everyone gets paid by total clocked hours, but their expected productivity for widget-making is based only on the number of hours they were actually doing productive widget-making work as opposed to other work-associated tasks that may take up clocked hours.

              I was primarily addressing Anderson’s comment about meetings cutting into one’s earnings because they were time spent not creating widgets.

        2. Cthulhu's Librarian*

          I’m curious about this – I worked in a factory where parts per hour were monitored and the basis of bonuses, before getting into the library field. I know that factory eventually became notorious for having as much as 1 in 3 parts out of spec, because people were cutting corners so they could increase the number of parts per hour they were making, to meet bonus qualifications.

          QC didn’t really do much to prevent things getting bad, because they were also being awarded bonuses on how many parts they could check and approve per hour – and they would get in trouble if they held up a shipment to check all the parts.

          Admittedly, that place was a shit show of epic proportions in more ways then one, but I have to imagine that any structure like that encourages some amount of corner cutting. What do workplaces do to get around those eventual quality issues?

          1. JustaTech*

            We had an issue at my work of the manufacturing folks doing everything under the sun to finish a process faster (they wear full bunny suits, so I don’t blame them for wanting to get out of that rig). But some of the things they invented were wrong.

            Eventually it was decided that they would be given “report cards” of their yields (how well they did each process) as well as their times (how fast) and that helped the “going to fast and making silly mistakes/cutting corners”, because now they had a new goal to achieve (good yield).

            They had always been monitored for mistakes, but having a positive goal (good yield) helped more than a negative goal (don’t mess up).

            In your case, that’s why all of Quality (QC and QA) needs to be a totally separate org, not beholden to manufacturing management, because they have to be able to say “no, this isn’t good enough”. It’s easier to get that power if your product is highly regulated/has the ability to kill the users (airplanes, for example, or medicines).

          2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

            We’re a little different, in that my “widgets” are medical claims and my team are medical coders; we’re not actually fabricating physical parts. We do first pass coding of lab orders. Our quality checkers aren’t on a productivity system in the same way we are, they just have to check x many claims from each of my coders per month. (Those are graded on a formal scorecard, using standardized metrics, and each coder also has an expected quality score for each month’s sample.)

            Once my team finishes with our coding, the claims go through further review by automated systems against established regulations and, if issues are flagged by the automation, additional manual review by more specialized teams.

          3. TardyTardis*

            This reminds of how the Soviet factory system planned with management by objectives, and what a dumpster fire it turned out to be in most cases (illustrative case studies in my economics classes). Ah, the halycon days of linear programming…

      1. Luke G*

        Is a bonus system really the same as tips, though? I make a base salary with a bonus system in place. Some elements of my bonus are based on things not directly in my control, but reflect how my team helps the company perform well. Have a good year, get extra money. Other elements are things where I can get extra money for performing at a higher level than merely “acceptable,” or doing things outside the immediate requirement of my job.

        I guess you could call those tips, but to me it’s a concrete way to say “we pay you $X to do your job. If you do just that job you will make $X. If you go above and beyond, we will show our appreciation with cash money dollars, instead of by saying how great you are while continuing to pay you $X.”

    4. Observer*

      An adjusted base rate + bonus system is exactly the same mathematically, but would come across much better emotionally to the employees

      That’s a fairly dismissive and inaccurate way to frame it. There are so many issues here, that I’m not going to get into, but one thing that very much distinguishes the two is that under most circumstances bonuses are not legally constrained, but you CANNOT change pay rate for time already worked, and you must pay whatever the local minimum wage is.

    5. Harvey JobGetter*

      Yes. Alison’s right that this isn’t a trend because this is ALWAYS how it’s worked in so many jobs. If your job can be reasonably measured by counting how many things you did, and many jobs can, I don’t see what’s unreasonable about this system. It’s not for everyone (and clearly not for OP or Alison), but I can say for certain there are many people who would like this arrangement because there already are many people with this arrangement who like it (maybe OP’s husband is one of them). If this sort of practice overwhelms the market, then that’s something government regulation can address. But that hasn’t happened so far, so this seems like much ado about nothing.

      1. pancakes*

        You don’t see a difference between paying everyone based on productivity metrics and paying only the employees working from home based on productivity metrics? The latter is making an arbitrary distinction between employees working from home and employees working from the office.

        1. TardyTardis*

          Also, there’s no possible way to declare ‘favorite’ people more productive than others…right?

  3. Person from the Resume*

    Wow! This is bad. How will productivity/quality be measured for the purpose determining a person’s monthly pay rate? This has such potential to go badly as people argue aren’t rated the productivity/quality they believe they met. What about the old “only X number of people can be exceptional and somebody must be below average.”? What about the boss being told he needs to limit his team’s productivity/quality scores because there’s a funding shortfall? What if someone takes two weeks of PTO or sick time, is his productivity down for the month?

    So terrible unless there is an objective quantity of acceptable products being used as a measure. and then it’s terrible for other reasons, but the adding subjectivity and politics to the determination of a person’s base pay each month is awful.

    1. Legal Beagle*

      This!! It also opens up employees to a huge risk of discrimination that will directly impact their pay. What if the subjective assessment of “productivity” is influenced by a manager’s gender or racial bias? Does the company have any way of identifying, mitigating, or preventing that? Somehow I doubt it.

    2. Richard Hershberger*

      Also, how likely is it that the metric for production and quality really measures either? These things rarely do. It won’t take long for employees to figure out how to maximize their income, regardless of how well this reflects useful work.

      1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        “Jan sent fifty emails, but Bernie sent a hundred. That’s why Bernie gets paid more.”

        “Bernie’s emails never have the required information in them. It takes him more emails to send the same information as Jan manages first time.”

        “Ok, but the system says twice as many emails, and – hoo boy – three times as many phone calls. See?”

        1. Snarkus Aurelius*

          I had an employee who used to send scheduled emails so she could claim OT. Her boss had no idea that you could do that because he didn’t know the basics of email.

        2. Empress Matilda*

          Yep. And how long did it take you to come up with that particular loophole? Maybe a minute or two? Imagine what people could do with more time to plan, and when their salaries depend on it.

        3. pancakes*

          This is known as the cobra effect. From Wikipedia:

          “The term cobra effect was coined by economist Horst Siebert based on an anecdote of an occurrence in India during British rule. . . . The British government, concerned about the number of venomous cobras in Delhi, offered a bounty for every dead cobra. Initially, this was a successful strategy; large numbers of snakes were killed for the reward. Eventually, however, enterprising people began to breed cobras for the income. When the government became aware of this, the reward program was scrapped. When cobra breeders set their now-worthless snakes free, the wild cobra population further increased.”

          1. EchoGirl*

            I believe there’s a similar story involving rats in London (it was referenced in Chicago PD at one point IIRC).

            1. TardyTardis*

              Also, flies in China (though when you have half a billion people killing flies every day, even the flies can’t keep up).

      2. Shut It Down*

        Yes, that’s a really good point. The people who figure out how to game the system will be financially rewarded for it, driving down actual productivity *and* employee morale in one fell swoop.

      3. Luke G*

        “My productivity score is impacted by how many deadlines I hit? Well, I guess it’s time to start sandbagging and claiming every task takes twice as long as it should. A total inability to accurately plan workflow might screw the company, but it keeps the company from screwing me.”

        1. Richard Hershberger*

          It shouldn’t be that bad. Scotty did this all the time, and the Enterprise always came through.

          1. Your Local Password Resetter*

            Then again, Scotty had the advantage of a endless supply of Technobabble and Dramatic Necessity to get all his systems working when needed.

          2. EchoGirl*

            I still say that’s a joke that the TNG writers mistakenly took seriously, but there is something to be said for building in a margin of error when you estimate how long something’s going to take (which is also the most character-friendly way to interpret Scotty here). Better to estimate long and have it done ahead of schedule than to estimate short and leave people in the lurch because they were counting on it being done earlier than it was. And that would be even more true when productivity metrics come into play.

            1. Luke G*

              When the real truth is “the job should take between two and three weeks, so let’s plan four weeks just in case” sometimes it’s best to just say “plan for 4 weeks” so your audience doesn’t decide you really meant “definitely exactly 2 weeks.” That’s just caution- it turns into sandbagging when you look at your 2-3 week estimate and say “well, this will take 6 weeks.” then you’re always super productive!

      4. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

        “You want to base my pay on how many lines of code I write/bugs I fix/helpdesk tickets I close? My vacation savings account is going to be very healthy this year…”

        (I seem to recall a story Keymaster of Gozer shared in another thread about a company that tried something that unintentionally incentivized similar things, and the disastrous consequences that resulted.)

      5. DataSci*

        Yeah, this is like paying software developers based on lines of code, or bugs fixed. Not all jobs are amenable to clearly quantified metrics, and trying to force them to be can have very bad consequences.

        (Lines of code: people write overly-verbose, unclear code, or just needlessly break things into multiple lines. Bugs fixed: people will deliberately introduce bugs with the intention of being able to fix them later.)

  4. cmcinnyc*

    I worked for several managers who always gave me a Satisfactory on performance reviews. They were very happy with my work, lots of thanks and praise, but to their minds, going above and beyond and being consistently good at my job was the *baseline.* If I worked for one of them in a scheme like this, I’d be stuck at the bottom of the payscale no matter what I did. Quit. Start looking and quit.

    1. PT*

      I was thinking this too, a lot of managers would see this as a way to save money on their budget. “Oh I can just…not have that performance conversation with Fergus and save the money,” or “I can rank Wakeen as less productive and he won’t know how he actually ranks because he’s not in the office to compare.”

    2. Snarkus Aurelius*

      This, this, this.

      I had a terrible boss like this. Anything I defined as going above and beyond, she defined as a regular part of my job. She couldn’t define what qualified as above and beyond because she thought everything should be a regular part of the job.

      I have no idea if she did this on purpose, but the result was that my coworkers and I never did anything more than was required of our jobs. No more checking email on nights and weekends. No more staying late. No more being proactive.

      The whole thing had a Peter Gibbons vibe to it.

    3. alienor*

      My whole company’s like that with reviews. Every year we get a pre-review talk about how Meets Expectations is a good rating and means you’re doing a great job. I don’t know what you’d have to do to get Exceeds Expectations….maybe donate a kidney to someone’s relative.

      1. Empress Matilda*

        Yes! I have worked for those types of organizations all my life, and as a first-time manager I had to deliver that talk to my team this year. Anything other than Meets Expectations is subject to review by the C-suite, and compared to everyone else across the company.

        It’s clearly a terrible system. But I have to speak up for the poor managers, who are often stuck with it just as much as the employees are!

      2. JustaTech*

        This literally came up in the last one-on-one I had with my 3X boss. This year our goals were supposed to include a defined “exceeds expectations” for each goal. Except that the goals were rolled out so fast that most people didn’t even see that part of the instructions, so we didn’t include it.
        When I did find it later the example was very concrete (get 50% of the company to use X new thing by EOY).

        But my work isn’t like that; I can do my job perfectly and the project can not work out because, heyo, I don’t control the laws of nature. So what does Exceeds look like for me? How do we define it to be something I can control? Or do I have to accept that some years there is no way for me to exceed my expectations?

        I asked the 3X boss about this, and how this is supposed to work for everyone in my org. “I’ll get back to you on that.” He hasn’t.

      3. sara*

        My old boss was of the opinion that you could basically never get Exceeds Expectations because if you were exceeding them, he would (of course) have adjusted his expectations, and so the best you could do was Meets Expectations. Super fun game…

      4. Bryce*

        My college did that and had to send a note with transcripts that a B meant an A.

  5. Me*

    My assumption is the company doesn’t actually want to allow people to continue to work from home, but they want to appear to be a thoughtful good company. Hence they came up with a program that completely disincentives WFH.

    They know what they’re doing. It’s intentional and awful. I’d be looking for a new employer.

    1. ten four*

      Word. The only upside here is that they gave a lot of advance notice so your husband has a nice chunk of runway to get the search going.

      There is no way that a company that would try this terrible idea is well-managed.

    2. pancakes*

      I broadly agree, but this doesn’t give the appearance of thoughtfulness at all. To the contrary, it gives the appearance of a company unable or unwilling to think about management in any sort of refined way. A categorical pay cut for everyone working from home is a very blunt instrument.

      1. Allonge*

        Yes, this is way too transparent.

        Which begs the question: why not just say ‘in this company we prefer that people work from the office. Nothing against WFH, but that is not how we roll here’.

        As someone who is pretty meh about WFH, I would say, ok, here I come, this is what I need. People who want to WFH could self-select out. Nothing wrong with that.

        1. pancakes*

          I’m not sure that would be better in any way. If anything that looks even more like constructive dismissal. That is basically asking people to fire themselves.

          I don’t think the problem with this arrangement is that it’s too transparent – it’s more that it’s arbitrary, and poorly-conceived. Working from home is not synonymous with being less productive. They’re taking the position that it is, and that it’s precisely 10% less productive. It’s not clear how they will be defining productivity, either.

  6. MissMeghan*

    “This is just a company avoiding the real work of management and trying to shift those costs to employees.”

    I love this statement so much, and I’m totally stealing it.

    1. Mental Lentil*

      We need it on a bumper sticker so we can post it on the cars of the upper management people at this company. Good grief!

    2. Mannheim Steamroller*

      That statement belongs in as many Glassdoor reviews as possible.

  7. Crabby Patty*

    It’s like the company needed an answer to “How can we increase profit at the expense of employee wages?” and then came up with this ish as a ‘solution.’

    1. One of the Spreadsheet Horde*

      My first cynical thought was this was the company conveniently reducing their wage expense since productivity will be arbitrarily tied to targets they set.

  8. Sleepy*

    The outcome of this is that many disabled people and caregivers (disproportionately women) who would be empowered to work by the option to work from home are going to make less money than their peers. A truly terrible policy.

    1. Data Nerd*

      Wait, so–Alison is probably going to tell us this is legal because they’re being given the choice, but what if the company has a worker with a disability or hires one after the implementation of this process, and the disability is such that WFH is the only feasible option? For argument’s sake, the employee is a wheelchair user and the building can only be entered by three flights of stairs. What happens then? This smell like a discrimination lawsuit to anyone else?

      1. Observer*

        Yeah, this could bite them hard.

        I’m not a big fan of running your company by what the lawyers say, but I think that a good lawyer might have been good for the company here. Because in addition to this very likely scenario, if it turns out that a disproportionate percentage of people being hit by this are women, minorities etc. they could wind up in trouble. And even if the won, it’s the kind of thing that could really, really cost them.

    2. I'm A Little Teapot*

      Which could end up being legal discrimination, which would get the company in hot water when someone decided to take it to the Dept of Labor. Like, back pay for years for EVERYONE, regardless, with fines. And that’s if they’re lucky.

    3. BettyBoop*

      Ya, this is similar to where my mind went. How is this not promoting wage discrimination and inequality? If some workers have lower base AND their pay fluctuates!

    4. Maggie*

      I think this policy sucks too- but if you are full time caregiving during the workday that seems like it would significantly interfere with your ability to do the job?

      1. Cheerfully Polite Grey Rock*

        Except caregiving is not necessarily full time, or even during the workday. It could be as simple as a school drop off / pick up, which the parent can manage easily if they are working from home (assuming the school is relatively close to home), but not if they also then have a 50 minute commute into the office. Or something that just requires them to check in once or twice during the day (which can be done on lunchbreaks), or just to be physically present (such as if a child is old enough to not require active supervision, but not old enough to be left at home alone if they’re too sick for school.
        And even if they were caregiving full time (not recommended), if they are somehow able to manage that while retaining full productivity then they shouldn’t be punished for it just because they are doing it from a location other than the office.

      2. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Around here all the summer day camps get out by 4. I work 40 miles away from home. What would a single parent do?

  9. KHB*

    I don’t understand the part about “the decision will be permanent” and “this will be the pay structure for all new employees.” If this is meant to be an incentive to return to work in the office (as it sounds like it is), why are they locking employees out of the option of returning to the office later, under their previous pay structure?

    1. Mental Lentil*

      This is the part that makes me agree with Me’s comment above: “My assumption is the company doesn’t actually want to allow people to continue to work from home, but they want to appear to be a thoughtful good company. Hence they came up with a program that completely disincentives WFH.”

      They will lure in resumes with the option to work from home, and then scare people into working in the office with this terrible scheme. It’s beyond ridiculous.

    2. Hazel*

      The only thing I can think of is they will already be budgeting for paying the WFH people less, so they don’t want to allow them to decide to start working at the office and thus earning more. This policy is utter bullsh*t, by the way.

  10. Snarkus Aurelius*

    How are they planning on measuring performance? How is quality defined in this context?

    So as long as people are physically in the office, they don’t have to worry about productivity? I can go and nap in my office all day then?

    1. Chilipepper*

      I came here to say that!
      I think what the company is saying is, if you work in the office, we are not that fussed about your productivity.

      And I would not be napping, but I would not be working that hard either (unless it seriously benefited me) or I’d be working pretty hard on my resume. I sound pretty cynical but I have learned this the hard way.

    2. Allonge*

      Yep. My plan would be: WFH for half the year, with all my effort going to getting the highest pay and then work from the office for the other half, vegging out. Or if there is no actual financial advantage possible, just veg out in the office.

  11. Me (I think)*

    Are they going to dock the pay of employees *in the office* when their productivity drops? I mean, I could play Minesweeper all day in the office, and still get my paycheck, right?

    I think employers massively overestimate the difference in productivity between remote workers and on-site. My partner was significantly *more* productive at home, even with the occasional laundry load. But now they are back in the office, because management only knows how to county butts in seats.

    1. Collarbone High*

      As an aside, I’m curious why “laundry” is considered the ultimate WFH sin. (Not just in this question – that’s long been a specific cliche about remote workers “doing laundry instead of working.”) I really don’t consider it unproductive to have a machine washing clothes in the background while I work.

      1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        I mean, I can change over the laundry while the kettle is boiling. In an office I’d also have to allow time to discuss with Fergus yet again that yes I drink herbal tea and no it doesn’t taste like lawn clippings and no I didn’t watch the latest episode of Procedural Police Drama and so on.

      2. SarahKay*

        I feel like it’s one of a few things where it has to be done, and is easier to fit in if you’re at home without having to be away from the computer for too long, thus easier to ‘sneak’ into one’s working day.
        As someone who doesn’t have a tumble dryer, and does have a strong preference for line-dried clothes (I’ve hung clothes on the line when there’s snow on the ground), it’s true that increased ease of doing laundry has been one big benefit of WFH for me. I’m in the UK so we get lots of intermittent rain. Not necessarily more than most of the US in terms of inches of rain, but more occurrences per year. Now if it starts to rain I can nip out and get the washing in, instead of sitting at work and thinking ‘blast, there goes my dry washing’.
        The thing is, though…it’s maybe five minutes to get it all in; I can lose that at work by going to get a fresh coffee and chatting to someone at the coffee machine for 5 minutes.

      3. Aquawoman*

        So, I had a hunch about this and did a quick google search. Found a study about attitudes toward chores around gender roles. Unsurprisingly, attitudes were that women should do traditionally “female” chores, like groceries, cooking, laundry and child care. But the percent of people who thought women should do cooking and cleaning was around 60% while the percentage of people who thought women should do laundry was 75%. This was the highest thing I saw broken out–even higher than taking care of children’s emotional needs which I would think would be highly coded female and was a close second at 72%.

      4. Cat Tree*

        Honestly, I think it’s code for actual goofing off like watches TV or playing video games (beyond reasonable break times). But if people who are suspicious of WFH just use those examples outright, they know it will sound accusatory and offensive. So they go with a chore instead to pretend that they actually think highly of people working from home when they actually don’t. And as Aquawoman pointed out, there’s a gendered component to it as well.

      5. Suzanne*

        Also, if you spend, say 15 minutes, doing laundry can’t you just work 15 minutes longer? *shrug* (I realize moving laundry from the washer to the dryer doesn’t take 15 minutes)

      6. JustaTech*

        Yeah, I don’t get this.

        Before machine washers and dryers, yes, laundry was a 2-3 day ordeal that usually took a couple of people.

        But now? Yes, it still takes a long time, but 90% of that is hands-off time while the machines run. Like, I can fold a week’s worth of clothing for two adults in like ~15 minutes. (I know because I’m always disappointed when I’m done folding before my show is over – the best household trick I learned from my dad – fold the laundry in front of the TV/tablet and it’s not a chore, it’s an excuse to watch TV.)

      7. Alternative Person*

        Seriously. The five minutes I spend putting clothes in the wash, then the ten or so hanging them out are no less unproductive than chatting with co-workers. It also functions as a pretty good screen break.

        As much as I value office and client facing time, it’s nice to fit in random household tasks in-between hours at the computer.

  12. The Original Stellaaaaa*

    Isn’t there a two-week acceptance/notice window whenever an employer lowers someone’s pay? Are they going to do this every month for everyone?

    1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      No, it just can’t be lowered retroactively. They can tell me, before I start working tomorrow, “We’re reducing your pay by 25% effective immediately,” and as long as they don’t try to say “effective last week,” I can functionally either accept it going forth, or quit.

    2. Charlotte Lucas*

      Nope. I worked somewhere that tried to do it with a week’s notice. When the only two people who actually knew how to do the job threatened to quit, there was some backpedaling.

    3. lost academic*

      It’s not two weeks generally, and this more resembles the kind of structure you’d get if you were, say, paid substantially by commission. There’s a structure for your pay on a period basis that you agree to versus an hourly rate or a salary.

  13. EPLawyer*

    This is terrible. Is the CEO going to take a paycut based on how productive the company is?

    I think folks are right this is to disincentivize working from home. No one wants to have unpredictable income. Plus can they really have two pay structures for people doing the same job, if the only difference is one is WFH (which already benefits the company in that the person pays for their own equipment and internet) and the other isn’t?

    Just a bad idea all around. Let me put my broken record on ….. Then the company will wonder why there is a mass exodus in “this economy” which isn’t nearly as bad as they believe it is to think this will fly.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      Is the CEO going to take a paycut based on how productive the company is?

      You bet your sweet bippy they’re not.

    2. Me (I think)*

      “Is the CEO going to take a paycut based on how productive the company is?”

      Haha. The CEO gets a huge bonus for cutting employee expenses. Then he (and I’m sure it’s a he) gets to buy a larger boat.

  14. CatCat*

    How will we know if they spend an afternoon doing laundry instead of working?

    At the office, how will they know if I don’t spend the afternoon just spacing out instead of working?

    Not to brag or anything, but I’m pretty sure I could space out far longer at the office than the short amount of time it takes me at home to move laundry around. (I mean, I’m not out with a washboard down by the river scrubbing by hand.)


    For folks who want to WFH, this policy will just push them into the arms of competitors who allow that without messing around with pay.

    1. Ground Control*

      I never felt guilty about time I “wasted” in the office chatting with coworkers, spacing out, etc. because I was physically there and that counted for something! I’m much more cautious about how I spend my time when I’m working from home.

      1. Luke G*

        Because availability counts! There’s a lot to like about WFH, but one of its major downsides is that I can’t just turn my head and ask one of my team a question real quick. Both of us having low-productivity chatty days at the office still makes a ton of minor interactions like that happen more readily than if both of us were eager and attentive but WFH.

        1. DataSci*

          Does your workplace not use Slack or something like that? Faster than getting up, walking over to their desk, seeing if they’re actually there, and then interrupting whatever they’re doing, and much less disruptive to all concerned. As far as I’m concerned being able to temporarily ignore the “hey do you have a minute” questions by WFH is a HUGE productivity boost.

          (I’m a coder, though. Even if a question takes a minute to answer it can take 15 minutes or more to get back in the flow of things. Better to wait until a natural pause in the thought process and then answer the Slack message, rather than be interrupted whenever it’s convenient for my co-worker to wander by my desk.)

          1. Ground Control*

            DataSci – Slack is so much more efficient! I work for a global company so we’ve always used messaging and video chat tools. Before the pandemic I didn’t worry too much about replying to messages right away because I was in the office so my boss knew I was working. But now that I’m WFH full time I reply to chats ASAP because I feel like I have to prove that I’m actually working. Which is funny because in the before times I would work from home when I had a ton to get done since being in the office comes with so many distractions and interruptions!

          2. Luke G*

            We do have a messenger program that we use for cross-company communication. In my specific case, I work on a small team that all has desks in one room and is generally all working on the same small set of projects- so at least within my group, we can literally just call over to each other and call back “give me a minute!”

            Fair point, though, that for many jobs an instant message would be the preferred method even if you’re both sitting at work.

    2. ThatGirl*

      Right? It takes a minute or two to start a load or move it to the dryer – getting up for a bathroom and water/coffee break at the office can take way longer than that.

      1. Forrest*

        I worked from home for a union which explicitly included “You should feel free to hang the washing out or take a short walk” during the working day in my CONTRACT because it’s good for you to move around during the working day and decreased muskulo-skeletal injuries caused by sitting still for hours. I still love that!

  15. Dwight*

    Sales people have this. It’s commission. Does it make sense for someone in accounting or HR? No, but it’s not a radical new idea.

    1. Mental Lentil*

      Exactly. There’s no logical cap on how much you can sell. But there is a logical cap on how many times you can close the books for the month.

      1. AspiringGardener*

        Wel, logic would state that in that case 100% productivity would be defined by closing books at month end, correctly, by the deadline. If you do it late or wrong then it goes down from there.

      2. Allonge*

        Although if they incentivise me, I would be tempted to try and do it more than once, just to be sure :)

      3. Luke G*

        And because a job like accounting is just “do the job through the month and close the books out,” it ends up that 100% perfection/productivity becomes the BASE expectation there, with employees only able to go down when any of a million normal hiccups happen. Only a relatively few jobs, like sales, have the theoretical ability to keep going further past the baseline. A caring company would have to take into account that “100% correct accounting” during a slow month isn’t the same job as “100% correct accounting during an insane audit month with a ton of things going wonky,” but a caring company wouldn’t do… whatever mess this company is doing.

    2. boo bot*

      It’s not a radical new idea, but in sales the criteria are clear: you bring in $X for the company, and you get a percentage of $X. I know if I make more sales, I make more money.

      It’s harder, I think, to come up with an objective measure of performance for HR or accounting, meaning that whatever standards they use are likely to feel arbitrary, and they’re less likely to be things the workers can control – I probably can’t process extra payrolls just so I can make more money.

      I think the more important thing, though, is that the company is changing something in a way that will make their workers feel like their lives are less stable, and that’s always going to be kind of demoralizing.

      1. The New Wanderer*

        This. I thought it sounded like commission too, except without very clear metrics, it’s going to be really hard to apply in a way that employees will agree is fair to them.

        Also, commission-based jobs are advertised as such and people self-select in if they are okay with that kind of pay structure. This sounds like a bait and switch from fixed hourly pay to something kinda like commissions/bonuses but with a punitive angle.

    3. hbc*

      Yeah, I’m finding it pretty amusing that the general response is shock and horror. I’ve always thought it messed up that commission is expected for sales people but that everyone else is supposed to get a steady wage irrespective of performance.

      The only part that I find really distasteful in this situation is exempting the people in the office–if your new commission system is a good system and not a punishment tool, it should apply to everyone in the role.

      1. Metadata minion*

        I find the idea of commission for sales people weird and problematic, too! If I’m going through a rough period and my productivity is slipping, docking my pay isn’t exactly going to help me get my act together.

      2. DataSci*

        It’s not “irrespective of performance”. It’s that the metrics are longer-term.

        I spent six months last year working on a very visible and prominent part of a massive new launch for my company. I ended up getting a bonus and a raise as a result, but there were months in there where there were no concrete deliverables to show, because we were blocked by dependencies on other teams or the experiment we were testing turned out not to be an improvement over the previous version. My performance, as measured over six months, was stellar. For any given two-week pay period, though, where wasn’t a good way to measure it.

      3. BBA*

        Just because people are responded negatively to the situation described in this letter does not mean those same people all support commission-based pay for sales people.

      4. Le Sigh*

        I assume though that most people in sales knew they were commission-based when they took the job; doesn’t make it a good or even fair set up necessarily, but it’s a common thing in that industry. And I stay clear of those jobs for a reason. This company appears to be trying to have its cake and eat it too by technically offering WFH but shifting the terms of employment for existing employees if they dare take the option. “See! Everyone CHOSE to come back to the office.” It would be less insulting to just say no WFH.

        They’re also trying to apply it to a lot of jobs where measuring said productivity would look really different depending on the job, and a lot of jobs probably have ceilings on productivity, thereby limiting earning potential. There isn’t a sixth extra sale to close that month when your job might involve long-term problem solving, relying on others to move your work along, etc. And just knowing I could get docked for having a bad week would increase my stress at trying to do my job; even if I decided to skip the WFH option, knowing the company would pull this nonsense would motivate me to leave.

    4. Observer*

      No sane company changes your commission based on whether you are working from home of the office. And commissions are based on clear and unambiguous metrics.

      Also, no reasonable company decides to use a commotion structure based on location of the work done. Either the work is something that is amenable to a commission structure or it’s not.

    5. Malarkey01*

      Pay for performance plans have come in and out of favor in different industries the last decade. I think it’s still not the norm but also not rare. What sticks out here is tying it tomWFH. That’s weird, either that’s the companies new pay structure or not, the mixing is problematic. I also think there could be some very poor communication going on from the company since P4P plans do have a lot of nuance typically and without the full plan it’s hard to wrap your head around it.

  16. Mental Lentil*

    Seriously, if I sent my resume to this company because of the work from home option, and they told me about this during the interview, I would just start laughing, pack up my portfolio, and keep laughing all the way out to my car. I would get in, drive away, and never look back.

  17. SomebodyElse*

    This will be an interesting time as everyone transitions back to in office, stays wfh, or hybrid.

    I expect we’ll see a lot more interesting policies. I think this is a stupid policy, mostly due to the tracking needed to be anywhere near as effective as they hope it will be. But that being said, I think it’s a really bad way to make sure that those working from home don’t expect the flexibility and lower standards that have been the norm for the last year. Which is what I suspect is the real root of this change. We already are seeing the letters here about parents not wanting to find care for children during work times and other things.

    Objectively, I’m not all that fussed on a pay for performance system. It’s great for high performers and is generally a wash for employers, because the higher performers earn more, the lower performers earn less, and overall productivity and expenses are a wash. So it generally does benefit the high performers. You do have to be careful about making sure there is a level of parity on the opportunity to be a high performer though, so that is a consideration.

    1. Snarkus Aurelius*

      You assume high performers get paid more. My only experience is in the nonprofit and public sectors. I get paid the same, regardless of my productivity.

  18. Ground Control*

    HOW WOULD THEY EVEN DEFINE PRODUCTIVITY??? Like, how would they account for natural ebbs and flows of workload? Some weeks are so busy I work for 8 hours nonstop, and other weeks there’s not as much to do (and I have time to comment on AAM) – would this mean that under this plan I’d be monetarily penalized if I wasn’t as productive because there just wasn’t as much work to do? And sometimes quality suffers a little on urgent projects because it’s more important to get something out fast… They’re going to need one hell of an algorithm to take all of this into account.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      This! At Exjob, there were times I had little to no work to do in a span of hours because I was 1) waiting on someone else; 2) our process improvement efforts meant I could get through my work faster; 3) I was proactive about staying caught up. So when I worked from home I did laundry, actually cooked my lunch, etc. But I also checked my email regularly, responded to IMs right away, and generally stayed available.

      I followed that same protocol when I was in the office. I had permission from my boss to work on homework when I was in school. I also did courses/training in the company LMS or read a lot of AAM—hey, it’s work-related! ;) Unlike OldExjob, Exjob didn’t care if you were online as long as your work got done. There wasn’t much I could do for other teams since their work was very specialized, but I always offered to help if they needed anything.

    1. No Name Today*

      This. They are hourly/non-exempt. So if I am working on a project that requires me to work until 7, so let’s say two hours of overtime, the company will pay that. But my base pay won’t go up because they already paid me…
      OP writes that base pay will fluctuate. How is that legal? For hourly employees…
      You can’t retroactively say, well, Bob, you did a lot this month so we will cut you a check for $40 an hour. And then next month, because you took a week’s vacation, you get $30 an hour for the month…
      What’s going on here?

    2. Chilipepper*

      Ha, chose the work in the office option but don’t worry about productivity (as apparently that is not a concern of the company) and spend all day working on unionizing.

  19. MissDisplaced*

    I mean, how can they possibly enforce this?
    Unless the work is very specific, with very specific KPI’s, such as X number calls per month, X number demos per month, etc., this seems really hard to manage, and I don’t know too many jobs that are like that except for call centers and sales. But even so, would being in the office change the metrics if this were the case?

    1. meyer lemon*

      If they were actually going to take the productivity rating system seriously, I feel like the net time wastage would increase exponentially from all of the work it would take to monitor and quantify and adjust pay and so on. But I doubt they’re going to make that much of an effort. It’ll probably be more like “So Bob, how much work do you think Jane put in this week? More or less than average? I hear she has a new baby so I bet she’s been distracted.”

  20. No Name Today*

    So I am making $50k to do my job in the office.
    I choose to work from home.
    I now make $40k, for doing the same work.
    But if I do more work, I will get the same pay I made, gee, last year.
    Because there has to be a baseline, right? A minimum of what you are expected to complete. You can’t just collect a paycheck for sitting at home, you have to have completed work to justify your position. So again, the job you were hired to do, only for a lower rate.
    Which means, to work at home you have to somehow find additional work to do (competing with your peers to get it, including people in the office who can pop over to manager and offer to pick up something on the spot) complete it satisfactorily and then wait to see if you earned any additional money.
    Like sewing piece work meets the Hunger Games.

  21. TootsNYC*

    I’m so much more focused on actual productivity at home, and more anxious about it.
    I can waste time at work as easily as I can at home.

    1. Charlotte Lucas*

      This! My job already has higher accountability during WFH. (And I work for a public health agency. We have definitely not had the chance to slack off!)

  22. Higher Ed*

    What about the person who sits in their office and only completes 10 hours of work per week and spends the rest of their time on Facebook and YouTube?

  23. Pam Poovey*

    I can’t come up with anything more than “this is some bullshit,” but seriously, this is some bullshit.

  24. No Name Today*

    “…but the decision will be permanent…”
    Not because they don’t want to have people jumping back and forth as much as they are going to plan an annual staff salary budget around paying WFH X% less, and will make the justifications as they go along.
    But this company is pretty cynical, too.

  25. Marion Ravenwood*

    Oh good Lord. I hate this company with every fibre of my being. This smacks of the attitude I used to occasionally encounter working in diversity and equality a few years ago, where there was a very strong sense among some companies that working from home was only for employees who ‘needed’ it (which generally translated to ‘women with pre-school children’) and everyone else was using it as an excuse to watch daytime TV in their pyjamas. And whilst maybe a very very small minority of people do (or did) do that, that’s clearly not the case overall or the workforce would have utterly collapsed over the last year. In fact I’m actually hearing the opposite – that people who WFH are working *longer* hours (though whether that’s about ‘proving’ themselves to counteract this attitude or making up staff shortfalls due to furlough/redundancies or because they’ve got limited other options or whatever else, I don’t know).

    Either way, this company is handling this in completely the wrong way and if I was OP’s husband I’d be looking to move somewhere else as soon as possible.

    1. anonymouse*

      I agree with everything you are saying. I’m adding this:
      “maybe a very very small minority of people do (or did) do that”
      and there is also one or two people in every office who get fully dressed, come to the office, check in at their desks and spend the day doing anything BUT work.
      slackers gonna slack.
      and punishing people for wanting better working conditions because one person MIGHT take advantage…yeah, that works so well in all segments of society. People don’t get the help they need, they go without, they suffer, (and like you write, work MORE) because they don’t want to be seen as THAT person.
      And THAT person is going along not giving a rat’s ass…

    2. Elizabeth West*

      Another thing I think might be at play—during the pandemic, people’s productivity was affected for myriad reasons:

      –Kids who would normally be in daycare or school were at home. Many companies that allow WFH require you to have childcare because hello, babies and toddlers need constant supervision. Younger kids doing e-learning also need help, or to be fed, or monitored if they go outside, things the school is not doing because they’re not onsite.

      –Spouses who might have been in the office were also at home, forcing people to share workspaces or work in less-than-ideal areas of their homes.

      –The constant stress and trauma of, oh yeah, A DEADLY GLOBAL PANDEMIC

      Normally, WFH arrangements do not have these constraints. Employers who allowed it before already know this. Ones who didn’t and had to shift suddenly to remote work might not. That doesn’t mean they can’t still allow it. Did the work get done in spite of all that? If it did, there’s no reason to be as petty as the LW’s company.

      1. sambal*

        Yep, my friend was complaining about a 50% drop in productivity with her team these last 12 months. She thinks it’s because people are taking 2 hour lunch breaks. I bit my tongue.

  26. Anon1263*

    My husband’s company implemented a 10% paycut for anyone that wants to WFH permanently (this was done in the fall). Basically they don’t want people on WFH and believe everyone should be in the office (they went full WFH only from mid-March to June 1st last year and didn’t put a mask mandate in place until months later).
    Anecdotally, this paycut has disproportionately affected women with children as the 10% generally is better than before/after school care.
    I was hoping this would be the only company making terrible decisions but I guess not…

    1. Anon1263*

      And to add…my husband is upper management and it was said without being said that anyone taking the WFH option can expect no further promotion as they clearly are not in alignment with the culture.

    2. Me*

      This speaks to what I said above. This company doesn’t want people to work from home. They just want the appearance of allowing it.

      It’s a completely intentional move not just misguided.

      1. Jobs*

        Maybe, but there are some jobs that truly cannot be done as effectively from home. Many companies struggled with employees working full time from home during the pandemic but they did it because it was the right thing to do. Sometimes employees did not see how difficult it was to continue to run a company with everyone working remotely and presumed that everyone could just stay at home. Now that the time has come to call people back to work, companies are getting massive push back and angry employees. At least at my company people were not hired to work from home, and while we made accommodations because again it was the right thing to do, now it’s time to come back to the office. And for some companies they just want their employees in the office, I get that too.

        1. Me*

          It’s not about jobs that can’t be done from home. They are cutting your pay if you decide to WFH.

          If it was about things can’t really get done if you work from home, they simply would not allow WFH. No company is going to be shy about not allowing things that actually affect their bottom line.

          They want to be able to say they offer this benefit. But they don’t really want to offer the benefit so they penalize those who take it.

        2. pancakes*

          In the scenario you describe –

          “Sometimes employees did not see how difficult it was to continue to run a company with everyone working remotely and presumed that everyone could just stay at home. Now that the time has come to call people back to work, companies are getting massive push back and angry employees.”

          What is keeping the employer from communicating with its employees about these difficulties? Bungling the messaging is to the employer’s own detriment, but it’s hardly mandatory.

          1. Suzanne*

            It’s not the employee’s fault that the managers can’t be bothered to use the tools available to them to manage (ie email, chat, zoom, etc)

  27. Observer*

    OP. If I were your husband, I would go back to the office then start looking for a new job. This is NOT a well managed company.

    SOOO many questions come up. What are the metrics for “productivity”. Are they going to try to apply those pay bumps retroactively? That would be illegal. Are they really going to evaluate productivity each month or are they just going to let the (lower) rates ride for months at a time? Are they going to evaluate each person individually or collectively? How are they going to account for things that are out of the control of staff, especially stuff that’s not related to WFH?

    The bottom line is that it’s a stupid system that was either designed to be punitive and squeeze staff or designed by someone who doesn’t have the ability to think through issues. Because if you do this in a way that comes close to being fair and reasonable, that amount of work and cost to the company goes through the roof.

  28. ambivalent*

    Just to offer a different perspective. I actually think that this might work for certain types of roles. For the kind of role where productivity is truly easily measurable, I don’t see this as so different from salespeople making a commission for each successful sale. Some people might in fact prefer this model to having a poor manager (of course the ideal solution is ‘everybody should have a great manager’ but… well, that’s just an ideal).
    The company is offering this as a choice and being transparent, and I think there might indeed people who like this. I think these kinds of experiments will actually be helpful to us, as a society, in developing new ways of working. Some radical experiments that have been tried in the world of work – like unlimited vacation time – was clearly a bad idea. But other experiments – like flexible hours – worked well for many people. Without experiments like this, we won’t ever know!

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        Yep, There are laws against certain kinds of experiments for reasons.

        (Just had to explain, again, to someone why you can’t test vaccines by injecting people with live deadly viruses to see if the vaccine works. To him, it seemed a logical experiment that should have been done. To me and the virology community it’s an absolutely horrible idea)

        1. MissElizaTudor*

          To be fair, challenge trials do exist. The ethics are complicated, and reasonable people can disagree, but sometimes we do inject people with viruses on purpose.

    1. sambal*

      I get what you’re saying, but policies like unlimited vacation time and flexible work hours are, on the surface level, a net gain for everyone and would hopefully help retain talent. I don’t see this company’s new policy as a net gain, but rather punishing talent for wanting to choose working environments that are better for them. In a world where plenty of companies are moving to remote work without any gotchas, this seems like a move that would push talent to look elsewhere.

    2. Person from the Resume*

      I do think this could me workable in a factory environment. I don’t think the average knowledge worker (the kind of people who can work from home) have objective measurable results.

    3. Purple Cat*

      Yes, there are positions where there are clear measurable metrics (like a call center) however, those metrics apply EQUALLY to employees in the office or WFH. This company only wants to track/penalize the latter.

    4. pancakes*

      It’s far from clear or unanimous that unlimited vacation time is a bad idea.

    5. MCMonkeybean*

      I think it’s pretty rare for people to be paid ONLY on commission though–they should generally have some known base rate that they know they would earn even if they had a bad day and then the commission is paid on TOP of that. OP has said the base rate itself would change with productivity which would be absurd. And seems illegal, unless I guess they use last month’s productivity to calculate next month’s wages or something so everyone techincally knows how much they are working for…

  29. Delta Delta*

    The WFH crew will be subsidizing the butts-in-seats crew. The in-office people will know their productivity doesn’t matter because their pay isn’t tied to it. This will not end well for anyone.

  30. Kate Spade*

    Also, if you’re working from home and not really given and tasks to do or have nothing to do, you technically should still be paid because you are engaged to wait.

  31. No Sleep Till Hippo*

    I wholeheartedly agree with everyone else here pointing out what a terrible, punitive, possibly-discriminatory idea this is.

    But also… their poor accountant. I work closely enough with the accountant at my company to know that payroll adjustments can be a major PITA. Doing that every month, for every WFH employee, every time? She’d set her hair on fire before she’d put up with that BS. If you have the performance data to adjust their pay, you have more than enough data to just… manage them properly. Good grief.

    1. Captain of the No Fun Department*

      This! This is the comment I came here to make. Imagine running this payroll?! Your administrative costs would balloon trying to pay people less for doing their jobs and it would be hell for the person administering it. What a nightmare.

  32. Essess*

    Wait… Alison, is this actually legal? It says the base rate is going to fluctuate based on productivity. So that means that the employee doesn’t even know what their base rate of pay is for that month, and they’ll find out when they get their paycheck so a reduction in their base pay would be happening retroactively for the month that they worked. It seems like it would be legal if the base stayed the same, and a productivity bonus was added on, but when the base pay is dropped without prior knowledge of the amount of droppage, that seems to fall under situations that you’ve said were illegal retroactive pay decreases.

    1. hbc*

      I’m guessing it would be okay if they set their nominal/promised pay at a lower level and then increased it based on performance. Instead of framing it as “you should be earning $25/hr but you might go as low as $23 or as high as $26 based on results,” they could put it as “you will get $23/hr and can go as high as $26 based on results.”

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It would be illegal if done retroactively or without notice but I read “They’re planning to let employees know ahead of time what their new pay rate would be under this plan so they can make an informed decision” to mean they’ll know ahead of time each month (either because they’re informed each time in advance or because they’re given some kind of matrix where they can compare their performance numbers to a payscale).

      1. BubbleTea*

        But surely the productivity for a month can only be measured at the end of it, so the pay rate would be determined retrospectively?

  33. CW*

    What in the world? I would start looking a new job immediately. This isn’t only bad practice, but I can only imagine how much it puts the employees on the spot. Also, what if it just happens to be a slow week? Beg for more work to do even though there is none? Sheesh.

  34. Deborah*

    This is terrible because, depending on the industry, this puts the business risk on the employees. What if they lose some contracts? What if there’s a lull in business? If there’s less work to do, the employees get paid less regardless of their work efficiency or ethic.

  35. Oyvey*

    I worked somewhere that implemented this kind of system. For social workers and therapists.
    Can you imagine? HOW do you objectively calculate productivity for that kind of work? (Their answer was billable hours.)

    I left very shortly after that.

    1. Observer*

      At least billable hours is an objective metric. It’s also incredibly common.

  36. Atlantic Beach Pie*

    This is really f*cked up and there are so many other ways they could do this, like bonuses, incentive pay, etc! Plus, what happens when you take PTO? You get a paycut because you took 2 weeks off to recover from surgery, care for a relative, or just enjoy a vacation? Plus the equity issues that many others have raised.

    I have a teacher friend whose district is doing a hybrid model right now and they are offering a cash incentive for staff who come into the school building. They kept the same base rate, though.

    1. a drive-by commenter*

      I mean, I would *hope* they would prorate it so your hypothetical employee who took two weeks PTO would be expected to achieve 50% of the normal monthly goal in the other two weeks…

      …but this whole thing is already a crappy, stupid, badly-thought-out plan, so they probably aren’t thinking that hard about how to measure things fairly.

  37. Phony Genius*

    I’m a bit confused. If a WFH manager decides that a WFH employee is not as productive as they should be, and should have their pay reduced, wouldn’t it also follow that the manager’s team is less productive, and thus the manager’s pay would also be reduced? Could this incentify the manager to overlook performance issues? (Or even falsify high productivity?) So many potential problems here.

    1. Person from the Resume*

      Depends on how you define productivity and if the manager’s productivity is just a sum of his team’s work. The manager is reducing salary costs for the month by implementing the salary policy. The manager’s productivity could be submitting all productivity paperwork on time each month with complete information. That doesn’t mean he spent any time on it, but that’s a metric you can measure easily.

      1. Amaranth*

        I wonder if the manager’s productivity will be based on how much money they save.

  38. Amethystmoon*

    I would quit over this too. My job is the type that depends upon email requests from others. If someone has a slow day because there aren’t many requests, and you can’t help anyone else because they are having a slow day too, that’s not something an employee should be punished for. Managers should look at how work is distributed if they have issues with employees not having stuff to do on some days, but not all days.

  39. Corporate Drone Liz*

    The funniest thing about this to me is that they aren’t extending this same ridiculous pay-based-on-perceived-productivity policy to anyone opting to work in the office. Because as everyone knows, butts-in-seats = flawless productivity!

  40. Dofetilide*

    Welcome to how many physicians are paid? Patient no-shows? Take a sick day? Take “PTO”? There goes your productivity! I left my last job because they were offering me a $20,000 pay cut because I missed my productivity goals. All because I had the audacity to take time off after my son had died.

  41. RosyGlasses*

    Seems like a great way for a wage and hour lawsuit regarding pay equity (for states that have those laws in place).

  42. sambal*

    This is a really poor attempt at trying to adopt remote work. All companies are facing an inherit risk of adopting or rejecting remote work. There will be some misalignments regardless of which way a companies chooses to go.

    But messing around with people’s pay in the process is horrible for optics. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a lot of people leave because of this.

  43. Keymaster of Gozer*

    There are certain departments in a company or certain jobs that can absolutely break a system like this depending on the metrics.

    Pay programmers for fixing the most bugs? Programmers write more bugs into the system first.

    Pay IT staff per number of calls closed? Suddenly you get system outages happening a lot more often.

    And so on and so forth. I honestly expect this firm will encounter a situation like that and fail miserably at managing it.

    1. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

      The solution to the problem with paying programmers for fixing bugs is to replace that metric with one that incentivizes them for number of lines of code written.

      Leading to an absurdly bloated and buggy code base. This can fixed by replacing the lines of code metric with a bugs fixed metric.

      (Seriously folks, IT is a creative profession. Figuring out ways to break this kind of system is a parlor game for us.)

      1. Brownie*

        Even the idea of productivity based on the number of apps released causes issues. That’s the best way to get copy/pasted pre-written buggy code to spread across applications. Or, worse, keep it in one application’s code base, but reference it from a second or third, causing daisy-chain failures should the original code be changed at all. I spent last week untangling a time bomb daisy-chain from several years ago when the number of apps released was linked to performance reviews and raises, so I might be a little bitter about that.

      2. Keymaster of Gozer*

        They hire ‘out of the box thinkers’ a lot in IT, they’ve only got themselves to blame when we find loopholes in every rule.

  44. DownWithJPP*

    Isn’t this why people choose to not work in sales? I want to get my paycheck – busy, not busy, ebbs and flows – I like reliable income. This is insanity

  45. Ri*

    I don’t know how this works in America (am assuming letter writer is in US) but in my country the company could easily get into serious issues here, if they consider the worker’s salaried they could end up with massive fines for misclassifying and even if not the potential to make a tax/pay error is so high. This attempt to “motivate” employees could land them with a massive bill.

    1. Ri*

      Also if office based workers are not held to the same metrics a case could be made for discrimination (new policy disproportionately affects workers with chronic illnesses/women with small children).

      Again I have no idea if this would be the case in the USA.

  46. Suzanne*

    People waste time in offices. So, what’s the difference? People also don’t meet their “quota” while working in offices so what’s the difference?

  47. I'm just here for the cats!*

    Wow this is a new one! This feels wrong on so many levels. I have a few thoughts.

    1. I feel really badly for those in payroll or whoever has to monitor the employee’s output each month. That’s going to be really stressful and put a lot of extra work on their shoulders.
    2. What if your work is dependent on another person, and that person doesn’t get you the stuff so you’re output is lower.
    3. How are they going to factor in vacation and sick time. Of course your not going to have as much of a productive week if you’re out on vacation. So are they going to give you the reduced pay? That seems like they would punish you for using your benefits
    4. There are a lot of positions where the work ebbs and flows. So some days/ weeks you don’t have as much to do as other days. I think about my work in customer service, where certain times of the year we would be swamped and then other times we were so slow that I started making origami at my desk. Even in my job now there are days where I am slammed because we have events or whatever and then days where I’m not.
    5. what is counting as productive. If I’m doing research on something there isn’t going to be much of an output.
    6. Also different jobs have different duties. So are they going to make it situational for every job? So someone in customer service may get 30 calls a day, where as a client manager may only work with 10 clients a day.

  48. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

    I’d be tempted just get another WfH job, let my “measured” productivity for OP’s employer bottom out, and collect the minimum compensation until they sober up, go out of business, or rescind this hare-brained policy.

    Mala fides, anyone?

  49. J*

    So they basically want a minimal wage plus scaling bonus for productivity, but to spin it so it sounds like they’re paying a higher base wage equivalent to getting some of the bonus. Like “Pay is 2k/month but fluctuates by up to 500/month based on performance” sounds better than “£1.5k/month plus up to £1k bonus”, but it’s essentially the same thing.

    I would be interested to see how productivity is calculated, and who’s in charge of deciding where the targets are and when that should change. What assurances exist that they won’t just crank the target up to something that’s unattainable on a regular basis? What assurances are there that when a change in operations lowers the productivity metrics across the board that the targets are adjusted? An example from my call centre days was when they automated the cancelling of a service, resulting in the quickest, easiest, most numerous calls almost disappearing and everyone’s productivity and quality metrics going down from spending more time on more complex issues.

    This also seems like a really good way to tank the quality of everyone’s work, too. If pay exists solely on productivity, people are just going to rattle through as many “pieces” of work as they can possibly manage, without caring if they do a bad job or make mistakes. And unless every piece of work your company deals with is of the exact same scope, expect complex issues to just sit ignored as everyone works the quick stuff as much as they can.

  50. justcourt*

    This seems like a system that has the potential to penalize certain classes of people.

    For example:

    •women being expected to perform office housework & not being fairly compensated because that work isn’t “productive” enough
    •employees being given favorable assignments (e.g. assignments that can be completed more quickly & w/o complication) based on race, gender, religion, etc.

  51. Lisa*

    I think it actually depends on the type of work you are doing and how it is objectively measured. For example I work as a lawyer and I already have to keep track of all of my billable hours in office or not. If I were paid for the hours I billed versus a salary I would make more money than I do getting paid a salary. But there are some lawyers in my office, that would lose out on this option. But there are also some jobs that cannot easily be measured like this. How would they know? If this option were offered to me I would take it in a heartbeat. Our firm did go work from home entirely during the pandemic up through July and some staff and lawyers did not do well. There were some people that were not working to put it bluntly. With lawyers this was easier to measure and they were dealt with directly. With staff it’s a bit harder. But unfortunately they made the decision to make the staff come back into the office sooner rather than dealing with those individuals that were struggling.

  52. Jobs*

    I think a lot of people have gotten very comfortable working from home, and as companies have started to call people back to work they are getting a ton of push back from their employees. At my company we are hearing a lot of “well clearly this job can be done from home.” But the reality is we really struggled to have everyone working from home and it created a ton of extra work for the skeleton crew that had to come to the office during the week (rotating) to allow those that worked from home to do that (with no extra pay). I don’t think they realized that. We did it because it was the right thing to do for our employees and to keep people safe, but it was not easy. Our company is not set up for remote work, we had to pivot, get some people computers that did not have them, help people get set up for wi fi, adjust our systems etc. A lot of companies are dealing with this. Our employees were not hired to work from home. Some may be very productive from home, others to be frank are not. I feel like this company may be trying to get rid of some employees because they are struggling financially or they may be trying to give some sort of response to the people that truly want to be able to continue to work from home full time. Basically they are saying if you want to be able to continue to do this there has to be some sort of concessions, and this is what we are giving to you. I think people just presume that working at home is the same as working in the office and for some people it is. But for those that do have low productivity, I can get up and go over and see what they are doing. It is much harder particularly if you are a supervisor trying to monitor 10 people at 10 locations and again it depends on the type of work of course. But having people work at home did cost us money and lack of productivity. Just another perspective. I am not the only one dealing with this, lots of employers are having massive issues with employees not wanting to return.

    1. pancakes*

      Take a step back and look at what you are defending. Much of it doesn’t make sense. If a company has identified particular poor performers, for example, why do you believe cutting everyone’s pay across the board is a better solution than replacing the poor performers?

    2. pcake*

      It’s not harder to know what people are doing from home. Don’t you know how much throughput approx each person should be doing?

      My husband’s productivity is much higher working from home, as he doesn’t have a stream of employees constantly knocking on his office door to ask him how to do things they already know how to do. Company policy requires him to deal with them. At home, he can get all his own work done, much of which involves math, formulas and research, so what he does requires concentration.

      Yet his company is pushing him to return. My daughter is in the same position. Never has the company she works for processed as much paperwork as they have working from home – many more transactions are happening, but the company is having people return even though the last time they had people come back, they had a cluster of covid cases and was forced to close again.

      I think it’s just about butts in seats. Some management feels people work harder if they’re looking over everyone’s shoulders. But good managers can make sure that most people are as productive from home as in the office.

      1. Captain of the No Fun Department*

        If you look around, 2020 was a high profit year for most organizations that could pivot to employees working from home. Evidence supports working from home as creating increased productivity, even if some companies had to scramble to figure it out. I say this as an executive at a company that did this. We figured it out and we won’t force anyone to go back permanently.

  53. TWW*

    How do you measure the productivity of a typical office worker? Most of us don’t have a metric like billable hours or number of widgets assembled.

  54. Richard*

    I don’t understand why everyone’s so worried. Why would you assume that this hastily thrown together vindictive productivity metric system will be poorly designed and screw a lot of people over? Why would an employer want to create an opaque excuse for paying employees less? What would they have to gain (other than money)? /s

  55. Erin*

    It sounds like this company is essentially playing WFH folks in a commission based or piecemeal structure. How will they determine the value of each item that was completed in the previous month? And what happens when an employee takes vacation or sick time? This sounds like a terrible idea tbh.

  56. W&H Lady*

    This practice *could* be illegal if the employer doesn’t really strictly outline what the “base” pay rate is, and really what *all* pay rates will be in advance of changing each individual’s pay rate (employees have to be notified and agree in advance of pay rate changes). Check with your state’s labor department and/or consider consulting a good employment attorney if it seems like it’s vague or really fluctuates month to month.

    A State Wage & Hour Lady

    1. W&H Lady*

      Sorry- Employees have to be notified in advance of pay rate changes. They don’t have to agree, but not agreeing mean you’ll probably have to get another job. :-)

    2. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

      My concern with lowering base pay based on lower productivity means that if the employee needs to work overtime, they will pay them time and a half, but at a lower rate of pay, and claim the employee wouldn’t need to work overtime if they were appropriately productive. This practice would run afoul of the law and likely (and hopefully) put the company in a legal mess that would cost them big and force them to abandon this awful policy.

  57. Virginia Plain*

    It seems fairly clear to me that for whatever reasons, the company wants people back in the office full time and so have come up with this transparent method of pushing employees back in, on pain of financial penalty.
    Frankly I’d assume they don’t trust their staff, they wish to micromanage them, and if they can’t, they want to punish them with lower pay. I’d be looking elsewhere.

    1. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

      They could just require them to return to the office, though! And require them to get the vaccine! Why this? It is totally bizarre.

  58. Alice*

    I fully admit that I am petty, but I would go back into the office and spend the entirety of my working day applying for new jobs.

    This is just poor management. They have no way to evaluate performances and they want to use the tried-and-not-true metric of butts in chairs! My current company is the same, they pushed us back into the offices at the height of the pandemic and the CEO was on the local newspaper complaining that they lost so much income because WFH is terrible and it’s impossible to get anything done outside the office. I work in software and I was so embarrassed when my friends asked me about the article!

    I didn’t quit over this, but I would have if there was a salary cut involved. On the flip side, LW’s husband has 4 months to find something new.

  59. jojo*

    My job has regular ebb and flow. My work output depends on what other departments submit to be worked. My in between work cannot be effectively gaged because it is reports and inventory. And it is not noticed unless we are being inspected.

  60. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

    I am so confused. How would they even measure productivity? Will they factor in that some projects and assignments are longer/more complicated? Will they factor in the question of whether you have enough work assigned to you at that time? Will they require people be available at their desks and phones throughout the full work day, but not pay you if you aren’t “productive” (illegal, btw)? My guess is they will find this structure to be inefficient and impossible to manage, that it will lose them good employees and discourage good candidates from applying, and that they may end out in legal trouble for failure to pay wages earned. And if they have to work overtime, does the company intend to say that they don’t get overtime pay because they wouldn’t need to work overtime if they were being appropriately productive? After all, they are non-exempt! This is a horrible idea that will hopefully be crushed by competent HR and/or legal counsel before it can go too far.

  61. Sometimes Charlotte*

    Why is the assumption productivity will go down? I’m more productive at home without the distraction of office chitchat and other interruptions. Are they going to offer a pay bonus?

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