my office says we can keep working from home if we take 5% pay cuts

A reader writes:

My office has been mostly remote since the middle of March 2020. (Some people still had to go in on a reduced schedule since aspects of their positions can’t be done remotely). This past October, with barely 30 days warning, they told us we were coming back in under a hybrid model (three days in office, two at home). They also sent us the updated Covid policy, which a lot of us felt was unsafe.

Some of us said we didn’t agree with the policy and refused to go back. In what seems to be a response to that, they have suddenly put the option to be fully remote on the table. You just have to apply … and take a 5% pay cut.

The way the offer is worded, the optics are that you’re being punished by loss of salary if you don’t come back like they want. Is this the new norm? Why not offer an incentive to people who go back rather than punish those who stay home? This seems destined to tank employee morale. You end up with people mad at losing pay to stay home and also people mad that they have to go in because they can’t afford the pay cut. Do businesses really expect people to not be resentful over these types of policies?

Yeah, I think they mostly expect you not to be resentful. They figure they’re offering people what they want (the ability to stay home) and that a lot of people will be happy to do it, even at a pay cut.

But unless there’s more to it beyond what’s in your letter, the pay cut is BS. Are you going to be contributing less? Producing less work? Are the metrics by which your performance is judged going be lowered by 5%? I’m guessing not. So why exactly is your work now worth less?

I suspect that if you asked your management those questions, they’d tell you that people who work from home do contribute less — that being remote puts more burden on your on-site colleagues who end up picking up work that you can’t do from home or otherwise filling in for you, even if only in little ways. And it’s not that that never happens — it absolutely does. But the blunt instrument of 5% pay cuts across the board regardless of position or performance says that this isn’t about reconfiguring job expectations and adjusting pay accordingly. It’s just a remote work penalty, because they think they can do it.

And who knows, maybe they can. A lot of people would take a 5% pay cut to know they can remain remote and not have to worry about going back. But it’s a crap move on your company’s part.

{ 519 comments… read them below }

  1. Cafe au Lait*

    Instead they should’ve offered everyone who came back into the office a 5% pay increase. It’s the same thing but it removes the negative presentation from a pay cut.

    1. I should really pick a name*

      It’s not actually the same thing, because the remote people would not be taking a pay cut.

        1. Darkangel*

          This is the kind of company that will complain in a couple of months that all their staff got poached, that there is a labor shortage and that they can’t hire anyone…

          1. Artemesia*

            And let’s hope it is so. This kind of morale killer tends to energize the people they can least afford to lose those who are desirable to other employers. I know people who have recently gotten new remote positions at higher pay; if the OP’s skills are transferable and work well remotely she should at least be exploring what options she might have.

            I am pulling for the 5 top performers to be giving notice in the next 3 mos.

          2. Nope Outta There*

            Exactly. My previous employer tried forcing us to go back in, and literally had EVPs personally calling people who refused. I told mine when I got the call that they will not force me back into the office and they are going to see a mass resignation of so much of their strong staff. And they did. They are a ghost town becuase of their archaic business model.

            I was my department’s top performer. After I got off the phone, I applied to their biggest competer, got a raise, better benefits, a better work load and I am a full remote employee.

      1. The OTHER Other*

        …and also giving a bonus costs the company money, docking pay saves it, which seems to be the real motivation here.

    2. SG*

      Not the same thing – a pay increase costs the company money, a pay cut saves the company money.

    3. OP for this*

      That is what I said! First thing I thought, why not just give more money to come back. Alas….nothing doing.

        1. EPLawyer*

          You know they have just shifted a lot of office costs to the WFH folks? Printer paper, wifi, etc. So yeah, they want to shift costs AND cut pay.

          This has punitive written all over it. The company has not figured out that it’s an employee market out there. Folks are going to walk.

            1. Firm Believer*

              My team has been WFH for two years and we still have to pay for all of those things at the office. Those expenses don’t disappear.

              1. Social Commentator*

                Yes, aside from reduced toilet paper/soap and negligible amounts water/electricity consumption, the costs are reduced for the company unless they actually close down their offices.

              2. hamsterpants*

                Why has your company not downsized its office in response to a smaller in-office workforce?

                1. Firm Believer*

                  Because we plan to have people back in a hybrid capacity when it’s safe, and because we are in leases.

          1. Firm Believer*

            Companies with offices still pay for wifi, and employees likely already had wifi at home. The cost shifting is really not a thing especially when you consider the commute savings. Trust me, I run a business so I’m intimately aware of the actual dollar figures.

            I’m not saying I agree with this company but I do get the thinking. And I’ve kept my team remote for safety reasons this whole time despite the impact on our business.

            1. Nanani*

              False.

              Not everyone had wifi at home, and a lot of people definitely didn’t have wifi -good enough to do their jobs- before the pandemic. Not to mention printers, heat/AC and electricity for being at home all day, and so on.

              “Commute savings” are so widely varied that this isn’t a serious counter argument. Some people had zero commute even before WF (living in walking distance to the office is a thing) or took transit that does not add up to the costs shifted onto them.

              1. Cj*

                I didn’t have anything for internet access at home except the hotspot on my phone until I was forced to start working remotely. The hot spot was nowhere near fast enough for work, so now I’m paying $60/mo for wi-fi that I wouldn’t otherwise need. No reimbursement from my employer.

              2. mark132*

                I suspect Firm Believer is much more right than wrong. The vast majority of employees have significant commute costs, it definitely is a very valid financial point in favor of WFH.

                1. Ash*

                  Agreed. There are exceptions, but Firm Believer is right that the majority of white collar (who make up the majority of workers who *can* work from home) workers already had high-speed internet at home, and had at least some commuting costs, whether that be gas, parking, a transit pass, or a combination.

              3. hamsterpants*

                The average commute in the United States is 15 miles each way. (Source: Google) People forget that it costs much more than gas alone to drive a car. If you take the IRS mileage rate of $0.58/mile, 15 miles each way x 2x/day x 250 days of work per year, you get $4350/year just for commuting.

                I don’t think it justifies a pay cut but $4350 is a lot of savings per year.

                My Wifi upgrades to support WFH come to around $600 per year.

                1. Mimi*

                  My commuter pass was $95/month, and I don’t have significant food or clothing savings from not being in the office, since my office was pretty casual and I brought my lunch. (I actually needed more clothes to WFH, since my house is colder and I had to buy more sweaters and long underwear.) We recently moved, so I don’t have the data to say that my increased electric + heat + water + daytime incidentals (TP and snacks and such) comes to that, but if you count the unreimbursed expenses to set up home office, I haven’t saved anything.

                  And that’s not counting the fact that I’ll eventually need a transit pass again, or the fact that space in my house is now dedicated to work. (Which, you could argue doesn’t add to my expenses, but there’s legit opportunity cost — if our guest room weren’t an office now, there’s a friend who needs housing I could offer that space to, and she would pay rent.)

                  I think that math holds true for a lot of city-dwellers who took transit, except that having a guest room to turn into an office may be pretty rare in some areas.

              4. lilsheba*

                I have the same internet, costs the same. I have the same costs for water, electricity, heat. However I have saved hundreds of dollars in commute costs, especially as I’ve gotten more disabled and had to rely on Uber/Lyft the last year and a half of commuting.

            2. Work From Home Isn't Free*

              Trust me, I’m an employee so I’m intimately aware of the actual dollar figures in my vastly increased utility bills and the loss of rent caused by no longer being able to rent out the room that’s now my home office. I had to buy my own peripherals, because my employer forbade us from taking home any equipment except our laptop. These are not remotely balanced out by “commute savings”–which, given that I walked to work, are $0.

            3. Candi*

              I have classmates who work from home, or sometimes campus in between classes if they have permission from t heir work.

              You know how many of them get reimbursed for things like office supplies and other incidentals that butt-in-seat offices supply? NONE of them.

              They don’t get reimbursements for the electricity they use to do the employers’ work, light, heat, etc., the wifi they use (the basic cheap student package is not adequate for WFH -the university administration implicitly expects big school-related downloads to be done on campus, like Visual Studio), or the peripherals they’ve had to buy to make WFH work. For some reason, several of their companies don’t like the stuff that works fine for class on Zoom, but also won’t pay for the stuff they want.

              One person couldn’t her work to pay half -not all, half- the cost of a new printer, even though it’s explicitly required for her job. (She didn’t say how.)

              Companies out there are shoving costs of running the businesses onto the workers, including the younglings who don’t know how to push back. (I’ve been pointing them to this site.)

          2. Firm Believer*

            Folks probably will walk but from the comments, some won’t.

            Just so you know, there is very little to know shifting of costs to an employee. If there is still a physical office then the company absorbs the added costs of both.

            1. Ismonie*

              My employer saved a ton on facilities and office supplies, without giving up space. It really depends on the physical plant itself.

          3. Public Sector Manager*

            Exactly. If it wasn’t punitive, they’d be transparent about how they arrived at 5% and how a 5% across-the-board cut was better than an individualized assessment of everyone’s hours.

            If the hourly/annual wage for the work you’re recruiting for is $X, then you pay $X regardless of where some does that labor from, not $X minus 5%

        2. BigHairNoHeart*

          This is likely true, but is so, they’re also not going to be able to afford the inevitable cost that comes with losing staff who are upset about this and can find better options elsewhere. Retaining strong employees by treating them well is hard to quantify, but still shouldn’t be ignored. (not disagreeing with you, btw, just grinding my ax on this point because I care about it)

          1. Firm Believer*

            Right, but I don’t think (when it’s safe of course, which it is not right now) asking employees to come in a few days a week is treating them poorly. They’ve given an option. Not sure where I land on it and I wouldn’t do it to my team but we all have to make choices in terms of how to handle the new world. They’ll know they’ve made a mistake if the have awful turnover.

            1. Librarian of SHIELD*

              You’re right that asking them to come back to the office isn’t treating them badly, but threatening to cut their pay if they don’t come back most definitely is.

                1. Your Local Password Resetter*

                  Which often sacrifice people’s health for money. And the people being sacrificed are pushing back here.

                2. hamsterpants*

                  Cutting pay in response to performance issues is very rare and generally taken extremely seriously. It usually treated as a sign that you’re on the chopping block.

                  Why is this different?

                  If my company threatened a pay cut over WFH, I’d interpret it as poor management. They don’t know how to manage remote employees. The only way they know how to evaluate or correct performance is by counting butts in seats. I have a high-level technical role and to see that my company was so capricious about salary and so incompetent at management I would be job-searching.

                  This is exactly the way you lose your best employees.

    4. JSPA*

      The optics would even be slightly better if everyone had a 5% cut, but the cut was used to fund in-office bonuses for those who had to be in office during weeks when when there was a local covid surge (as mathematically / impartially defined).

      1. Rose*

        IMO that would be much, much worse. Now people don’t just resent the company for cutting their salaries, they’d be frustrated at the coworkers taking part of their pay, even if it’s not totally logical.

    5. KateM*

      Actually, in that case you pay the employees at home only 4.76% less. If you want people at home to earn 5% less, you need to offer 5.26% pay increase to folks not at home. Math is fun!

  2. Colin Elves*

    Last time I checked employers pay rent, electricity, heating, phone connections, cleaning, water bills and everything else for the offices their employees work in… while employees pay for all those things for the homes they work in… so why would they demand employees take paycut for the privilege of lowering their business running costs? That makes no sense.

    1. Vince*

      These costs go down only marginally, if that, in empty offices. Rents are typically on long term leases. Try running a business and you will learn.

        1. Firm Believer*

          It may have sounded hostile but some of us are tired of having people who don’t pay these bills explain to us how it works and how much it costs. If you have a data point to support the comment about marginal costs I would share that.

            1. Firm Believer*

              My comment wasn’t hostile. When someone tells me I saved money having my employees remote it’s patently false. Unless you’ve looked at the books of a business you can’t just make assumptions based on anecdotal evidence.

              1. Warm Gooey Cheap Ass Roll*

                Depends on the business. If you’re expanding it’s less overhead for more office space. But in any case there’s no shortage of organizations who have seen cost savings and are glad to hire new remote employees.

                I’m no expert, but it seems to me that we’re seeing a whole new approach to remote work. Adapt or deal.

              2. JSPA*

                It’s not hostile, so much as patronizing. “Try running a business and you will learn” completely rules out the possibility that anyone but you–the solo, the amazing, the one and only???–might run a business, and run the numbers for their business.

                That’s vanishingly unlikely on this site, with this readership.

                Businesses do differ in terms of costs, for reasons ranging from climate to how densely packed people were pre-covid to local rent per square, to whether you own or lease the property, to local property tax (and tax credits).

                From where you stand, it makes no sense. Fine! Lovely!

                But that doesn’t mean that anyone with a different experience is tasked with the job of proving to you, that it can be so. You’re a disembodied voice on the internet. So’s everyone else. You, individually, are a single data point. So’s everyone else. “I say, and it be true, and dare any to say me nay” just can’t possibly fly. Grace and humility–all around–are in order.

            2. evens*

              Disagreeing with you does not mean “hostile.” Can we have a conversation instead of tone-policing?

          1. Ally McBeal*

            And some of us are getting tired of being mistreated by our employers because we’re just lowly wage slaves and have few options; it doesn’t give us an excuse to ignore Alison’s “be kind” rule.

          2. AVP*

            Hi, I run a business so I suppose I’ll be deemed Allowed to Comment here? It’s cheaper for me to run things remotely than in-person. Shrug. I can tell that’s not true for every business, but it is for mine, so you can see there’s a spectrum of different experiences. Previous to covid, we were paying for co-working spaces and a whole bunch of in-person memberships to things that we were able to give up, and entertaining clients and lunch costs are way, way down. Of course it does increase the burden on employees in some ways – not everyone has home office space, for one thing. But I’m just saying, there are definitely different experiences possible here! It helps to look at it as a long-term option and actively turn off any services you’re not using instead of keeping the lights on in the hopes that you’ll be back shortly.

            FWW, in my city, office leases can go for 2-3 years to much longer, so my husband’s business also just gave up their lease when it ran out mid-pandemic and moved their physical objects to storage at 1/10th the cost for the rest of Covid-times. They’ve realized they don’t actually use most of them so when they go back to an office, it’ll be half the size.

            1. MissDisplaced*

              Pre-covid my company had WAY too many offices. Sometimes 2 facilities in the same town less than 10 miles apart.
              They had to keep paying those leases the whole time we’ve been WFH. We’re still mostly all still WFH, so they’re slowly closing those offices as the leases expire. I do think we’ll go back to the office eventually, but it’s going to be used differently (meetings) or for those who need the space if they don’t have it at home.

          3. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

            My dad runs a business (168 employees), as do 2 of my SILs. Thus far all 3 have been able to:1
            1. Renegotiate rent since the landlords knew if they had vacancies they’d never fill it at the pre 2020 rate
            2. Reduction in supply costs – went from ordering staples like TP, soap, etc monthly to quarterly
            3. Reduction in janitorial services from daily with 1x week deep clean to weekly surface cleans weekly 1 deep clean x/month
            4. Reduction in equipment repairs and maintenance
            5. Able to end leases for off-site parking
            6. Huge savings on not having to heat or (especially where they are) cool the office

            And that is just to name a few things. Of the 3, only my dad is considering going part-time on-site only for staff where it is unavoidable when safe and is looking to reduce the amount of office space rented at the end of the lease. SILs are considering going completely physical site free or something very. very small for the occasional on-site needs.

      1. Velawciraptor*

        First, the condescending tone doesn’t match the “be kind” rules here.

        Secondly, there have been costs that have been shifted from employer to employee during the switch to WFH that don’t seem to make it into the calculus and should be talked about.

        1. mark132*

          WFH has saved me a lot of money, Other than perhaps (I’m not even sure I could definitively measure this) a trivial amount of higher utilities, I can’t think of any costs that have gone up. On the other hand I could go on about how my costs have gone down from not going to work, mostly the commute. I realize my situation isn’t universal, but I would be willing to bet my situation is much more common.

          1. Ismonie*

            Some people require a lot of things at home, ie, printers, desks, chairs, peripherals, workspace, that they did not before wfh.

          2. Leilah*

            It’s been a wash for me. I have to pay significantly higher utilities (propane and electricity, water use, etc) but I did save on gas/mileage.

      2. gawaine*

        At some businesses, sure. At most large companies I’ve been at, the way revenue is recognized is at a different level then where leases are paid. At small companies, if we were mostly empty, we’d take the termination fee on the lease and leave. I’m sure this is variable by company and location.

        If I move someone to a telework position where I’m at now, it’s between a 20-40% cut in what they cost me vs. being in an office position depending on what kind of project they’re on. That’s a reduction in the burdened rate, before we add profit or other kinds of hourly fees to the mix, most of which are percentage based. Meanwhile, I’m paying people about 20-30% more than I would just 10 miles west of here, because being in the city costs more.

      3. JM60*

        Sure, but the employer could lease a much smaller office in a year or two unless they recently signed a lease. If they recently signed a lease for an office much larger than they expected because they weren’t planning on allowing people to be fully remote, then that was their terrible decision.

    2. Person from the Resume*

      true, but let’s get real. There are very few employees yearning to be allowed back into the office so that they can reduce their utilities bills. There are a lot more people hoping to stay home despite increased utility bills because of the reduce cost of commute and work clothes and time spent commuting and getting dressed for work and convenience of having access to their own kitchen everyday.

      And if one person works from home, the office doesn’t reduce much/any cost for the employer. That person needs to permanently work from home, and the office size needs to be reduced to see that impact.

      1. tangerineRose*

        Plus the “convenience” of not being as likely to come down with COVID and also being less likely to infect others.

        1. Person from the Resume*

          This company is not making a smart move. (People will be demoralized and demotivated by the pay cuts even if they freely choose them for their own convenience.)

          But the smart move right now with the Omicron COVID-19 variant sweeping the world would be delay any move to return to the office. I don’t really expect this company to make the smart move.

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

      Generally speaking though, if the business is still operating a physical location, they will continue to have those same expenses they had before — the lights are on whether there are 3 people or 30 people in the building, etc. But I do notice that employers conveniently dismiss the new costs incurred by WFH employees that they didn’t have before. I’m back in the office, but my utilities did go up noticeably when I was home all day. I guess I’m of the few who prefer to have my work at work, and my home free from work. I was real irritated at having my employer “trespassing” in my home.

      1. CoveredinBees*

        I would prefer that too but the letter mentions unsafe COVID protocols, which can be an issue for a lot of people. Personally, I have two kids not yet eligible for vaccination and commutes where I live frequently involve commuter trains plus subways. Even pre-COVID, these commutes sucked and now they come with a big heaping dose of squishing next to lots of strangers.

      2. Jax*

        Yes! I was irritated that work from home meant:

        – converting my breakfast nook into a makeshift desk
        – setting up that POS ugly, ancient desktop computer in my home and having to live with it 24/7 because work claimed no budget for laptops
        – using my personal cell for work calls (including patient scheduling phone calls when both office assistants quit)
        – virtually “inviting” coworkers and direct reports into my home each time I had a camera-on Zoom meeting
        – having to pass out/collect employee keys and equipment at my home when they hired/resigned during the pandemic
        – taking calls and responding to little work crises before/after hours because everyone was working from home and felt encouraged to work obsessively and outside traditional work hours

        Granted, my own pandemic work-from-home experience was weird. My husband did not experience the same levels of stupidity, and is still happily working from home. But as for me? NOPE! I would much rather have work at work, and my home be my home. My new position has flexibility for a couple days per week WFH, and I’m not at all interested.

    4. I Herd the Cats*

      Our company had employee-related costs decline pretty significantly because they had a very generous employer-covered commuting benefit which they haven’t had to pay out since we all went remote (parking, subway etc. in a high-cost city with most employees in the suburbs.) Also our in-office benefits included a lot of office supplies and “extras” like staff parties and recognition, and I know those numbers as well — less significant than the commuting benefit total but not a small number in terms of savings over the past 18+ months. And they didn’t offset that with perks for “work from home” equipment or any other extras for home offices. I know this isn’t universal, but certainly our company has saved substantial $ with a remote workforce in the pandemic.

    5. H.C.*

      Not that I’m agreeing with the OP’s job motivation or action – but there’s also the very considerable saving of commute (whether for transit fare and/or fuel, “wear and tear” maintenance, related factors like extra child care hours), which unilaterally benefits the employees who get to work from home.

      1. Blarg*

        Not universally. Employees working remotely aren’t late because the car broke down or the subway was late.

          1. Mimi*

            I think that comment was that the employer has some benefits, too, so the benefits are not unilateral to the employees.

      2. Philosophia*

        Some expenses of owning a car are unaffected by miles driven per year (over a certain number)—license fees and insurance, for instance—while others are per mile. We pay the same amount for some of our utilities whether we’re home or not, while the cost of others skyrockets when we are at home around the clock. And so on. As we’ve seen, there’s no one simple, universal analysis.

      3. Abated*

        Isn’t this irrelevant though? The employees’ pay should be based on their work, not what it costs them to get there.

        1. londonedit*

          Exactly – you don’t pay Jane more than Fergus just because she lives 50 miles from the office and her annual travel costs are £4k whereas Fergus lives 20 minutes away and walks to work. You pay everyone a fair rate and it’s up to them how they spend that money.

      4. PT*

        You don’t know where the LW lives, either. I was once fortunate enough to live somewhere centrally located so the time and cost of getting to work at 5 different locations was incidental. I could barely call it a commute. (It was so nice. So so so nice.)

      5. chicken fried steak*

        I think though that would only factor in some (nonexistent) scenario where the employer is otherwise paying a stipend or something to everyone for those things equally. Employees saving money on something or another shouldn’t be offset by the employer on the compensation side, that feels inappropriate. Like paying someone less because they ride a bike to work and thus don’t have an auto payment.

    6. Firm Believer*

      I’m not endorsing this but it’s a misnomer that costs go down just because people are at home. Our costs went up for MANY things last year with people remote – especially with IT. With a hybrid role for some people you have the absorb both costs. I actually reviewed all of that for my team this year for transparencies sake – this company should do that too.

      1. Texan In Exile*

        I had commented about reduced expenses above, but I learned something new with your comment. Thank you.

        1. Firm Believer*

          Sure -thank you for the comment. I’m very safety forward and won’t bring people bank until it’s as safe as can be but it definitely came a cost last year!

      2. Curious*

        Would the cost go up for the employer if they’re doing all hybrid vs hybrid and remote? The remote infrastructure will still need to be in place for hybrid folks.

    7. Stitch*

      I work for an organization that is 80% fully remote pre COVID and if we’d have to rent/build additional offices if everyone was forced back. That would cost a lot more.

          1. Lenora Rose*

            The second sentence explains why some people went into the office, and nowhere at all implies that *All* jobs at that office have aspects that can’t be done remotely. I do work that can’t entirely be done from home, but that implies nothing about what Pedro in Budgets or Angela in Tech Services can do.

            1. Tali*

              Yes but the question is “should employees take a paycut because businesses no longer have to cover the cost of office space for them?”
              Some workers were still going into the office, therefore the company still had to maintain office space, so it is unlikely the company saved a ton of money by having some workers WFH.
              So the argument of “but companies save on office space” doesn’t hold water.

              I’m in favor of hybrid/WFH, I just think that commuting costs/office space/technology costs are separate discussions. Where I live (not US) it is common for companies to cover commuting to the office.

  3. Vince*

    You can’t have your cake and eat it it too. Get back in the office once in a while, or accept the modest pay cut to compensate the company for your obvious decline in productivity & dedication.

      1. Vince*

        Studies show that people think they are just as productive, since they knock out their to-do checklist and attend their Zoom meetings. But at an aggregate level, company productivity most certainly drops, since that takes into account intangibles, efficiencies, and most importantly – innovation. I fully understand why companies want folks back in the office. I also realize that is easier said than done. But for anyone who wants to work in pajamas all day and not expect a compensation hit eventually , that’s just delusional.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          I’m working with people in Australia, a different time zone than me in the United States, and people in Europe. I cannot do that without working a split shift. I do not usually work with people in my own time zone. My role requires quiet for concentration for large blocks of time. Tell me how I would be more productive in a noisy office.

          1. evens*

            The comment you are referring to is obviously a generalization. Obviously, some people always had jobs better done at home. The point is, people ignore (as Vince says) intangibles, efficiencies, and innovation.

        2. Crimson Caller*

          Wait, why are they even studying these things? Why aren’t they just asking you directly for the Correct Answers to questions? Seems like we’re wasting a lot of money when Vincent here has all of the right answers.

          1. Ally McBeal*

            I’m glad I’m working from home today because I just let out an embarassingly loud laugh at your comment!

          2. Julia*

            This seems uncharitable. It’s possible that Vince is basing his worldview on the data, rather than trying to supplant the data with his worldview.

            It’s not surprising that this commentariat is very hostile to his view, but I can see both sides of this one. People don’t like to admit it, but it’s true that remote work produces less or lower-quality output in many industries. If OP’s management have decided they’re in one of those industries and they want to incentivize coming in to the office, a salary cut is one way to accomplish that. Of course it’d be better if they could give everyone coming in to the office a raise, but they may have much higher-priority mission-critical stuff to spend that money on.

            1. neela*

              Sure but he’s saying it as a blanket statement across the board as if he can speak to every industry when it’s been demonstrably proven wrong in plenty of fields. That’s obnoxious.

            2. Mimi*

              It can be true that overall productivity for the company goes down, without any individual’s work output decreasing. If a coworker wanders by my desk and says, “Oh, you’re trying to do X via Y? I tried that last year and it doesn’t work, you need to do Z instead,” that could save me half a day or a week or however-much time that I otherwise would’ve spent pursuing a solution that ultimately didn’t work. And if I don’t have that, the measurable deliverables of my work will go down somewhat, but that doesn’t mean that I wasn’t working during the time I was looking into something that ultimately didn’t pan out, or that I don’t deserve to be paid for that time.

              To my mind, the company needs to figure out ways to facilitate that sort of knowledge transfer even without the casual proximity, rather than penalizing me because I didn’t get a useful tip at the right time.

              (And, to be honest, the few times I’ve been in the office during the pandemic did not lead to those discussions, because we all stayed far away from each other and mostly didn’t do casual chit-chat.)

        3. Xakeridi*

          I can only speak anecdotally but my company has been entirely remote since March 2020. 2021 was our best year ever and we were (positively) forced to develop products that were digital first–an initiative my industry has talked about for years but always dragged their feet. Not every industry is the same and not every company adapted but the reverse is also true–not every company suffered productivity loss.

          1. FirstName LastName*

            I think some of the reasons why working from home worked so well during the pandemic are transient:

            1. Necessity mother of invention- Working from home was a catalyst for digitization. Once this is done, this factor will no longer be present.

            2. Panic productivity – People being afraid of losing their jobs will work harder to protect their job in uncertain times.

            3. Nothing else to do – Why not put in a couple extra hours in a day? Can’t do much else really with a pandemic raging outside.

            4. Working from home is the Wild West – What happens when somebody gets hurt at work at home? The case law is pretty thin in my country (Canada), a decision recently came out that may point to more oversight/costs to work from home.

            1. Ismonie*

              The idea that wfh will somehow stop working doesn’t make any sense. As people have said up and down the comment thread, pre-pandemic wfh works very well for lots of people in lots of industries.

            2. Jackalope*

              The digitization won’t go away, though, so while the savings of time has probably plateaued for most companies they’re still reaping the benefits of it. And to counteract points 2 & 3, many people have had a much harder time while the pandemic has been going on, both because of generalized anxiety, and also for reasons like childcare.

        4. My Cabbages!*

          “Wanting to work in pyjamas” is very different from “not wanting to risk catching a deadly disease during a major pandemic”.

          1. Aquawoman*

            And it’s not like people are incapable of working in comfortable clothes. If anything, uncomfortable clothes are distracting.

        5. quill*

          The problem with human productivity studies is that they’re multifactor, and therefore very hard to isolate a variable. Any of them that did not conclude before 2020 also have the glaring methodological problem that there’s a pandemic as a random variable sapping people’s attention and energy.

          As someone who trained in science I would not trust any single study without more than decades of data to be conclusive about work from home vs. in office, and I’d caution against generalization to all offices and all positions even then. We definitely do NOT have the data for a conclusive meta-study.

          1. Jax*

            Wow. I hadn’t thought about this–thank you!

            The pandemic would skew all of the WFH data. It not only sapped people’s energy and attention, it caused some to fear job loss and work even more to prove their worth to the company. Some employees hit new records, others hit new lows.

        6. MKT*

          My company has been remote since March 2020, and we’ve had a great couple of years in spite of that, personally, I’ve been FAR more productive and successful (with raises and bonuses to prove it) since I’ve been able to work from my quiet home rather than a noisy open office with no privacy. And I’ve been granted permanent remote status because of my success. Delusional, indeed.

        7. StressedButOkay*

          Speaking from just personal experience, our company has become more productive and more communicative since going remote. Scheduling Zoom meetings takes less time than getting everyone together in a meeting room.

          A lot of organizations have found that remote work actually works for them and the team productivity. Does it work for everyone or every organization? No. But saying that for anyone who “wants to work in pajamas” (you know, instead of trying to avoid major illness, still) will end up taking a compensation hit? Yeah, that’s absolutely not going to happen across the board.

        8. Lab Boss*

          What I’m hearing here is that you don’t know how a boss could possibly have a set of metrics that look at an employee’s performance beyond a simple “to-do checklist.” Management who can’t create a complex way to assess overall productivity and drive is weak management. Don’t be a weak manager, and don’t accept that weak management is the best it can get.

        9. Lady Catherine de Bourgh*

          Where are these studies that show that productivity declines on a company level? Please share.

        10. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          Ahhh so I must’ve dreamed all the lost productivity resulting from the daily office disruptions, people coming in late because they got stuck in traffic on the drive to work, someone coming to work sick without knowing it and infecting the rest of the office and everyone calling out sick as a result… Not to mention there is still a pandemic going on.

          The pay cut for working in pajamas makes no business sense. Make it make sense.

        11. pancakes*

          I worked from home well before the pandemic, as did many other people whose employers in downtown NYC had to close their offices for an extended period during Superstorm Sandy flooding. If you think multinational law firms are welcoming places for lazy cake-eaters, you don’t have much experience with them.

        12. Distracted Librarian*

          Citation needed. And I’m not being snarky. If you want a claim like this to be taken seriously, you need to cite data beyond, “studies.”

        13. mlem*

          You sound like my CEO. She too talks of the ~magic~ of ~innovation~ when you can just LOCK EYES in the CAFETERIA amongst the ROMANTIC BABBLE of 500 PEOPLE in ONE SPACE blah blah. She has yet to clarify what “innovation” we can’t do now, when we’re 100% WFH for a short while longer, but will somehow get back when the same workgroups are collaborating across five worksites separated by, in some cases, over a thousand miles.

          My group’s metrics went up when we all went WFH. Most groups found the same or were level. The company claims another major division’s went down … but they only measured “number of requests addressed”, and the number of submitted requests from external parties plummeted, and the company is carefully ignoring that their stats are bad.

          WFH isn’t the problem. Bad managers who can’t measure output and speak of puffery like *~*innovation*~* are the problem.

          1. Texan In Exile*

            Hallmark Presents:
            “Turning Christmas Straw into Gold!”
            “You, Me, and The Perpetual Motion Machine”
            “A Kiss Before Conquering Death”
            “Tis the Season to Cure Cancer”

          2. Ashley*

            I also think another problem is from my own observations co-workers who can’t WFH well for whatever reason (space setup, their need for structure, needing human interaction all the time, etc) sometimes have a hard time understanding how some people can thrive in a WFH setting. I have also seen WFH being used when people are sick so the productivity numbers drop and that isn’t the same as regularly scheduled WFH which can skew many of the studies and goes back to the need for long term data, especially when parents aren’t also responsible for schooling.

        14. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          I’ve been promoted twice in pajamas since I started working from home, so I guess SOMEONE’S delusional, but …

          1. Faith the twilight slayer*

            Those must be some awesome pajamas! Wear them to buy lottery tickets is what I’d be doing

        15. Quinalla*

          /sigh there are people who are more productive and people who are less productive. There are jobs that are better set up for remote and those that aren’t. And there are PLENTY of companies that have found ways to capture the intangibles in different ways and PLENTY that innovate just fine remotely. I’m not sure what innovation has to do with remote vs. in office. My company is huge on innovation – we reinvest a TON into it every year – and we’ve thrived with folks all remote and also now with some all remote, some all in office and many hybrid.

          Not all jobs can be done or done well remote 100% of the time, but a lot of jobs can be and the butts must be in seats mentality no matter what is ridiculous to still be holding.

          Making folks who work remotely take a pay cut is silly unless they don’t have to do as much work. This is also a bad strategy as most folks will find another job where they can work remote and not have to take a pay cut.

        16. Firm Believer*

          Frankly that was spot on. You can either work from home forever, or you can pursue rapid career growth, but over the long term it’ll be nearly impossible to have both.

            1. Texan In Exile*

              Because some promotions still depend on a person’s ability to schmooze and/or stand next to the Big Boys in the restroom.

              If people work remotely, they will actually have to be judged on their performance and not on the similarity to the executives and their political agility.

              1. quill*

                There’s a sexism problem in any workplace where a promotion depends on running into a higher up in the Gents’

              2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

                Welp, I can’t stand next to Big Boys in the restroom anyway, might as well work from home!

                I am also very confused by the above statement, because throughout 2021, I’ve been seeing a lot of the leadership positions, including C-suite positions, filled with people that are full-time remote. Is theirs not a rapid career? does their career growth not count? what am I missing?

              3. Leilah*

                Funnily enough, I actually “schmooze” quite well remotely, and since my company has multiple locations around the globe I have been able to more effectively “schmooze” more people when working remote. It’s not that hard to have a chat over coffee remotely.

            2. Firm Believer*

              Well in fairness, it depends on the industry but for mine it’s just fact. We are client facing, meaning eventually our presence will be required. Having face time with managers is important for building relationships. Managers have a much harder time doing their jobs – myself included. You get fewer opportunities to shine. Junior people won’t learn soft skills. Leading a zoom call is not the same as having a dynamic presence in an all day in person strategy meeting. Dinner and schmoozing with team, leadership and clients.

              There are a lot of reasons. But upward trajectory will be impacted for those that are remote forever.

                1. Firm Believer*

                  That’s not true at all. Performance is most important but developing chemistry and relationships is also important in a lot of businesses.

                2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

                  And you can develop both of those things while working remotely. Saying this as someone who’s been working on a distributed team for years, and who was able to develop actual friendships with teammates living in other states. The trick is to work together to get things done as a team. Chemistry and warm relationships will follow. Sadly, I don’t have any advice on how to build chemistry and relationships with a new team/manager by sucking up to them on a personal level from day one. I’ve never seen it done and it is not how I do things.

              1. Ismonie*

                I’m sorry, an all-day meeting sounds like hell to me. Thank you for doing that, because I don’t think I could!

                1. allathian*

                  Absolutely. Firm Believer’s industry sounds like hell to me.

                  Granted, I did enjoy the two days we had in November at the office, when I got the chance to meet my current manager, who was hired externally during the pandemic, for the first time, as well as a number of new teammates. We also held a retirement party for a coworker, which was lovely.

                  There was certainly a value in that, but I’d be happy with an in-person day twice a year or once a quarter, I definitely don’t feel the need to go to the office more often than that and would resent it if I had to go in.

                  Of course, with the horrid omicron numbers we’re currently having, it’ll be a while before I’ll have to go in.

                2. londonedit*

                  Yep, same. We’ve had two fantastic years of results with everyone working from home, there’s been absolutely no difference in productivity (in fact a lot of people have been getting more work done without the classic hour-long commute into central London and back every day) and I can guarantee it’s better for the company to have staff safely working from home than it is to deal with constant Covid-related absences. Once it’s safe to do so I will be going into the office a couple of days a week, but not every week – I’d like to have the opportunity to catch up with people, but I’d also like to continue working from home because I’m so much more productive (my job involves a lot of close reading that’s hard to do in an office with people around and noise and distractions). Yes, it also saves me money but that’s not the main focus, it’s just a nicer way of working (and no, I’m really not spending every day in my pyjamas watching TV instead of being at work).

          1. AngryOwl*

            This is…not true. Maybe in some industries? But I’ve worked from home full time since 2013 and have definitely had rapid career growth. And I am hardly unique in that.

        17. A*

          As someone that works in new product development & innovation in a global role, I would love to hear more about your data sources. I don’t doubt that is the case in some situations, but certainly not all. If in person interaction was necessary for collaborative innovation, well I’d be out of a job unless every employer I work for is planning to fly me around the world constantly. Not all companies/roles exist in a local bubble.

          1. Firm Believer*

            You are correct, it does depend on the industry. But there are a lot of industries that it will apply.

            1. Rosie*

              And a lot where it won’t, that’s literally the point of contention. The blanket statements act like all industries are the same.

        18. Artemesia*

          And yet there are companies that used a largely WFH model before COVID and who run with few central costs and are highly effective.

          1. hodie-hi*

            Agreed. The company I work for now is one, and there are numbers that prove it beyond a doubt.

        19. The Other Katie*

          Some of the most innovative companies in the world are and have always been remote-first, remote-only, and/or geographically distributed to the point that they’re effectively remote teams. Innovation doesn’t happen in a panopticon. Maybe companies should learn to manage innovation without surveillance.

        20. Anon for this*

          My productivity is measured by publications, grants, classes/number of students taught, reference questions answered. I have metrics for both pre pandemic and for remote and am exceeding the pre pandemic period by a lot. With the exception of instruction, which is much easier and more effective in person, nothing else has suffered. The vast majority of the work I do no longer needs to be done in an in-person environment.

        21. JimmyJab*

          I work in pajamas all day and have gotten my annual raises and COL adjustments for the past two years. Wait, I’m delusional so that’s probably all in my head!

          1. Firm Believer*

            I’m not talking about annual raises. For people who want a high level executive role like CMO, or Vice President, or CEO, it’s not likely to happen if you are remote. Which is fine if you don’t seek that out. But if you do, you can’t expect to say I don’t want to be in person with clients and constituents but I want to run the company as the CEO. If it happens, it’ll be the exception not the norm.

            1. Darsynia*

              Can we have a mini reality check about whether the advice here is meant to be tailored to ‘people who hope someday to be CEO?’ Okay, the edge cases might be the exception, but the generalized statement that it’s less productive was still problematic.

            2. Ismonie*

              Do you think Sundar Pichai is going into the office right now? Do you think he has promoted anyone in the past two years? How is google functioning without being in the physical office?

              1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

                Right? This is what I’m seeing with the upper management at my work, too. Some of the commenters here seem to be saying that operating in a Mad Men-type workplace is the only way to get promoted, and… this does not at all correlate with what I am seeing personally these days. Back in the 90s, maybe.

            3. Dana Whittaker*

              I would beg to differ. My BFF is associate legal counsel for a major nationwide utility in workplace safety, and has been WFH since March 2020. Actually, they relocated to a southern state where their parent lives for a year during the pandemic and successfully WFH from there. They just received a significant, career milestone promotion that puts them well on the way to the top legal position. So it is possible, at least anecdotally.

            4. Middle Name Danger*

              My company’s CEO worked remotely since well before the pandemic. We have offices in three countries including one major office in a single US city and individuals covering different regions solo WFH in their own areas. The CEO worked from a state with no other employees. She occasionally visited each office and the remote individuals met at our offices or at trade shows a couple times each year. This is a company whose entire business model is innovation, we literally invent technology for certain industries. Innovation and becoming CEO are not impossible with WFH.

            5. AngryOwl*

              So rather than a blanket statement, you meant “people who have this specific career goal in certain industries”? I think you would’ve gotten less push back if you mentioned that.

        22. Girasol*

          To some extent the success in teamwork and innovation (unless a physical lab is required)depends upon the tools a team has for remote collaboration, the social skills of the team members, and whether they’re committed to making it happen or whether they’re sure it can’t be done. Office tools and business skills are familiar while what’s needed for successful remote collaboration requires a fresh investment in building a suitable infrastructure and learning new ways to work together. But it’s not impossible. I get it that studies show it can’t work, but studies once showed man can’t fly, too.

        23. Ismonie*

          This really depends on the company, and on the type of work being done, including on a team by team, and at times, person by person level.

        24. DocVonMittens*

          This is very out of touch. I’ve been remote my entire career. I helped build both Twitter and Lyft from my kitchen on fully remote teams. You can innovate and produce great work outside of an office. I’d never take a pay cut for being remote and no one in my industry would either. There’s too many remote options that’ll pay San Fran salaries for remote workers.

        25. Generic Name*

          Interesting. Data from my own company shows that we are more productive than we were pre-pandemic. We’re consultants, and our percent billable hours is way up. Maybe YOUR company needs butts in seats, but it’s far from universal. And I’m not sure how working from home equals wearing pajamas all day. Maybe YOU wear pjs all day and just sit around when “working” from home, but that’s not universal.

        26. Aitch Arr*

          There is a lot of research being done around the Future of Work.

          Without outing myself, the company I work for is at the forefront of such research.

          An interesting quote from a recent (December 2021) paper we published: “One surprising finding from the leaders that [we] spoke with is that organizations are meeting their goals — and some are even surpassing targets and growing revenue.”

      2. Analyst Editor*

        I, too, would be upset over a pay cut and looking for a new job over this, probably unless I thought it was legitimate market conditions and if the business was really in trouble.
        But my initial bias is to be skeptical of these studies; and even if they aren’t immune from all sorts of issues these studies have (hi, replication crisis), a study of the “average” does not necessarily mean it is uniform across all industries, lines of work, or levels of work. It’s quite possible that in a given company there is significant loss of productivity for a given company or a given industry, or a given type of employee.
        Especially for a smaller company, there’s going to be a lot of heterogeneity even a good study wouldn’t reflect.

      3. Esmeralda*

        That really depends.

        Our office has always collected data on productivity, effectiveness, and program outcomes (state university, academic-adjacent) — when we were a new program, it was motivated by bold-faced efforts to shut us down; since then it’s proven very effective for protecting and increasing budget, staffing, etc.

        Anyway. We demonstrated we were MORE productive and equally as effective as when we were 100% remote over 100% in the office, and now that we’re on a hybrid model, are still more productive and effective than 100% in-office.

        My boss used this data to fight for us to remain hybrid for the coming semester. As well as the fact that we lost staff when we went from fully remote to partly-remote, and the fact that other staff have said — out loud, in staff meetings — that going back to 100% in office = looking for another job. Which they are likely to find.

        I think OP’s employer is foolish — they are going to lose good employees. Possibly even those who are ok going back to the office, because they can see how the employer treats their coworkers.

    1. ByeBye9-5*

      Or how about they give employees a raise since their costs will go down? Office downsizing, supplies, HVAC costs?

      I’m curious why you say “obvious” decline? I assume you have data to back that up that makes it obvious?

    2. Sedna*

      “your obvious decline in productivity & dedication”
      Can you provide evidence of this decline from the letter above?

    3. Cataclysm*

      Is this sarcasm or something I’m not getting? A lot of companies found that productivity and metrics increased with work from home, and for plenty, there was an increase in overall profit. At bare minimum, I would think the 5% paycut shouldn’t apply to anyone who exceeded previous benchmarks once remote.

    4. A.Griz*

      Since when is being concerned for your safety “having your cake and eating it too”? Also for some people, 5% is not “modest”. Please have some empathy and check your privilege.

          1. AD*

            It’s very interesting to see what threads you shut down or delete on some posts and not on others. This whole thread is non-productive, insulting, and devoid of facts.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Yes, it’s never going to be perfectly consistent because I don’t see everything; the volume is way too high. Per the commenting rules, please feel free to flag things you think need my attention (everything I moderated here was flagged by commenters).

        1. Velawciraptor*

          If you don’t believe there’s a genuine safety concern from the ongoing pandemic, which is entering its third year, I don’t think you’re engaging with the LW or the commentariat in good faith. We’re supposed to take LWs at their word. Which means believing them when they say they have safety concerns.

          If you’re not willing to engage in good faith, that the writer at their word, and be kind while doing it (aka–abide by the baseline requirements for participating here), maybe take this someplace else.

        2. Texas*

          Why the scare quotes around safety? We’re still hitting new high levels of COVID-19 cases, so safety is a very real concern.

          1. Ally McBeal*

            I live in a state where hospitals were overfull before Omicron hit. I’m helping manage an in-person event next week, where the main organizer (my client) takes at least five minutes on EVERY planning call to rant about how masks don’t work and he’s not going to wear one even though the venue policy requires it. I’m double-masking at the event just to spite him.

        3. The Smiling Pug*

          There is no evidence that people who WFH are lazy. If anything, I know that I’m going to be more productive when I transfer to my WFH job in two weeks.

          1. JimmyJab*

            Yah I’m going in to my office tomorrow for a reason and I guarantee I will get less done that if I were at home. I have a 45 minute commute each way, I can go out and get lunch instead of eating my leftovers at my home-desk, and if any of my coworkers are there I’ll surely spend time talking to them.

            1. JustaTech*

              Yup. Part of why I’m WFH today is that when I was in the office this week I spent a decent chunk of time talking with my coworkers about how incredibly thoughtless it was for our director to insist that the “please WFH” from corporate didn’t apply to us, even when we’re not doing lab work.

              And then there’s the time I spent looking for an empty room to eat my lunch.

        4. Me*

          Excuse you? There are plenty of people who during an pandemic and especially the current unprecedented surge are very much concerned for their safety. There are people who for reasons they can’t control are at a much higher risk of severe illness. There are people who are average risk but are not interested in catching a disease that even a mild case can have debilitating long term affects. There are people who live with vulnerable people.

          You can simply shorten your entire argument to you have zero empathy for anyone who doesn’t adhere to your version of how capitalism should work. You are welcome to your opinion like anyone else but don’t mistake your opinion for fact.

          1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

            Adding: being younger and in good health is no guarantee against dying of this. 3 of the people I’ve lost were early 30s with no underlying problems.

            Which is terrifying.

            1. Me*

              Absolutely! We just lost 3 first responders in the past weeks. A friend, who was vaxxed and caught a very mild case of covid, started bleeding, had a partial placental abruption and they thought they were going to have to deliver the baby way early. They stabilized her and she just gave birth to an under 5 pder. The doc said the placenta was a mess and attributed it to covid. Thank goodness baby and mom are otherwise ok.

              Individuals like Vince mocking people who are trying to be safe is beyond the pale.

              1. Texan In Exile*

                Thank goodness there were medical professionals there to help. My sister is a NICU NP. Every nurse she worked with on Christmas Eve has since tested positive for COVID. (My sister is OK so far.)

                1. Me*

                  Please tell your sister thank you. I know it’s not enough for what they are dealing with.

                  Covids affect on pregnant women is terrifying.

            2. Tom*

              Your experience is…abnormal. It is valid , but the fact is that over the past two years one in 3,000 people in their thirties have died of COVID, based on the CDC’s numbers.

              (My experience is also abnormal. I don’t know anyone who’s died of COVID.)

              1. allathian*

                Your experience is the same as mine, and I count myself very fortunate. The wife (early 40s) of one of my husband’s friends is a geriatric nurse and has/had long Covid (she was one of the first in this country to be diagnosed), and she’s only now, almost 2 years later and vaccinated and boostered, somewhat back to normal.

              2. pancakes*

                Tom, I replied with a link but it may be held up in moderation for a while. It isn’t mandatory for states to report their data to the CDC and quite a few don’t. Look for an NPR article from September 2021 titled “Millions Of People Are Missing From CDC COVID Data As States Fail To Report Cases” for an introduction to this issue. It’s been reported on elsewhere as well but that’s a good place to start.

                You also don’t seem to take into account the likelihood that people who are immunocompromised or have other health issues may tend to know more people in the same situation than the average person. I was diagnosed with cancer in my mid 30s and probably know more fellow patients in my age range than the average person would, for example.

          2. PT*

            Once the hospital is overfull, anyone who needs emergency medical care for any reason can expect to get delayed care. Even if they are perfectly healthy otherwise.

            Get into a nasty car accident driving into work? Have a heavy box fall on your head in the supply closet because Fergus stacked them wrong? Accidentally eat something you’re deathly allergic to at team lunch because Fergus ordered from the wrong restaurant? Sorry all of the hospitals are on ambulance diversion!!

        5. Distracted Librarian*

          FYI, it’s entirely possible to be lazy and goof off in the office. Good employees are good employees, regardless of their work location. If you need the work equivalent of a hall monitor to stay on task, you’re not going to excel in any location.

          1. Texan In Exile*

            If anything, I am more comfortable goofing off when I am in the office because by definition, if I am in the office, I am at work.

          2. tangerineRose*

            “FYI, it’s entirely possible to be lazy and goof off in the office. ” This! I used to work with someone who was the master at not getting much done. He was in the office every day. It was amazing (and infuriating) how little he got done while also nearly constantly talking.

            1. JustaTech*

              I had a coworker who would come in on the weekends and still managed to get no work done. (His reason for coming in on the weekends: if he went to work his wife packed him lunch. If he didn’t go to work he had to make his own lunch. He would rather come in to the cold empty lab than learn how to make a sandwich or open a can of soup.)

          3. AdequateArchaeologist*

            Yes! See: guy at my old office who mattered on about boats for half and hour multiple times per day. I gained an insane amount of productivity when I didn’t have to listen to Brad loudly talk about his dream fishing boat.

        6. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

          Dunno if you’re aware but there’s a deadly virus doing the rounds that can kill or maim anybody in any group. I’ve lost 4 people to it!

          Additionally, my work output is probably greater at home because I tend to take fewer breaks, I’m not interrupted anywhere like as much as I am in the office and it’s a relief working from a desk that I didn’t have to walk a long way to (car park to building, reception to lift, long hallway to office etc. ) because I literally just go to our second bedroom and there’s my desk. Much better for my health!

        7. yala*

          So…you don’t believe that people are concerned about their safety during an ongoing pandemic where halfhearted measures consistently fail to work?

          I’m not sure what’s particularly lazy about working from home. I guess being able to catch a 15-minute nap on my lunchbreak instead of just scrolling twitter is lazy? If they work the hours and do the work, it’s pretty weird to call someone lazy.

          …shoot, thinking of all the freelance artists I know. Most of them work from home. The hustle they have is mindblowing.

        8. Ismonie*

          “Safety”? I skipped my grandmother’s funeral because a not insignificant subset of my extended family is anti-mask, anti-vax, and had a recently had a COVID exposure. Omicron is spreading like wildfire, and as a pregnant person, I’m not taking any unnecessary risks.

        9. Curiouser and Curiouser*

          I’m late but I can’t help from responding. I HATE working from home. I hate not having separation between work and home life, I hate zoom meetings, especially off cam because my hearing isn’t great, and I think many people believe they’re good at WFH when they really are not.

          …but this is a pandemic. And I in no way want me or anyone else to go back to the office while Omicron is wreaking havoc on the world if they don’t have to, and I am incredibly fortunate to not have to. There are safety concerns right now. Most of us can recognize that. There’s nothing lazy about wanting to be safe.

      1. Danish*

        My delicious cake of, checks notes, not dating or passing a deeply life-altering disease to the people around me.

        1. Lab Boss*

          Based on context I’m going to assume you meant “not dying,” but I like the style of someone who considers the modern dating arena comparable to getting a life-altering disease :)

          1. Danish*

            Ha! I did mean not-dying, but idk, there have been times when having to navigate tinder dating certainly felt like an affliction.

            1. Jackalope*

              I actually assumed you meant no dating because you didn’t feel comfortable meeting strangers in the middle of a pandemic….

          2. BubbleTea*

            I read it more like not wanting to date the disease, like a clever play on flirting with danger (but I agree it was probably autocorrect really).

            1. Danish*

              I did very briefly have some ongoing conversations with people on tinder around June-July of 2020, when the stir crazy was really setting in, but eventually gave up because I was still having to field “so do you wanna meet up for a drink” questions. No! I don’t! Where would we even go, our bars are closed!

          3. Your Local Password Resetter*

            Bad dates can lead to life-altering diseases, so it’s methaporically and literally true (the best kind of truth)

      1. EW the Return*

        Right?! Even though I disagree I give him props for trying. :-P I don’t suspect this will stay up long though.

          1. EW the Return*

            Trying to express an opposing point of view. I know I feel more productive in the office. I like being able to turn around and ask the person across the hall if I can “pick their brain” about something, and being able to see if they are free or not, and so on. Trying to do the same thing over teams can take hour (You there? I’d like to chat about X” – maybe 2 hours later they reply or longer. It’s SO MUCH FASTER in person for some thing. I also find I get more opportunities to work on a variety of projects simply from water cooler talk or overhearing discussion at another desk and being able to join in. I am a data analyst, I CAN do my job completely remotely, but it’s not the same. And I have seen where the productivity over all (not for specific individuals) does go down simply because these fast convos and and random talks that can spark an idea, just don’t happen when we’re all at home.

            1. M. from P.*

              So far most commenters agree that productivity can either go up or down for individuals and companies.
              There’s nothing wrong with expressing a different point of view as long as we do not dismiss or invalidate the experiences of others.

            2. yala*

              “Trying to express an opposing point of view”

              I mean, there’s nothing inherently wrong with an opposing point of view, but there’s also nothing inherently laudable about it. And there’s really nothing remotely laudable about telling complete strangers that they’re lazy for wanting to work from home, or that they’re causing a “decline in productivity” and deserve a paycut.

    5. Colin Elves*

      Multiple studies indicate that productivity increases when people work from home.

      The obvious bit is that not having people exhaust themselves on long commutes would increase productivity.

      1. DarthVelma*

        My dedication would decline if I was forced back into the office in the middle of an ongoing global pandemic. And my organization would deserve it.

        1. KaciHall*

          My dedication to my employer certainly went down the drain once I realized how much they didn’t believe in science, and told us we were opening back up and we could just drink water continuously to kill the virus.

              1. Lab Boss*

                Why don’t viruses wear life jackets?
                Because they’re already wearing lipid coats!

                *science rimshot*

                1. Lab Boss*

                  This is now my most popular comment ever on AAM. I’m not sure if I should be happy or sad :D

        2. The Original K.*

          That too. I know people who have left jobs because their employers did nothing for them in terms of COVID precautions. One person is still dealing with long COVID that she got when it ran through her in-person maskless office. She quit when her employer tried to make her come back to the office when the worst of her symptoms subsided (she got very sick).

          1. BubbleTea*

            The opposite is true too. My organisation is not perfect but the lengths they have gone to in order to make sure we can all work from home properly, and to ensure that those who really wanted/needed to get back to the office can do so safely, have bought my loyalty. Also the fact we are now set up to work from home means I can keep working for them even when I move too far away to commute daily, which I wouldn’t have even thought of asking about before. I’ve been working hard, alongside our IT guy and managers, to improve the IT infrastructure and make more things electronic to reduce the need for an office at all, although the nature of our job means it will always be needed to some extent.

      2. Lab Boss*

        Mine would decline if my management punished me because they couldn’t figure out any better metric of productivity and innovation than “butt in seat”

    6. LeftEye*

      ” your obvious decline in productivity & dedication”

      I love when people on this site make these big sweeping generalizations about all workplaces/employees, their tone just dripping with condescension, as though whatever their personal opinion is on their specific workplace is some kind of universal truth.

      Some jobs must be done in person. Some jobs are completely remote jobs. Some people are more productive in person. Some people are more productive remotely. Sometimes employees are bad employees regardless of their work set up. Some employers are exploitative and value every last dime over the lives and safety of their employees.

      Anyways Vince, people are all different, and have different needs for optimal productivity.

      1. After 33 years ...*

        I thoroughly agree with this, especially paragraph 3. I have been more dedicated over the past two years, but unfortunately I have not been as effective* in my responsibilities as a teacher of university students when TFH. Other colleagues in my school have been as or more effective in their TFH – much depends on specifically what you are asked to teach.
        * I prefer effective to productive in my personal context.

        1. LeftEye*

          Ooh yeah, I like effective as a metric over productive.

          Honestly I prefer to work in-person, and I *am* much more productive/innovative/effective/etc when working IRL with my team. But my work is very specific, as is the particulars of my brain chemistry and my living situation. What is good for me is not universal. And also with omicron numbers spiking, what is good for me is to take a hit on productivity/effectiveness/creativity in order to stay safe & protect others.

          1. CoveredinBees*

            Yup. Personality can definitely play into it. My friend and I do very similar jobs at different companies. I am introverted and do so much better in my own quiet little world. That same setting literally drives her to distraction.

            1. After 33 years ...*

              It can, but there are other constraints as well. Of the 12 courses I’ve taught remotely since January 2020, I’d rate my efforts as teacher from highly effective (Introductory, 322 students spread across 14 time zones, course designed for remote delivery) to failure on my part (third-year, students need to be in the field to gain experience in actual landscapes and environments, not watching videos). We do what we can, but are not always happy with the results.
              I’m booked for my booster on Monday.

        2. CatMintCat*

          I teach at the opposite end of the spectrum (Year 2 this year – 7 year olds) and I was very much less effective when working from home, while working harder and putting in even longer hours than I normally would. But my effectiveness didn’t just depend on me but my students and, given their age, their parents ability and willingness to support what we were trying to do. Some were fantastic; some children never even logged on for the weeks we were off site. The thought of working from home again just makes me want to cry.

      2. Elaine Benes*

        Totally. In my experience, I worked at a website for many years where all staff WFH (before the pandemic) that was growing every year and had no issues with productivity. And currently I run my own business from my home (also since before the pandemic) where I’ve grown my revenue by 30% in the last year. It’s just definitively not true that all businesses would have lazier, less productive workers if their staff WFH.

      3. RunShaker*

        well, ok. good to know I’m not productive & lazy. ditto @lefteye. big sweeping generalization. I know my department and company has been more productive. Our office is open to coworkers that need to be in an office environment. It is wonderful to have that kind of support from my company in which WFH & in office is safely supported. I appreciate that my management team sees us and treats us as professionals & provides individual coaching as needed to individuals that need it.
        But I’ve seen a few articles over the last year about big companies wanting and/or instituting pay cuts for people who choose to WFH. I’m surprised we haven’t seen this question sooner.

    7. Love WFH*

      What “obvious decline”?

      My teams have people in India, and 4 states in the US. Half of us were in the home office before the pandemic started.

      Our productivity went up once we were all working remotely. Communication when some people are co-located and some aren’t is worse than if everyone is remote. Plus we were spared the commute time we’d had before. Getting out of the noisy cubicle environment really helped, too!

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        Oh great point. At my current job, my team was always spread across multiple state (plus India). I haven’t reported to anyone physically in the same office as I was since 2015. I could never understand why some of our managers insisted it was more efficient for us to come in to the office for work, if we had to be on the phone or video with half of our team anyway.

      2. Middle Name Danger*

        My company has a similar setup with people in multiple states and a few countries, with some WFH and some in offices. Since we’ve moved to mostly WFH (a few jobs including my own legit can’t be done remotely), communication has been BETTER. People who are WFH are no longer left out of things discussed in person but not followed up on in emails. People have a better understanding of the ways their colleagues go about their business and why certain things that were frustrating actually make sense.

    8. The OTHER Other*

      The company is the one trying to have its cake (lower costs through people working at home, at least PT) and eating it (docking pay) too.

      It depends on the business and the employee, but many have noticed measurable increases in productivity from remote employees.

      What many employers REALLY mean when they talk about the importance of their “culture” and mention productivity without any numbers to back it up is that the managers have no idea who’s to actually measure productivity, and in many cases just want butts in seats to justify their own jobs.

      I imagine at least some of the employees here will take the WFH option and utilize the opportunity to look for other jobs. Maybe 5% of their time?

    9. Danish*

      Vince! I didn’t realize I worked for you now! Wow, that’s rad. I don’t know what your schedule looks like, seeing as you apparently are the boss of literally everyone, but we should probably schedule a 1:1 to talk about my “obvious decline in productivity and dedication”. I also have some 360 feedback for you about your leadership skills that I think could really benefit you as a boss, that I can tell from your open and empathetic comment here that you’ll be really open to receiving.

    10. anonymouse*

      This is very argumentative.
      Nothing is obvious from the letter.
      By reading into the way you have, then it is obvious that the company looking for a way to make the work from home option unpleasant enough that people will stop asking for it because they don’t like it and not because they have hard data to prove that working from home was less productive.
      Unlike my admittedly anecdotal story. My company did their own study. In 18 months of full remote, we took on 50% more work, never missed an SEC deadline and reviewed and streamlined all our processed and procedures. They determined that hybrid was better for everyone.

    11. I've Escaped Cubicle Land*

      I work for a state department. We increased productivity and surpassed collection records with work from home. And that was with a months long shut down. We had to buy our own desks and chairs if we didn’t have them already and also had to provide high speed secure internet. I did not have internet previously at home. I live in a rural area with only 1 possible provider. So I spend $130 a month for internet and spent $65 for a desk and $25 for a chair. New hirers are now being hired in as Work From Home and getting paid travel and meals if they have to go into the office for something. Those of us who have been working from home since the pandemic started are classified as “remote” and do not have those perks. Head honchos are trying to get this changed before we start joining the Great Resignation. If they tried cutting my paycheck by 5% (after no raises for several years) I’d just email them my resume and ask when they’d like their computer back.

    12. A*

      Wait, where does OP indicate a decline in productivity and dedication? Just because they work / want to continue to work remotely?

    13. OP for this*

      I’m not sure why there would be an assumption of a lack of dedicationand productivity. I have more work now than I did before the pandemic started and it is all getting done. Personally, I like WFH better, I’m not spending half my day chatting with people at their desks or doing other things that eat up time in an office in person. I haven’t had to call out sick for the entire pandemic. If I’m asked to work late with no warning I can usually do so easily because, what the heck, I’m already home so it’s not a huge imposition. I don’t think it’s asking to much to not have my pay cut to keep doing what we’ve already been dling for 2 years.

      1. tangerineRose*

        Most of us assume you’re getting at least as much work done from home. There’s a few people like Vince who clearly doesn’t think so.

    14. Texan In Exile*

      In my pre-pandemic job at an engineering company, I worked with people in China, Australia, Latin America, and Europe. Sometimes, I worked from the office, sometimes from home.

      We got stuff done. We were productive – even though we weren’t meeting in person. It can be done.

    15. yala*

      Do you really think the employees are 5% less productive from home? That’s more than the yearly CoL raise.

      I mean, perhaps if there was actual evidence that these specific employees were getting significantly less done, it might make sense. But unless there is, and the company shows it, it just seems petty. A punishment for people who want to not get sick.
      Or perhaps for people who found that working from home made their work better.

    16. Ori*

      What an unpleasant and unkind thing to say. My productivity and dedication did not decline one iota during WFH. And for a lot of people, 5% is not a ‘modest pay cut’ – it’s devastating, especially for those of us with underlying conditions who might feel coerced back into the office during unsafe conditions.

    17. nom de plume*

      “Obvious decline in productivity & dedication.”
      Excuse me? You know this how? This is you wildly conjecturing about at-home workers’ productivity based on… well, no data at all.
      The condescension doesn’t help either. Just nope to all of this comment.

    18. DocVonMittens*

      This is very out of touch. I’ve been remote my entire career. I helped build both Twitter and Lyft from my kitchen on fully remote teams.

      You can innovate and produce great work outside of an office. I’d never take a pay cut for being remote and no one in my industry would either. There’s too many remote options that’ll pay San Fran salaries for remote workers.

      I get that not all work can be remote but for those that can, it’s laughably out of touch to give remote employees a pay cut. Employers can adapt or get left behind.

    19. Falling Diphthong*

      Okay, I giggle-snorted.

      Also, you are conflating cause and effect: slash everyone’s wages is the cause, decline in dedication is the easily predictable effect.

      This seems like the start of an anecdote that ends “… and then we said ‘What’re they gonna do, quit?’ and then they did and no one was loyal enough to stay and save the business.”

    20. Public Sector Manager*

      With all sincerity, do you like to troll people all the time or just here?

      The Norwegians did a great study. They looked an innovation in an office. They looked at companies that had comfortable couches for group think, boards in conference rooms for writing ideas, open water cooler set ups that encouraged employees to get together and discuss ideas. One company even had an honorary mayor to walk the halls.

      After all that, they found that 90% of the innovation came from one-on-one meetings between employees in someone’s office. It didn’t come from a bunch of people sitting in the same place. It came from the same intimacy you can get between two employees hashing ideas out over the phone or by Zoom from their respective homes.

      And Vince, P.S. — you’re wages aren’t based on dedication.

  4. IHaveThoughts*

    What Middle Name Danger said, the research is pretty definitive that the average productivity doesn’t fall and often rises in work from home.
    What I want to know is why cut remote workers pay when they might actually cost you less (smaller space to rent), and be providing their own infrastructure–office, internet, phone, etc?

    1. AnonEMoose*

      Because we must punish workers for thinking they have value as people, not just cogs in the machine, and for showing other than complete devotion to whatever the employer demands ?

      I would expect a lot of people looking to leave this employer, whether or not they go back to the office.

    2. WellRed*

      Because they don’t actually want you to work from home. The pay it is to deincentivize WFH.

      1. tangerineRose*

        They probably don’t trust people to work from home. The sad thing is that people who don’t want to do the work are perfectly capable of not doing the work while in the office.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          This right here. “Nobody ever was unproductive while physically present in an office building!” said no one but Vince.

        2. Middle Name Danger*

          It’s not just trust – it’s forcing “culture”. When my partner’s company had to let people work from home they started realizing that some of the “perks” offered in-person were actually pretty useless. They got away from the constant messaging that their company was super cool and great to work for and made their own conclusions, which aren’t always flattering.

    3. Distracted Librarian*

      Because there’s this ridiculous idea in US culture that if something is pleasant or fun, it’s inherently worth less than something uncomfortable/painful (thanks, Puritans). If employees prefer working from home, then working from home is inherently less valuable to the company/less “good” and should be remunerated accordingly.

  5. DataGirl*

    Not sure when this letter was originally written, but with the Omicron variant sweeping through the world right now and more businesses closing/sending people home again instituting a policy like this right now is particularly outrageous.

    1. OP for this*

      I emailed Alison last month, I think. We’re all fully remote again for now and have been informed the pay cuts dont take effect until they re-open completely. So that’s something, at least.

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        Oh, good. At least some sense coming from your leadership! This new variant is ridiculously contagious, the food venues around me are closing for dining in, and for an office to actually reopen during this time would’ve been very questionable.

        1. DataGirl*

          My husband’s office reopened for the New Year- for one day. He went in Monday and by Monday night there was an email saying they were closing everything again due to the new variant. Across the border from us in Canada they are closing gyms, bars, restaurants etc. again. Some of our schools are closed due to too many teachers out sick, and I assume it’s only a matter of time before they are all closed, at least temporarily. In other words, it’s bad out there.

      2. DataGirl*

        I’m glad to hear that. Hopefully when they fully reopen things will also be safer? It’s still a terrible plan though.

  6. Xakeridi*

    I have a less charitable interpretation–they think by taking away money they’ll get people to give up the idea of WFH and deliberately punish anyone who continues to WFH. This will definitely get the more agile employees to leave. I am cynical but in my head I can already hear “No one wants to work any more” from upper management.

    1. Just J.*

      Per Labor Department reports, another 4.5 million people quit or changed jobs in November.

      When will upper management learn that the Before Times are not coming back?

      1. SomebodyElse*

        Meh… mostly low wage service sector jobs and November also had a high job start stat which points to most changing jobs. Not sure if that applies to the OP or the subject at hand since the majority of those jobs wouldn’t be WFH to start with.

        OP, my advice is to decide if you can live with your companies new policy. It sucks that this is a decision you have to make, but when they reinstitute it, you will ultimately have to decide if you are willing to live with it.

        If it does turn out to be a mistake by the company, then you’ll get the satisfaction of seeing them flounder to find new employees. If it’s not a mistake and they don’t suffer anything from it, then it’s no skin off your nose since you’ll be working somewhere under your preferred conditions. I think the wrong thing to do is to stay with resentment and hope they’ll change their minds. Just my $0.02.

    2. Me*

      Exactly what this is. They don’t want people to work from home so they are dis-incentivising it.

      As the saying goes penny wise, pound foolish.

      Wishing everyone in this company much success in their inevitable job search during this job seekers market!

    3. RagingADHD*

      Right? I mean, the LW talks about “optics,” but I’m not sure what other optics there are. Of course it’s a punishment.

      They aren’t even trying to offer two valid options – wfh or in-office. They are delivering an ultimatum “work in office or else.” Apparently they can’t quite afford to just lay off the people who WFH, so they’re gambling that enough of them will stay at the lower rate.

  7. Tessa Ryan*

    I’m not gonna lie— we were forced back to the office full time last spring after a year and a half with barely 3 days notice. I’d be tempted to take a pay cut to even have two work from home days! (Not that I think asking people to take a pay cut just to work from home is an okay policy.) One of the things I loved about working from home was uninterrupted time to focus on big projects. But any talk of allowing even one WFH day a week is shot down because my boss is one of those “if I can’t see you, you must not be working.” I feel for you letter writer.

    1. Kittykuddler*

      I’m kind of with you. My job can’t be done remotely, but if it could… savings in gas, commute time, lunches ect might offset a 5% decrease. My happiness would increase exponentially. So I think employers are counting on that trade off to be attractive, even if it is a really crappy way to treat employees.

    2. OP for this*

      If I was in the office and they said, you can work remotely if you take a pay cut, I would jump at it!! The problem is we’re already home and have proven we can work this way well. So a pay cut to keep doing what we’ve been doing is a head scratcher. I am very thankful to have the option to be remote at all, though.
      I am sorry your boss is one of the unreasonable ones….that has to be frustrating.

  8. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    There is a lot of truth in this statement from OP:

    “Some of us said we didn’t agree with the policy and refused to go back. In what seems to be a response to that…”

    Somebody in management wanted to retaliate, exhibit dominance, whatever. You have sucky bosses.

  9. Lab Boss*

    As the initial wave subsided in our area, my company made an effort to fully eliminate remote work because “lots of” departments had productivity losses and “lots of” managers fell out of communication with their teams and “lots of” metrics went down. When push came to shove it came out that it was easier for the company to make a blanket rule, than to do the hard management work of identifying who had problems and dealing with them, and who performed well and leaving them alone.

    It was worth the capital I used up, but my team finally got recognized for our performance. WFH is still just as in-force as ever for us (we couldn’t ever be 100% WFH due to the nature of the work). We’re still meeting our metrics, too.

  10. Salad Daisy*

    When my company instituted a 10% pay cut for “30 days” but it ended up being for many months, I very carefully reduced my productivity by 10%. If a company realizes they can get the same amount of work from you for less, why shouldn’t they do that?

    1. jm*

      when my job forced us to increase our days by 30 minutes then told us we only get a half hour for lunch, i started eating lunch at my desk and doing nothing for the full hour. they didn’t know i was browsing the internet instead of documenting client interactions.

    2. WellRed*

      I’m lucky I haven’t had a pay reduction but I would absolutely reduce my output in proportion. I don’t understand my coworkers who had their hours cut and then proceeded to let their paid work time bleed into no paid.

  11. Amber*

    What ppe is this workplace providing and what safety protocols do they have in place so that in person work is safe to resume? What sort of compensation are they providing if their workers contract covid while in the workplace? Does the 5 percent pay decrease apply to immune compromised folks or folks with other underlying health conditions?

    1. LemonLyman*

      I was wonder the same re: immunocompromised people, since I am one. But I’d guess that one could try to get an accommodation under ADA, which is an accommodation I had prior to covid, but was pulling teeth to get! My company was like “we don’t allow remote work.”

  12. NylaW*

    This is going to be one of those companies whining that “no one wants to work anymore” or “it’s so hard to hire good people” when it’s 100% that they are a crappy place to work.

  13. Carrotsick21*

    No. I left my job where I would be required to come back in the office and found a fully remote job with a huge pay increase. I am very productive and thrive on the flexibility. After two years of proven success working remotely, with employees who busted themselves to keep companies going, any manager who wants to gripe about phony losses in productivity or laziness are the ones who are delusional. And they’ll watch their top employees walk out their very physical doors.

    1. Lady Catherine de Bourgh*

      I manage a team of 20 people who are all 100% remote and they are amazing. People are productive when they have clear expectations, comfortable working conditions, and the autonomy to do the jobs they were hired to do.

  14. vulturespy*

    I like that Alison’s answer here specifically highlights the difference between the questions a) “Is this policy reasonable?” and b) “Should remote work be paid 5% less?” Those are different questions, and at least some of the comments here seem to be addressing question b). There’s a lot to discuss about question b)–research on productivity, morale, costs to the employee, costs to the employer, company output, etc. etc. And a lot of those questions have been covered really well in past AAM letters. But as Alison points out, “the blunt instrument of 5% pay cuts across the board regardless of position or performance says that this isn’t about reconfiguring job expectations and adjusting pay accordingly. It’s just a remote work penalty, because they think they can do it.” That’s question a), the real question in this letter, which is subtly different from b).

    1. Tali*

      Absolutely agree. If workers’ pay was broken down into sections–$ base pay, $ commuting allowance, $ location allowance to offset cost of living across different regions, $ home office infrastructure allowance–then you could easily say OK WFH does not qualify for commuting allowance, they now qualify for home office infrastructure allowance, their location allowance changes, no change to base pay. So the part based on work and merit doesn’t change, the parts aimed at offsetting other business costs do. This might work out to a 5% cut in what the worker receives, but much less likely to cause resentment.

      1. Public Sector Manager*

        Good employers would be absolutely transparent about this kind of thing. Bad employers won’t. Given the way it was presented, OP is not working for a good employer.

  15. Not a Cat*

    My husband’s company did this in 2020 only it was a 10% paycut. The only people we know that took it were females with child care issues or schools closed. It was basically an unwritten expectation that you weren’t a promotable employee if you took the paycut to WFH. The list is long of ridiculousness at that place…

    1. J*

      That is infuriating. Speaking as a woman with 2 kids whose school abruptly went back to remote instruction this week (and whose third grader is currently bouncing on our pandemic-purchase indoor trampoline 3 feet from my face), that is the kind of policy that can’t help but have a discriminatory impact. Even if things went back to “normal” tomorrow (whatever that is), the mostly-women who took the pay cut have widened their pay gap for the rest of their careers. Future raises, COL increases, even new jobs are going to be starting from 10% less than the people who didn’t have caregiving responsibilities.

      1. NNN222*

        Plus, they need to leave this employer if they ever want anything much more than COL increases because they’re now considered unpromotable. Fortunately, good employers don’t ask what you made at your last job so hopefully a new position would be the one thing where that 10% decrease wouldn’t continue to affect them.

  16. Jam Today*

    Are they going to take that 5% and use it to pay your internet, electricity, water, and heat / cooling providers directly? They’ll be saving all that money with a significantly reduced in-office workforce so it makes sense to me that they would just transfer the funds to your home-office utility providers.

    Right?

    1. WellRed*

      Actually they won’t save that, dollars to dollars. Rent lights wifi etc aren’t typically paid on a per employee basis. If I go in and need heat or ac it’s the same if it’s just me or half the staff.

      1. The OTHER Other*

        Well, in the first place your argument is the cost savings of remote work is small, you are conceding the point that it IS a savings, not a cost increase, for the majority of employees that WFH. Second, employers that continue renting buildings (and paying other fixed costs) for 200 people when only 50 people need or want to be in the office every day are being inflexible and foolish. Companies that adapt to the changes in the economy (and IMO Covid has merely accelerated trends that were already well under way towards remote work—my former company started having many employees go remote or desk-share in 2010) will survive, and companies that insist on policies that destroy morale with unpopular policies such as this one will not.

        1. WellRed*

          Sure but as others have pointed out, if you are locked into certain things you are stuck for awhile. After 2 years wfh our office is finally moving to a smaller space because the lease is up (we need a minimum office space even with most employees wfh.) Not sure why you assume morale destroying? It’s simply business.

        2. JustaTech*

          Yeah, that’s not an option in all industries. It doesn’t matter if the team on the third floor is fully remote or not, us down on the second floor have to have our labs to do our jobs, which means we can’t just leave the building. Not only have we signed a long lease, but there simply aren’t any smaller buildings with labs for us to move into. It’s not about the company being inflexible, it’s about the physical requirements of the industry.

          1. pancakes*

            Why wouldn’t subletting the third floor be an option? I think the extent to which this is a problem depends on local demand for real estate in addition to industry.

    2. Firm Believer*

      Wrong. They still have a hybrid office situation for some which means those costs don’t go away.

  17. It's hot chocolate season*

    I would take a 5% pay cut to work remotely. I’d take much more than that, even. But I’d take that pay cut to work somewhere else, at a company that values remote workers. If my current company offered a pay cut for remote work, that tells me that they don’t value remote work, and how can I trust them to evaluate my work fairly if I know that they have that bias?

    1. Distracted Librarian*

      Exactly this. By instituting a pay cut, they are literally and tangibly telling workers that remote work is less valuable than in-person work. If you have a choice, why continue to work somewhere that considers your efforts less valuable?

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      Right? If your company policy is “We will punish anyone who actually tries to use this perk” well, workers are going to cast their gaze toward a company that won’t punish them.

  18. A CAD Monkey*

    way way back in april 2020, we were allowed to work from home. i will admit my productivity was down, but i also had to figure a way to actually do my work as i didn’t have a wfh setup. 2 months later, wfh ended right as i had gotten into a grove and started to increase my productivity. had i been offered a pay cut to continue to wfh, i might have taken it.
    that said, op’s offered pay cut is completely retaliatory. this reeks of the “butts in seats” management style to me.

  19. Rachel*

    I would take the 5% cut and immediately start looking for a new job. In these changing times, employers need to be put on notice that employees are no longer taking the same BS that we took before.

    The employer used to have all the power, but that is shifting. I’m mid-level in my career and get calls/emails/LinkedIn requests almost daily asking if I am looking for new opportunities. I am loyal to my company because they let me work from home and treat me well.

  20. Elizabeth*

    I’m not sure I agree with “that being remote puts more burden on your on-site colleagues who end up picking up work that you can’t do from home or otherwise filling in for you, even if only in little ways.” That may be true, but it’s also true that (at least in my experience) it’s been a fair trade. Our WFH staff are putting in slightly longer/flex hours, so they are happily covering hours that would normally be covered by on-call staff. I have one colleague that offered to scan to me any physical mail, so in return, she scans me both hers and my invoices and I sort both. My home internet is better than in the shop, so I’m covering certain meetings and my shop guys have taken over some of my shipping. So on and etc…

    1. WellRed*

      It’s great this is working ( though I don’t think WFH is employees should be expected to work longer hours, which is basically a pay cut, no?) but at some point you run the risk of say, someone who’s getting paid a high level salary to do shipping, for example. This is company dependent of course but worth considering since it’s now going on two years.

      1. Oh No She Di'int*

        I’m glad you mentioned this. I am in this situation, as the only employee who’s been regularly coming into the physical office for almost two years now. Others come in unpredictably here and there mostly to retrieve items or handle an occasional very specific task.

        I am a high-level team manager, but 15% of my job now is rebooting the server, checking the mailbox, watering the plants, scanning documents, and so forth. At first, I was happy to pitch in. Now I’m beginning to feel a bit resentful as no one else has to do these things, and this really is not in my job description.

      2. Elizabeth*

        I didn’t phrase that very clearly – they’re not so much working longer hours but working outside of our core hours. One guy on my team starts 2 hours later due to his daycare schedule, but then he’s covering 2 hours past when our team would normally be off. Now he’s available to cover 2nd shift in our shop, instead of having an on-call.

    2. OP for this*

      We don’t really have the issue of people who stay home have in office things that become a burden for those who go in. Fortunately. My being home doesn’t impact the others on my department. And on the very rare ocassion where I would need to do something in the office, I wouldn’t mind going so someone else wouldn’t get stuck with it. But some people who went back in before we shut down again were pretty mad because there was nothing at all they were doing that couldn’t be done at home.

    3. Distracted Librarian*

      Another way to look at it: in a pandemic, more remote work makes the office safer for those who need to be there in person. It’s safest to have the onsite crew be as small as possible to maintain essential operations.

      1. tangerineRose*

        “more remote work makes the office safer for those who need to be there in person.” This!

      2. Middle Name Danger*

        This! I’ve been in person since the beginning (I even commuted carrying a letter on company letterhead from the CEO saying I was essential) and I was very upset when the possibility of returning in-person was floated. The 3.5 of us in office could distance easily…and I had way fewer distractions.

  21. Emily*

    If I could take a 5% pay cut and be remote long-term, I’d take it in a second. But it’s that long-term piece that’s so incredibly valuable, because I could live someplace with a lower COL and save a lot more than 5%. If it’s just short-term, and other companies are still WFH and paying competitively, then that is not a good deal.

  22. Beth*

    Adding this to my growing list of Ways to Inflict Maximum Damage to Employee Morale When It Would Be Just As Easy to Improve Morale Except It Would Require a Quantum of Compassion and Human Decency.

      1. Siege*

        I think we don’t use that phrase correctly. It clearly should be “the beatings shall continue until my morale improves.” And suddenly it all makes sense.

  23. Paid to answer emails*

    Reading this, I’m grateful my org (a nonprofit, no less) took the opposite approach. Anyone working on-site gets a stipend, and they’re open to feedback on how to phase into a hybrid work model – and not in a full agency-wide policy but reviewed by department and by role needs.

  24. A remote worker*

    That’s pretty insulting. I would seriously consider whether I still wanted to work there, and if I took the paycut I would be at least 5% less productive while I looked for a new job. In fact, I probably would be 100% less productive while I looked for a new job if I was treated like that.

  25. The Smiling Pug*

    Yikes OP. This company will probably be whining later about “no one wants to work” when all their employees walk out the door. *rolls eyes*

  26. Hiring Mgr*

    Remote work wasnt invented in March 2020. This has been happening (successfully) for decades

    1. The Smiling Pug*

      This is so true! My dad was a WFH contractor for about four-five years when I was in high school and starting college.

    2. cat socks*

      Agree. I work in software development and the nature of the work is such that it is fairly easy to work remotely. I’ve been in the industry for 20 years now, but I’ve been working with people from India and across the US for years. I used go into an office and sit in a cubicle on conference calls but now I sit at my dining table. Even when I was in the office, there were very few people that I actually interacted with in-person.

    3. Falling Diphthong*

      I’ve worked remotely for decades. People have been able to assess my work product by measures other than whether they can physically see my butt in a chair.

  27. OhNo*

    If you are bolder than I am, or really want to be a thorn in this company’s side, you might consider emailing someone to say that you don’t mind the pay cut, but how should you plan to bill the company for the work-related use of your personal computer, phone, and internet connection?

    I know that wouldn’t actually work, but sometimes it’s fun when people are being ridiculous to imagine snarky responses. And this is definitely a ridiculous situation that calls for snark. I wouldn’t trust any company that does something like this to have any respect for their employees.

  28. Gene*

    I think there are a lot of folks here glossing over the societal impact of everyone WFH forever. I’ll leave it at that.

    1. RabbitRabbit*

      Flip that – what about the societal impact of so many companies pre-pandemic forcing everyone to show up at buildings if they have perfectly-serviceably WFH jobs? Why is that considered “normal?”

      1. Oh No She Di'int*

        Before the pandemic, the fact that many more people went into a physical office did at least have a social leveling effect. Whether you were a white-collar bond trader or a grocery store clerk, both of you had to “go to work.” Now, those who can stay at home lean heavily toward the upper end of the income distribution, toward the well educated, and toward the English-speaking. Others are left to keep the organs of society running in much more dangerous circumstances. My solution is not to put everyone in more danger. I don’t have a solution. But if we’re going to talk about social impacts, let’s put all of them on the table.

        1. JM60*

          But that’s an impact of further improving things for the well-off in society, rather than makings things worse for those “at the bottom”. Ideally, it would benefit those at the bottom too, but it’s a net improvement.

          IMO, whatever the solution is isn’t to level the playing field by taking away WFH, but rather to find ways to improve things for those who can’t work remotely.

          1. Oh No She Di'int*

            I agree, I am not advocating taking away WFH in order to “level the playing field.” As I said: “My solution is not to put everyone in more danger.” I’m just saying that there is a social cost to account for here.

            Social inequality is in itself a social ill. There’s tons of research to support this. For example, the income wealth gap is socially destabilizing. In most advanced economies, income has risen for the wealthy and the non-wealthy alike, but much, much faster for the wealthy. So I would argue that it’s perhaps questionable whether improving things for the well-off, but not at all for those at the bottom constitutes a “net improvement”. It’s arguably the opposite and tends to destabilize society.

            1. agnes*

              Oh, No—-Thank you for putting an unpopular–yet valid and important–perspective out there. About 40% of our employees have jobs they cannot do remotely–(and yes, we have worked hard to see if they can–think drivers, maintenance workers, etc) which, not surprisingly, include most of our staff that is at the lower ends of the pay scale–and they report increasing amounts of stress and anxiety–and frustration that those who are working remotely don’t seem to really care –what they perceive is that as long as remote employees can work remotely they don’t care what happens to their colleagues who can’t. (not saying that’s true, saying it is their perception–which is important to know).

              Our remote workers on the other hand–white collar workers mostly– are generally reporting increased satisfaction with their jobs and working arrangements. Many say their health is better, they are less stressed, etc etc.

              It’s a growing divide and one that creates workplace tensions and class divisions. I”m not saying the answer is to make everyone come to a central worksite, but to minimize or be dismissive about those concerns is not doing anyone any favors. It will have a societal impact.

        2. RabbitRabbit*

          On the other hand, a whole lot of crap-paying “customer service” phone jobs had already been off-shored, which is very close to WFH in terms of function. More Americans are now doing those as WFH too, often with insane levels of employer spying on top of their previous tough metrics.

        3. Loredena Frisealach*

          There’s a distinction between those whose jobs permit WFH and those who don’t. But – there is a *very* positive social value to going remote for those jobs that can be, and that is that a lot of people with disabilities that prevent them from being physically in an office can now work remotely. We proved that there is a much broader array of work that *can* be done remotely!

    2. IndyDem*

      You don’t actually state if it’s positive or negative societal impact. I’m going with positive.

      1. Cera*

        One example is the childcare divide. When my young children get quarantined or have time off school, I can continue working, from home, with mild distractions. A person required to be in person will have to take time off work or pay for childcare. This continues the negative social impact for lower income families.

        Or, in my area a lot of men work factory jobs while women work in the office jobs. The women tend to wfh now and the men are unavailable during the day to help with those quarantined children. Thus putting more of the household divide on the women. Furthering the divide in the male female household responsibilities and adding more stress to already overburdened mothers.

    3. The OTHER Other*

      But that’s a straw man, many jobs can’t be done remotely, and many people DO want to work in the office, at least partially.

      And I think a lot of employers are glossing over the impact of Covid when they are requiring people work in the office without any safety protocols, whether their jobs require being at work or not.

    4. pancakes*

      If you think there are important ideas that aren’t being talked about, why not talk about them?

      It’s abundantly clear, though, or should be, that not everyone has gone WFH during the pandemic, and that the nature of some jobs is that they can’t be done from home. I don’t know how that’s escaped your attention two years into this. There are many, many, many workers who’ve had to continue going to work in person this whole time.

    5. Me*

      First of all not everyone can work from home. There are many many many jobs that need to be done in person.

      Second as someone above said, remote work wasn’t magically invented in 2020.

      Third there’s many many many companies offering in office work/hybrid and remote. There’s many many many people who do want to and feel they work better in the office.

      Fourth one of the major perks of remote work is better work life balance which is a net positive for society.

      Fifth for quite a few decades now, the work power balance has favored employers. That’s shifting and that is absolutely a good thing for society. People over corporations.

      So I’m a little confused at what this significant “societal impact” you reference is.

    6. emmelemm*

      Well, if *everyone* really worked at home forever, there’d be a lot less cars on the road and we *might* actually make a dent in climate change. So that’d be great.

    7. JM60*

      What societal impacts are you thinking of? What impacts most jump out to me are less traffic, pollution, and time wasted on the road.

      1. Rosie*

        Which also benefits people going into the office! I’ve had to be onsite this whole time but my commute went from 40-50min to 25min pretty much overnight.

    8. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

      That’s a slippery slope argument because nobody is saying everyone wants (or can) work from home permanently. Not even here has anyone said that.

      There’s a far greater societal impact doing the rounds anyway…the loss of so many people.

      1. HigherEdAdminista*

        This is an excellent point. There seems to be an extra hard push right now to get back to “normal” when the absolute truth is there is no world in which we are going back to 2019. Even if the virus was wiped out tonight (and I hope there will be a miracle that does that!) people have died. People have become disabled by Long COVID, which few want to speak about. We also have no idea, long-term, if there will be a post viral syndrome like post-polio syndrome from this virus.

        Yes, there is definitely a societal impact to people not commuting to business centers every day (or less people doing so). Where I work, there are several chain stores as well as mom and pop businesses which have likely suffered from people not being around as much and/or being reluctant to go in shops. But there are not only two options in this world, and I’m a little tired of people (especially in leadership) acting like there are. It isn’t a choice between everyone works from home and all these businesses are lost OR everyone goes about their business and tries to ignore the novel virus.

        We can accept that the world is changing, whether we wanted it to or not, and try to make the best outcome for all of us. If it means we can only sustain one Starbucks in an area instead of 5, well then, let’s help the people who used to work at the other 4 Starbucks get what they need to continue their lives, instead of shrugging and pretending like we haven’t suffered all these losses and changes.

        1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

          Agreed. A lot of people seem to not realise that this has been, and still is, a major disaster of epic proportions. The world won’t be able to go back to what it was before Covid.

          It can mean change for the better, and I’m desperately trying to cling to that hope.

          1. I've Escaped Cubicle Land*

            Keymaster of Gozer- I’m clinging to that hope too. I’ve commented to peers that life went back to the pace from my childhood. (70’s) We’ve finally seen what a work/life balance should look like here in the States. While some people miss all the events and gatherings, some of us are really enjoying a slowed down simple life and are determined to keep hold of it as the world keeps trying to open back up. Also the County next to mine (where the home office is located) is currently back in the Red Zone for community spread. So no thank you to the idea of returning to office.

        2. Tali*

          Absolutely. SO many people seem devoted to propping up all the Starbucks (and equivalents) even at the cost of people’s lives. The solution is not to keep doing things the old way and pretend nothing has changed. We have to make changes ourselves and adapt or else we will go extinct.

    9. Meep*

      Yes and no. My former manager hates the idea of anyone working from home but herself. She made my life a living HELL for the first part of COVID because I was spending 4-6 hours a day between 6 AM and 9 PM being gaslit by her as she complained about my productivity. My productivity suffered because any time I tried to talk to my other coworkers about things relating to my job she would blow up on me. At one point, she told me to stop talking to my own mother and only talk to her. I had to push back three times before she finally backed off on that one.

      It was only after I started forming a bubble of friends I could hang out with because we weren’t seeing anyone else that I got some of my sanity back. But having her alone as my earworm? I nearly killed myself. For me, being in the office is a godsend, but that is because I was in an abusive relationship at the time that was taking advantage of the isolation to abuse me.

      On the other hand, my husband mostly games with his friends online and they are all across the country. He was and is perfectly happy working from home these past two years. He still goes out with his coworkers on occasion, but otherwise, they stick to voice chat.

      I think it really depends on the temperament of the worker and what works best for them. For me at the time, as a person who had a weak constitution and couldn’t advocate for myself, it was bad. For someone who is stronger and don’t base their self-worth based on their job, it may be their cup of tea.

    10. SomebodyElse*

      :) Honestly that’s a thought provoking question and could really be argued one way or another (as can be seen in the few comments so far). It will be an interesting study over time to be sure.

      Do we get more isolated, have more MH issues, less support because of WFH (just examples off the top of my head)
      or
      Do we end up with more opportunity to pursue pleasure activities, have more time to strengthen non-work support and relationships, have less demands so better MH (burnout, stress, anxiety) (again… just quick random examples)

      Will there be a greater divide between outgoing social people and quiet homebodies
      or
      Will the playing field be leveled for outgoing social people and quiet homebodies

      What will the next generation of workers think… will they be happy to be out in the world every day after isolation during school
      or
      will they be even further behind on social and soft skills and be afraid of in person interaction

      1. Former Hominid*

        I just don’t think it’s a binary like that. If people have the less risk of going to work everyday they might feel safer going out more with like minded vaccinated friends in a safer situation because they aren’t extra more likely to spread covid that they caught from Janice at the office who loudly proclaims that it’s a “plandemic” or the boss who wont keep his nose in his mask. In a lot of ways, by challenging how we meet up and why and when, the pandemic has made me more social because it’s engaged my creativity. A lot of these binaries you posit are artificial ones.

  29. gawaine*

    Industry specific comment – if you’re in a services sector, where you pass costs onto the customer and usually lose work to the lowest bidder, your pay is usually heavily weighted based on working near a customer.

    I’m currently doing US government services. Here, we have our pay audited and based on market analysis for a work location. It’s a royal pain for me, because you can’t just look at pay based on metro-areas – there are micro-climates in defense-heavy areas like DC, Austin, Seattle, and San Diego. I have to justify why I’m paying someone more in one of the more expensive parts of those metro areas than the prevailing wage for the greater area, and I have to constantly re-justify it for contracts, raises, promotions, and hires. When someone moves to a telework position, it no longer makes sense to the government that they’re paying more for someone because they, at one point, had an office inside the beltway and they’re now living in rural West Virginia. So the justification falls flat, and I can’t pay those rates anymore.

    On the commercial side, they usually don’t get this kind of visibility. What they do have is competition, and if they’re paying for “Tea Kettle Developer I”, they’ll pay whatever the prevailing wage is for that. If you take geography out of it, then assuming you’re currently in a place with an above average COL index, you’ll find yourself competing with people who aren’t. That doesn’t mean the government doesn’t have a say, though. Companies will try to use their location to hype up their value, both to their customers and to local regulators and legislators. Often, the pork that supports a companies headquarters, like the new Amazon HQ, is based on the idea that they’re bringing people to the area. The legislators don’t like it when you don’t meet headcount targets.

    It was a common thing in the past for work locations to move, and if it moved to a lower cost of living area, you either took a pay cut, or they proudly said that you weren’t getting a pay cut – but you found yourself targeted for layoff, passed over for pay raises, or otherwise in bad shape until they caught up. I don’t know if it’s better to take a pay-cut upfront and know the situation, or if it’s better to think you’re OK and then be marginalized and replaced by someone cheaper. At least with the pay-cut, you can usually opt-out of it (or opt to be terminated and paid unemployment).

  30. RJ*

    A competitor to a company I once worked for is doing this in NYC now. They’ve been struggling for two years to staff their offices and have experienced a very high turnover across the board in all departments. My old company adopted a remote first policy, which they decided to adopt permanently, and have not only experienced a huge increase in profitability and project acquisition, but they also managed to open three satellite offices. Many companies will implement a salary reduction to those workers who work remotely and while this won’t end the policy, it will make an additional con to those considering new employment there or leaving existing employment.

  31. JM60*

    All else being equal, I would definitely accept a job offer that pays 5% less but is remote over a competing job offer for an in-person job. However, I’d be very resentful if my employer gave me a 5% penalty for going fully remote. I think that LOSS of an existing pay would really sting.

    What this company is doing is BS.

  32. Mannheim Steamroller*

    In other words…

    “Employees who work remotely save us money, so we will make up those savings by cutting their pay.”

  33. Mary Sue*

    We have had people move to cheaper parts of the country and still expect their (Bay Area) salaries. That’s not right. I’m all for remote work but compensation will adjust accordingly

    1. NotRealAnonForThis*

      That may be a little different. I’m probably not well versed enough to have an opinion here (with respect to moving to super cheap location away from Bay Area or other Other High Dollar Area and expecting to keep same salary)

      I’m not moving, I’m just beyond wanting to deal with the lowest common denominator coworker who can’t be bothered to read the safety rules that are sent to us weekly about “what to do if…” and shows up with a fever and a positive covid test on a Monday morning because “he has to talk to his manager in person to figure out what to do”. Because I don’t want to catch this nonsense again, I don’t want to bring it home to my medically vulnerable child, I don’t want to pass it along to others.

      The company I work for has robust controls, and plentiful PPE. But we also have idiots like I mentioned (this actually happened THIS week, y’all). My entire area is quarantined because of this idiot.

    2. Siege*

      There is absolutely no evidence that’s what’s happening for in this letter.

      And compensation is based on what your work is worth, not how much you spend. You can scale your argument to say an employer needs to pay more in higher-income neighborhoods and less in lower-income neighborhoods because rent isn’t the same in those areas, and now you’ve invented a new way to practice open, clear racism and other bigotries. Either my work is worth $100,000 or it’s not, but it’s not worth less if I’m in South Dakota.

      1. Hippo-nony-potomus*

        That just isn’t true. Pay is absolutely based in part on location, which is why the federal government has COLA adjustments to their salaries, the same law firm may pay differently depending on the city, and salaries are lower in lower cost of living areas. If you live in an expensive area, part of your compensation is based on how much it costs you to live there – full stop.

        1. IndyDem*

          I agree with your premise, regarding offering salaries to new hires. But changing someone’s salary based on where they live, that’s different.

        2. Siege*

          Those things are true across the scale of a company. They are not true across the scale of a worker. If I live in Seattle and work in Seattle and make $100,000 a year, why does my moving to Tacoma or Enumclaw or Ellensburg devalue my work? My work is being performed in Seattle even if I’m working remotely; it is to the benefit of the Seattle office.

          If I move from the Seattle office and go to work in the Spokane office, with its much lower cost of living, that’s the situation you’re talking about. I agree that’s fair. But if I still work for the Seattle office and live in Spokane, that’s not fair to say “your work is worth less than your direct colleagues, because your expenses are less, so you get a pay cut.” You’re paying me enough to meet my expenses with a discretionary amount of income over expenses that I agree is acceptable; you’re not paying me my expenses + 10% and if my expenses change my pay changes.

      2. doreen*

        Over the last couple of years, I’ve seen people say that either my work is worth X or it’s not – but it’s always in one direction. It’s never “My work is either worth $100,000 or it’s not, but it’s not worth more in NYC or San Francisco or Seattle. . . Compensation isn’t only about what your work is worth – it’s also about about how much the employer has to pay to get someone to take the job, and that in part has to do with the standard of living that can be expected. I don’t know precisely what standard of living you can expect in South Dakota on $100K , but I’m pretty sure no one earning $100K in SD would move to NYC for even $110K

        1. Siege*

          And I wouldn’t move to South Dakota for a million dollars. But there are people who want to increase their earning-to-spending ratio by living sonewhere cheaper, and they shouldn’t be penalized for that.

          1. Scarlet2*

            Not to mention that this problem wouldn’t arise if rents weren’t so inflated in so many areas. Even previously “low cost” areas are gentrifying in a lot of places and for many people, it’s mostly about being able to live in a 1 bedroom apartment with a decent quality of life, something which is getting harder and harder even for middle class people.

    3. IndyDem*

      So if you inherent a bunch of money, meaning you don’t need as much money as you did before, you’d be okay with the company slashing your salary?

    4. Hermione Danger*

      I don’t see why it should. Their value to the company isn’t changing. What the company gets from the services they provide is no different. It’s not like Apple is charging people less for their devices because they live in remote rural areas. Why should the employees who design those devices earn less based on where they live?

      1. JM60*

        This. If they’re worth their salary working fully remotely the in the Bay Area, then they’re also worth that much working from Fresno. The value of their work is the same in either case.

      2. Oh No She Di'int*

        Because a company settles on a compensation package based on many assumptions. One of those assumptions is: “You’re going to have to pay San Francisco rent in order to work this job.” If the employee is now no longer subject to those constraints, then the assumptions have changed.

        1. Siege*

          I have a car loan. My job requires me to drive, so when my last car bit the dust, I bought a new one.

          Your argument is that once I no longer have the car loan my employer can reduce my salary by $350/month because I have reduced my expenses. That is literally an insane argument. If my car gets destroyed after the loan is discharged, and I take out a new car loan at $400/month, literally the only consistent position would be expecting my employer to increase my wage by $400 a month. After all, my employer expects me to drive to do my job. It doesn’t work like that – so why should I take a pay cut for living in a cheaper area?

        2. JM60*

          But companies don’t pay employees living in San Francisco (but working remotely) more because their rent is higher per se; they pay them more because it generally takes more money to attract employees who live in San Francisco. There’s nothing wrong with such an employee to expect to not to be penalized for lowering their expenses by moving somewhere cheaper.

        3. Scarlet2*

          What about people who inherited a house in the area? Are they paid less because they don’t need to pay rent?

    5. Me*

      Why isn’t it right? That’s what you were paying them yes? How has their work changed so they are providing less value? When you hired them did you say $xxxxxx is because you live in the bay area, the rest is your base salary.

      If you want to offer a base salary with locality pay then do that. But retroactively punishing employees because you don’t think its “fair” is a good way to – guess what – lose employees. Employees are making it very clear they have no problem walking away – you might want to be less concerned about employees being able to live in a less expensive area and more concerned with retaining employees.

    6. AllowsItMight*

      Seems to me the definition of market rate is what you have to pay to attract the kind of employees you want. While that might change based on geographic area, if so many are moving, it also might not. Best to check on that before assuming compensation will adjust downward.

    7. OP for this*

      For us, this is a pay cut, with what seems like the assumption that you will stay in the area. The policy doesn’t explicitly say we can’t move, but it seems to be implied. I would not be thrilled if they said we had to take a pay cut if we moved to a cheaper area, but I can understand why companies would put that sort of policy in place and wouldn’t be upset about it. Although if someone will pay me big city money to live in pondunk with a teeny coat of living, I will certainly not complain

    8. Purple Cat*

      People always say “it’s only what you’re worth to the company that matters”. Which is true, but only to a point.
      The COL in the physical location matters when you expect your employees to be physically present. Because it’s all about supply and demand. Many companies learned they could outsource roles overseas and they sure as heck aren’t paying US wages there. It’s the same thing with US workers now (potentially) working remotely and living “anywhere”. You’re not going to pay the high Bay Area salaries if you don’t NEED someone that’s actually in the Bay Area.
      THIS aspect of more remote work will actually be really interesting to study/see the impact over time. What’s the impact (Negative or Positive) on some random North Dakota town that all of a sudden gets an influx of highly compensated tech workers living there and what impact does that have on that town’s cost of living and other residents of that town.

      1. Eliza*

        I definitely think we’re going to see a net movement out of high cost-of-living areas as people no longer need to live there in order to do their jobs. In some sectors that had started happening even pre-pandemic: the Bay Area isn’t necessarily a good place to start a new tech company any more, and hasn’t been since the mid-2010s.

    9. Falling Diphthong*

      Why is that not right? Serious question.

      Is remote worker Gina worth a certain amount to the company if she lives in Berkeley, a different amount if she lives in Irvine, and a third number if she moves to Shasta? Why should this be a savings or cost to the company, rather than to Gina?

  34. Hippo-nony-potomus*

    Having lived in large, expensive urban areas, as well as smaller job markets, I want to know the general location of this company. Prior to the pandemic, I think a lot of people had the general idea that their paychecks were based in part on the local cost of living: if the company wants you to live near Manhattan, it has to pay you enough to live near Manhattan. Commuting in those areas is often insanely expensive, unless you live very close to your downtown office; salaries will also take that into consideration.

    However, when remote work happened, companies no longer saw the need to pay people to live in San Francisco and adjusted their salaries accordingly – to wailing and gnashing of teeth.

    Alison calls it a blunt instrument. She’s not wrong, but the company might have also figured that people spend 5% of their salary, give or take, on commuting expenses. They might have figured that they cannot ever figure out how to pay Sally to live in Omaha, Steve to live in Phoenix, and everyone else to live in the Boston suburbs, so it’s 5% for the privilege of living in not-Boston.

    In a much smaller market, this would be a lot less reasonable.

    1. Hippo-nony-potomus*

      Doing some quick math on this: if you earn $60,000 per year, a 5% pay cut costs you $12/day. If you earn $120,000 per year, it’s $24/day.

      That’s probably a very reasonable estimate of what people spend commuting in a big city, if not understating it a bit. It is probably what you spend every day, factoring in wear and tear on your car, for a suburban commute. Many of those costs are often born after taxes, so you’re better off making $12/day less (pre tax) than spending $12/day on post-tax expenses.

      1. The OTHER Other*

        This is likely true on a pro/con analysis, but what’s even better is working from home without being penalized for it, which I suspect many people that currently WFH at this company will wind up doing, just not for this employer.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          ^This. “We offer that, but we punish anyone who uses it” is not really an appealing part of an employment offer.

          As with other types of flexibility–people who don’t need it this week might still value it if their circumstances change.

      2. Loulou*

        Not sure that math checks out for a big city where people use public transportation — my commute costs considerably less than that per day. I’m sure people could save way MORE than that, though, if they didn’t have to buy lunch, replace professional clothes/shoes as often, pay for a dog walker, etc. So I do see your point!

        1. Hippo-nony-potomus*

          Depends on which city and which form of public transportation. Off the top of my head, both the Massachusetts Commuter Rail and the LIRR cost that much each way.

        2. Siege*

          Mine too, and I drive. I’m not factoring in the cost of a car loan that exists regardless of whether I have a commute or not.

    2. Public Sector Manager*

      It’s clear that OP’s company is doing it to be punitive. And it’s a crappy way to treat employees. Look at it this way–is it worth $12 a day to pay people more to into the office 3 days a week?

      If they were trying to figure out costs, etc., they would also factor in how much the company saves by having a bunch of WFH employees. Granted, in the short term, there is no savings on electricity, office footprint, etc.. But the company is absolutely saving money on paper, copier use, scanner use, pens, toilet paper, water, coffee, etc., by having an employee WFH, unless those employees are stocking up on company supplies with a once a month visit.

      In the long term, the company can definitely save a lot of money by getting a smaller office. If they have 4 floors in a building, they might be able to shrink their footprint down to 3 floors with enough people working from home.

      If it was all about “how much do our employees cost us,” I doubt there would be a 5% reduction for WFH employees. I think a WFH employee saves an employer as much as the employee saves as not commuting.

  35. Lauren19*

    Does OP live in a high cost market? Our salaries are pretty clear on what is base comp and what is COLA. If you move into a role that does not require you living and working in a designated market, you don’t get COLA (since the choice to live there is now yours, not the company’s).

  36. Alice*

    I might have taken the pay cut, I’ve had jobs where where the commute and buying lunch/coffee cost definitely more than 5% of my salary. However I would also have started looking for another job, plenty of companies right now are staying fully remote with any pay cut BS. I’m speaking from experience since I quit my previous job after being required to work in the office through the pandemic in very unsafe conditions, and I got a fully remote job with a nice pay bump. Matter of fact, my current company just announced that 2021 was great, we exceeded all our sales & satisfaction targets, and they have no plans to go back into the office fulltime ever. They’re letting us pick if we want to buy from home or the office or a mix. So excuse me if I laugh thinking about my old boss who would say that work from home wasn’t real work, and then spent most of his time at the water cooler making offcolor jokes with his pals…

  37. SLR*

    A pay cut??? Is this similar to what some employers were doing to remote employees who relocated to lower cost of living areas? By all means, give the in-office employees a $$ bonus if you like, a form of hazard pay, if you will. But dishing out pay cuts to people who choose to work from home is a really quick way to demoralize your workforce and lose them to more reasonable employers.

    I’ve been working remotely since March of 2020 and I can’t imagine going back into the office full-time. My job is done exclusively over phone and email, even when I was in the office my job was conducted solely over phone and email with external vendors and internal clients. I’m very lucky that my job can easily be done remotely from anywhere with no loss of productivity or metrics. In fact, my team’s productivity has only increased and we’ve streamlined so many of our processes, so much so that upper management has been very impressed with us.

    I moved to a lower cost of living area further away from Boston, further away from my office. It has improved my quality of life and my financial situation immensely. Thankfully I work for a company and a manager who recognize that a productive and happy Workforce is the type of Workforce they want to have. We’ve been told that as long as we keep our productivity up, we won’t need to go back to the office except for occasional instances for important meetings or trainings. And with Omicron going around, I can’t see that happening anytime soon.

    I don’t understand companies Doling out pay cuts to remote workers, if they’re doing the same exact job with the same exact role and responsibilities as an in-office employee, it just comes across as really harsh. Good luck with that.

  38. hola my peeps*

    I’d happily give up 5% of my pay for the convenience of working at home and for the record I think for every person who is wildly successful and efficient at home there’s another at the opposite extreme. Everyone I know has seen this during the pandemic.

  39. Koa*

    Just to offer another perspective, a Company doesn’t necessarily save money by people WFH if there’s still employees going into the office. Heat and other utilities, internet, rent/lease costs, etc are still expenses that aren’t affected by the number of people in office. Also, many companies opt to pay more to account for a long commute, or if the employee has to pay for parking or public transportation….expenses the employee would no longer have to pay if they’re WFH. Yes, it would have been better to incentivize those who chose to come into the office but the money to do that has to come from somewhere. There’s a huge benefit to working from home, if there weren’t there wouldn’t be so many workers not wanting to go back to the office. I would hope the Company is still paying market value for the job/qualifications they have even at the lower rate of pay but OP can do some research and find out.

    1. Firm Believer*

      And there are a ton of people commenting here that they would do it, which means it might actually make sense for everyone on some way.

  40. Aphrodite*

    I’d take it in a heartbeat–and not be resentful in the slightest. I do have a very comfortable private office and work there fine but it would be a treat to be able to work at home full-time now that I am into my own home with a guest bedroom I can convert to an office. Sure, I’d have to cut back on some expenses but it would be worth it to me.

    1. Meep*

      Depending on how far you live from the office and gas prices, it could already be cheaper. Same if you are a person who goes out with coworkers often like my husband. I would still take it gladly, but be mildly annoyed.

      1. Velawciraptor*

        During a pandemic, where WFH helps reduce workplace transmission, it’s not merely a “perk.”

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        If a company starts attaching a 5% of wages price tag to any perk–work from home, using the parking garage, flex-time, having doughnuts on Fridays–employees will view that as punitive. Because it is.

      3. Your Local Password Resetter*

        It’s a darn safety measure. One they had to brow-beat upper management into implementing.
        And it comes with an unjustified paycut. Never be grateful because someone is sabotaging you out of spite.

  41. awesome3*

    It’s an interesting time to ask people to take a pay cut, because so many other places are trying to attract workers. I wonder how it’ll play out.

    1. June*

      I think there is a line of people wanting to work fully remote even at a slightly lower salary. You make it up with savings on commuting costs.

      1. allathian*

        It’s not necessarily a saving. I haven’t done the math but I suspect that the increase in our utility costs has more than compensated for the savings in commuting costs (both my husband and I take public transit to the office).

        1. Jackalope*

          Yeah, I commuted on bicycle so the utility cost increase has been significant. I also brought my own lunch so no decrease in food costs, no dogs so no pet care costs going down, etc. I even wear roughly the same clothes I could have; a bit less formal than I would tend to wear in the office but any of it I COULD wear to the office. I do appreciate WFH now, so I’m not arguing that it doesn’t have its upsides, but my costs definitely went up.

  42. Flexible Millenial*

    I think this across the board pay cut is absurd. Honestly, companies should be competing to keep workers and if the past two years have shown us anything, remote work is the future. Policies like this drive people to seek greener pastures at employers that prioritize flexibility and focus on actual outputs rather than having butts in a chair in person for 8 hours a day. I know that if this were happening at a place where I work, I would be making sure my resume is up to date and would start looking for employment somewhere that would let me have the flexibility to work remote or hybrid. I say this because that’s a priority for me, obviously will be different for everyone.

  43. SC in NC*

    First things first, the pay cut is a shitty move and from a business perspective makes no sense unless their aim is to force people back in the office. For my personal experience, I’ve been remote since March of ’20. At times, my productivity was higher but there were plenty of times when it suffered. One thing I’ve come to realize over the 6 months is that I felt very disconnected from the work no matter how much effort I put into staying abreast of things. As such, I started working a hybrid week with Mondays and Fridays WFH and in the office for the middle of the week. So far I like it the best. I feel like I’m plugged-in again but can still take advantage of non-office time. Admittedly, our office has done a good job of handling the health protocols and the office is sparsely populated but if you have the opportunity to flex your work week, you may want to give it a try.

  44. Belle*

    Alison-

    What do you think about companies that are changing pay based on where the employee lives since their remote employees are paid based on geography? This is what my company is doing now. So an employee could see their pay go up or down if their office was in one geography band and their home is in another. Or even another state where they are just entering.

    1. hola my peeps*

      The government does that already. If you live in San Francisco as a GS-12 you make far more than a GS-12 in Mississippi doing the same work.

    2. Eliza*

      I think it depends on whether there’s an actual business need to have workers living in specific geographic locations. Companies in my industry generally pay everyone the same whether they’re in New York, Tulsa, or Manila, since the nature of the work means that it can be done from anywhere as long as the person has the right skills. On the other hand, if you really *need* workers who live in New York, you’re going to have to pay enough to attract New Yorkers.

  45. Sedna*

    I have a number of medical conditions that make me more vulnerable to catching and to developing severe complications from COVID. In practice, that means I have had to work exclusively from home during much of the pandemic. (Fortunately my current position allows me to perform 99% of my duties from home.) I would be somewhere beyond angry if I was told I had to take a pay cut because of, effectively, my pre-existing medical conditions.

    1. OP for this*

      I didn’t ask, but I am not certain if the pay cut would apply if one was doing WFH strictly for medical reasons. I would hope not.

  46. productive in PJs*

    Shocking that the company is trying that stunt in this job market. I’m in tech, and I get 3-4 solid leads from recruiters in my inbox or voicemail every week, all of which I politely turn down. If my company cut my pay for staying remote, I could rustle up some other options pretty quick.

    Instead, my company read the writing on the wall and closed the local office, making us all officially remote workers. We were all collaborating by Zoom and Teams already, with most of the team in other locations. Now we can do so from our quiet home offices instead of from a noisy office where everybody is on a Zoom call from their desk. The company is saving money because they don’t need to pay for the office space and can more easily offshore the less senior-level jobs because there is no expectation of having people get in a room together. (If I were junior/entry-level in the US, I would probably be less cheerful about this particular bit.)

  47. Bookworm*

    I’ve heard this is a thing, with companies cutting pay of people who are choosing to move to and work from places with a lower cost of living. It sucks.

    Sorry you’re dealing with that, OP.

  48. Meep*

    The one thing COVID taught me is how dysfunctional business practices are in the United States. Like I already knew that. But at least, I thought, most salaried companies (including my own) would want to at least /try/ to give the appearance of concern as they were wringing you for all you’re worth.

  49. Choggy*

    We went remote in 2020 because we HAD to, though some of us could not due to being front-line workers. We had to pivot, develop new processes and implement new technologies. I think it was one of the greatest times of innovation for our company. Any company that would reduce pay across the board for working remotely is not a place I want to work. Thankfully, I don’t. We are back to a hybrid schedule, but it’s still pretty flexible. Due to the Covid numbers, we’ve been fully remote for the past two weeks and we haven’t missed a beat.

  50. zehuxocu*

    It is a blunt instrument. Some folks really struggled with WFH for a variety of reason & have really looked forward to going back at least some days. But other folks (& they’re not an insignificant percentage) actually thrived WFH. My productivity skyrocketed & I realize that makes me incredibly lucky to not only have a job that can be performed remotely but to have a WFH situation that allows me to focus on work.

    For me, it’s 10 more hours a week, I don’t have to pay for public transportation, I don’t take up a desk, I don’t take up any space. If my company suggested they were going to cut my pay going forward, I’d be looking for another job immediately. Again, I know I’m lucky.

  51. anonymous73*

    When you WFH you are most likely saving money. I’m saving on gas and wear & tear for my car. My sanity is also being saved for not having to drive in rush hour traffic. I may have had a few startup costs to set up an office in my home, but in general I’m not spending as much by being remote. And I am just as productive, if not more, at home. That may not be true for all, but assuming someone is less productive because you don’t have eyes on them all day is BS.

    If a company is paying rent for a large office space and 75% of their workforce decides to go full time remote, they’re paying for unused space and utilities. So I can understand why a company may want to pay their employees less to WFH than they would pay another employee to do the same job at the office.

    BUT… the way this place is going about it is horrible and clearly out of spite because of the reaction to the new COVID policies they put into place. And they’re going to end up losing good employees because of it.

    1. Dutchie*

      Maybe the costs associated with your car are down, but what about your electricity and heating bills? Unless you already had members of your household home during the hours you were commuting and at the office before you, you can expect to pay more for those.

      (And even if people were home, if you have to heat or cool a room that were previously untouched, you might see a difference in what you spend on climate control in your house.)

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        Add to this the need for your internet and cell phone service to work flawlessly. Even though I am definitely saving on the balance by being WFH (in my specific edge case, if I’d stayed in the office, I’d likely be needing to replace my car by now, which is one heck of an expense), before fulltime WFH, I didn’t mind it if my personal calls dropped or my home internet crashed periodically. After going remote, I’m suddenly willing to pay extra for internet that will stay up and for a cell phone plan that includes a hotspot (in case my internet does not, in fact, stay up).

        As for the company, I’d say it depends. I saw companies in my area that sent people back into offices long ago, and others that shut their offices down. I don’t have enough data, but in my few anecdotal cases the in-office companies owned their office buildings, whereas the remote ones had been renting, and got out of their leases, or let them run out and didn’t renew. I can see how a company might lose money if they’re trapped in a large, empty office building that they own.

      2. anonymous73*

        I’ve been WFH for almost 2 years now, and before that I WFH 2 days a week. My heating/utilities have not increased. I jut dress warmer/cooler during the day when my heat/AC isn’t running at the same temp. And to address the comment below, I already had Wi-Fi and didn’t have to upgrade that either. I realize not everyone’s situation is the same, and I’m not justifying this company’s actions, but in general a lot of people do save money WFH.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      If a company is paying rent for a large office space and 75% of their workforce decides to go full time remote, they’re paying for unused space and utilities. So I can understand why a company may want to pay their employees less to WFH than they would pay another employee to do the same job at the office.

      This doesn’t actually make sense–the office space and utilities are a sunk cost in this scenario no matter the physical location of the employees. So it shouldn’t affect pay. Only if being remote is substantially more expensive for the employer would this sort of policy make sense.

      1. anonymous73*

        So if a company is renting out an office space that’s mostly empty because the employees chose to WFH they’re not losing money? MMMkay.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          Literally yes.

          Unless there is an increase in costs such as IT, which is true in some cases but hardly a given.

          Gnashing your teeth while saying “Gosh darn it I would never have signed that lease for all this space had I seen a global pandemic coming in 4 years” is not actually raising your costs as an employer. It’s just identifying a potential cost savings that you can’t yet take advantage of because your lease runs another 8 years.

  52. Mayflower*

    This seems reasonable to me! If it takes you half an hour to get to work (getting ready + commute) that’s about 12% of an 8-hour workday. 5% less money for 12% more life seems like an awesome trade off.

    1. Nanani*

      Except if your commute didn’t take that long, or didn’t cost that much (public transit!) then the math doesn’t add up.

      And it doesn’t even cover the costs shifted onto employees who need to upgrade their internet, buy a printer, have heat and electricity on all day, etc etc etc.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      By this logic, the company would look at the distance each person commutes, and then slash wages based on a short commute length.

      That’s not usually how the value of labor is assessed.

    3. Your Local Password Resetter*

      Do they give higher salaries to people with longer commutes? Or more expensive cars?
      Or does this calculation only run one way?

    4. Tali*

      But the company doesn’t pay you to get ready and commute if you go into the office, so why should they stop paying you for that time? Since they never paid you for that to begin with, it’s just a pay cut.

    5. Scarlet2*

      The time you spend commuting is not actually paid though… Your workday starts when you arrive at the office. Otherwise, people who have an 1 hour long commute would be paid more than those who only take 20 minutes to get there.

    6. STG*

      Yea, my commute costs are not the companies concern, nor should they be used in any sort of salary calculations.

      My value doesn’t change because I live 30 minutes away vs. next door.

  53. Evvie*

    Could this end up being a legal/discrimination issue regarding women or parents?

    I’d imagine based on the last couple years more women will stay home because they’re still expected to be the primary caregivers. Particularly until little ones can all be vaxxed, I could see parents not wanting to send kids to daycare or school. So, parents (and, probably, mostly female parents) are being told “either take a pay cut or send your kids into a situation you feel is unsafe.”

    1. NewYork*

      MANY non parents are already pissed at having to do more than parents. Even if you are working remote, you need to figure out child care (which can be school, relatives, whatevre) . Many of the non parents do not fall for this, well, I make it up at night.

      1. Tali*

        Yeah screw parents, why can’t you just “figure out” child care when schools/daycares are closed and you have to isolate away from relatives? Just put your vulnerable unvaccinated child somewhere unsafe, because what is really important is the Work.

      2. Evvie*

        Yeah I’m not a parent. By choice. I do not want kids.

        I also would rather not see toddlers get covid and am happy to do extra work to prevent it, as some things are more important. I also spent my first career working with families in poverty, so maybe I have an extra dose of empathy.

        But if you would like to answer my actual question regarding potential legal liability rather than changing the subject, that would be great.

    2. KH_Tas*

      My understanding is that yes, it disadvantages women (and the disabled, immuno-compromised, etc), but I don’t know if the companies can actually be made to stop doing it (NAL etc).

  54. James W*

    I have been WFH for 7+ years for 3 orgs and was not asked to take a pay cut when my employer closed up shop locally and centralized the op in another state. The most valued employees were offered to WFH at current level and the rest were told their jobs were gone unless they opted to relocate at their own expense. Not many took up the offer.

    At the time (2016) I calculated that I was saving about $4,000/year by WFH, not including my time commuting (at that time I was commuting about 45min each way). Dry cleaning, wear & tear on my car, lunches out, haircuts ;) all add up.

    Truth is, I was way more productive WFH then and now. Quality of life is better, my expenses are reduced. I realize that in light of The Great [Resignation, Reassessment], demand for workers is higher and this individual has more power to negotiate (and probably should) but being very aware of the value is important too.

  55. NewYork*

    Part of what people get paid is market based. If a lot of other similar employers are requiring all people to come back, yes, market says pay rate for remote may be less

  56. MexiBabe*

    Allison’s so pro-labor these days that I’m starting to question the value of her advice…..

    1. I'm Just Here for the Cats*

      Why do you say that she is pro-labor, especially in the context of this letter? a lot of people would not want to or be able to take a 5% hit on their income for doing the same exact job.

    2. Ismonie*

      Alison has always been against any policy that is applied to all employees without regard to whether it is warranted by individual circumstances or metrics. This labor vs idk who mindset is also weird to me.

      1. Dutchie*

        Allison saying that effectively giving people a 5% paycut while not changing anything else is going to be bad for morale is not a particular pro labor position.

        1. Jackalope*

          Yes, this. The OP even stated in one of their comments that if the office had been all in-person and then the employer had announced that WFH would be available but at a 5% pay cut, the OP would have been fine with that. The mistake the employer is making is that after 2 years of WFH and getting their job done, including (if they are like most offices I’ve heard of) an adjustment period at the beginning when everyone was scrambling to figure out how to make it work, including for some people working in very difficult circumstances for one reason or another, they are now suggesting a cut in pay for no change in actual work. It’s never going to go over well to tell employees that they’re going to get a 5% pay cut for absolutely no change in the work they’re doing. And as has been pointed out a lot recently, this is currently a worker’s market. The employees have the option of finding another job instead of taking the pay cut. (And honestly, if I were working there, I would be willing to move to another job and take *the same pay cut* if it were the standard pay at the new company, since that would just be the regular pay instead of a slap in the face.)

    3. pancakes*

      It would be more interesting to hear why you think this answer is wrong (or misleading? or . . . ?) than it is to hear that you simply disapprove.

    4. Your Local Password Resetter*

      No such thing as being too pro-worker. Unless you’re in the upper class exploiting people, but then you can step on a lego.
      And that hasn’t really changed by the way, she always supported labour rights in this column.

    5. Former Hominid*

      So by that argument- in order to be a good manager you need to be anti-labor? That seems to be an easy slide back to the days of child labor and no weekends and a malnourished underclass desperate for the scraps of industry. We’re not going back.

    6. Ori*

      Excuse me? You think she should be anti employee? Why? Why do you see the manager / employee relationship as inherently adversarial?

    7. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Lol, heaven forbid someone running a workplace advice column is pro-the actual people who make up that workplace. Why in the world would it make you question the value of her advice? Especially now, with the great resignation happening, isn’t any additional insight into why people are walking out on their jobs a good thing?

    8. Dawbs*

      There’s a reason a lot of us read as having echoes of “but i thought ‘ask a MANAGER’ would side with managers” energy.

      1. MexiBabe*

        Dawbs has made the point more eloquently than I can.

        The value of this website is supposed to be that workers will hear the management side frankly and candidly (Ask A Manager).

        Here, the company offering a 5% cut in exchange for permanent WFH is not warm and fuzzy, but is also far from BS.

        There are certain intangible benefits managers get from being able to manage their teams in person. I totally agree that many people are able to perform their jobs just as well remotely. That is not the same as saying that there is zero difference between employees who make themselves available at the business premises and the ones who don’t . Particularly without taking the nature of the business into account.

        1. pancakes*

          If this oddly coy comment passes for eloquence to you, I think your standards are not nearly as lofty as you seem to think they are.

          Your misreading of the title as promising a view into a monolithic mindset shared by management in any and all fields is similarly off-base. There’s far more than one view on what good management looks like.

          I’m also not sure what you mean by “intangible” benefits. If the benefits truly cannot be defined or described in any way that can be communicated, it seems to me that management isn’t thinking lucidly about what the benefits are. There aren’t many aspects of day to day work that are outside the realm of human perception. Being able to talk to one another spontaneously, for example, is a benefit of working alongside others, but it’s hardly intangible.

        2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          But the managers are also being offered the 5% cut for WFH.

          The site you’re thinking of would be Ask An Owner.

        3. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          Also, wait a moment – isn’t “but i thought ‘ask a MANAGER’ would side with managers” a quote from a manager who was an absolute hot mess, and still wrote in expecting support? I don’t think the point that Dawbs made is the one you think they made.

          1. dawbs*

            yup.
            I was saying AAM is “so pro-labor these days” sounds an awful lot like “But shouldn’t a manager side with other managers.

            Not sure how I should have worded it .

      2. pancakes*

        I’m not sure who “us” is here, but it seems to be people who don’t pay much attention to what they read. Is it meant to be self-evident why managers would have such an adversarial view of the workforce? That was traditional in manufacturing, but we’re not in the 19th century, and many, many, many people don’t work in manufacturing.

          1. pancakes*

            No one is demanding that you use big words to explain, but it isn’t self-evident why you think that’s going too far, or what you think a better answer would’ve said instead, or why you think all managers should have one unified point of view.

            1. MexiBabe*

              5% in exchange for never coming in is reasonable because people being physically away from the office are harder to manage — ta da!

              1. pancakes*

                That’s simply not true for all types of work. The idea that good management is looking at people to make sure they’re sitting in the right place only applies to certain types of jobs. I’m going to quote someone’s comment from earlier because I think they put it very well:

                “What I’m hearing here is that you don’t know how a boss could possibly have a set of metrics that look at an employee’s performance beyond a simple “to-do checklist.” Management who can’t create a complex way to assess overall productivity and drive is weak management. Don’t be a weak manager, and don’t accept that weak management is the best it can get.”

                I will add, I don’t think it has to be particularly complex to have other metrics besides looking at people and overhearing what they’re talking about. Those are good metrics for a front desk person, for example, but for other jobs they have nothing to do with productivity or performance.

              2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

                people being physically away from the office are harder to manage

                That must explain the last 15-20 years of nonstop offshoring.

                I swear, sometimes I feel that some of the commenters on here are posting from a time machine whilst on a trip to the past.

    9. Anonymous Luddite*

      If Alison’s coming down in favor of workers more often, does that she is pro-labor or that the management is becoming increasingly worse? (I’m betting on the latter.)

  57. June*

    I think it’s reasonable. Working from home is a huge perk. Those of us who have not had one day of work from home would probably like to have that option. I wish I could work from home. I’d happily give up five percent.

      1. Jackalope*

        You can argue that positions that can be WFH are more likely to be white-collar and so more likely to belong to someone with greater privilege. I hardly think it’s a sign of “entitlement and privilege”, however, to object to performing a job successfully for 2 years and then being told you’re getting a random 5% pay cut because your employers want things to change for no reason that affects the outcome or quality of your work.

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          + 100, WFH is only a privilege in the same sense that sitting down at your desk while you work is a privilege. That not having to lift heavy weights for your work is a privilege. That flexible hours and not being written up for being 30 seconds late is a privilege. These are all advantages of some jobs that other jobs sadly cannot have. Does not mean that an accountant has to be made to lift weights for work just for the hell of it.

          And let’s not forget that for many of us, WFH really started decades ago when we were handed pagers and laptops and given instructions on how to log into work from home on nights and weekends. While still being required to come into work during normal work hours every day. Hardly a privilege.

      2. Tali*

        So when the employer has more bargaining power, that’s good and the way things should be, but when employees want to be paid the same when they are asked to stay home during a global pandemic, that is entitled and privileged.

      3. Middle School Teacher*

        I completely agree. I remember many times people complaining about delivery people etc while they were nice and safe at home. I also remember Alison’s thread for workers who were onsite during the entire pandemic and how it was hijacked by people complaining that “work from home is so hard”. The privilege here is strong.

      4. Ori*

        Hi Fiona, can you explain to me why you think not wanting to risk death, completely needlessly, is ‘entitlement’ and ‘privilege’ in your view?

        I’m speaking as someone with an underlying condition by the way, and as a person who was forced back into a maskless office at the height of the pandemic.

      5. Parakeet*

        This is a real crabs-in-a-bucket mentality. Worker power is a societal good, and it’s a good thing for people to want (and demand) as good of working conditions as the natures of their particular jobs allow for (the flip side of this is that people doing in-person frontline jobs should get hazard pay or similar).

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          This is a real crabs-in-a-bucket mentality.

          Oh my god, so much yes! And you’re right that working conditions improving overall will mean that in-person frontline workers will benefit from it too. (The opposite is probably also true.)

    1. Nanani*

      It’s not a perk. It’s a safety measure for a pandemic.

      Everyone else staying at home made your job safer.

      1. Firm Believer*

        People are not wanting permanent work from home because of the pandemic. That was temporary. They want permanent work from home because they want the flexibility.

        1. Velawciraptor*

          The pandemic is not over. Don’t refer to it in the past tense. Accommodations for the pandemic are still necessary. Even if they wind up being temporary, that doesn’t mean they need to be over.

      2. June*

        Ha ha. I’m a front line medical provider. Covid in my face daily. Would love to work even one hour at home. Happily for a small pay cut.

        1. pancakes*

          Would you be happy to have patients visit your home, or do you mean you would happily take a pay cut to switch to another type of work? I’m not trying to be snarky but it’s not clear from your comment whether the work you do and have been doing throughout the pandemic is work that could be done just as well from home. If you work in billing or something, of course you should be able to work from home, and without a penalty, but it doesn’t sound like that’s your situation. If you want out of the field altogether, that’s super understandable too, but it’s less understandable why people whose work can be done in an office or from home should be paid less simply for doing it from home. Asking for a raise for yourself and your coworkers makes a lot more sense than asking for other people in entirely different industries to be paid a bit less. It’s not as if that 5% is going to wind up in your pocket. It’s going to go the executives in their industry.

  58. Sans Serif*

    This is the first time I’ve heard of this happening. Everyone I know who was able to stay at home had no penalty. I think what’s going to happen is that the best employees will leave for companies that don’t take this punitive approach. Companies have always done crap because they can get away with it. Now employees aren’t putting up with it. Good.

  59. Wintermute*

    In my industry (IT) remote is rapidly becoming the norm. Companies are already having to offer a premium if they insist on butts-in-seats.

    Depending on how marketable your skills are it might be time to start looking, because there’s a lot of fields where there’s a TON of openings right now, between people deciding to retire and people resigning to dodge vaccine and mask mandates. Their loss can be your gain.

    1. Magc*

      A friend and former co-worker who is in a IT department had to return to the office this week; she has at least a couple of medical conditions that put her at higher risk for covid complications. When she arrived there, it turned out that the IT department was the ONLY department that had been ordered to return to the office.

      Her manager has a definite butts-in-seats attitude, but that bit him hard: one of his more technical staff had requested permanent WFH, and when HR (under his direction) didn’t allow it, said staff quit without notice. She said he didn’t tell anyone in the IT department; they figured it out on their own. Schadenfreude FTW…

  60. Ruzek*

    I read through a lot of the comments and got mired in the big ones about productivity metrics, laziness, cost cutting, budgets, etc. All I’ve got is that I work with clients and then write long diagnostic reports about each client. I usually have one day a week where I’m just writing and not directly interacting with my nine-building workplace beyond my desk, where my time is often drained by the overly chatty colleagues that I’m forced to share an office with as well as other people dropping in with random convenience questions and office “team building” shenanigans (I’m not part of these teams; my office is in their building). I often have to crunch the rest of the reports at home, on my own time, or work late on my client days. I’m expressly not allowed to write my reports from home using my work laptop, despite being able to work twice as fast from home and get twice as much done. Rather, I have to commute 30 miles one-way to my office desk to use my work laptop and “count” my time. I don’t know if I’d take a 5% paycut to be able to WFH (certainly not for one day), but there’s a ridiculousness to pushback and penalty on working from home when it makes sense. Trust your people. (P.S. My boss is hands-off and routinely says she doesn’t care what I do at work, so long as my deadlines are met, but that doesn’t extend to WFH. WTF.)

  61. Thorny Situations*

    I worked for a privately held company that cut everyone’s pay 5 percent for a year or so. This occurred years BEFORE the onset of the pandemic. No, we didn’t profit share in good times. Imagine the injustice of that.

  62. agnes*

    It’s a crap move that a lot of companies are considering. The perceived value of remote work has made companies start thinking of it as an employee benefit–and therefore fair game to monetize as “compensation” — rather than simply a shift in work locations.

    1. hamsterpants*

      So ridiculous. Cutting pay is a huge “screw you” signal. It’s very rare for pay to be cut for any reason, even performance issues. If people aren’t performing, either put them on a PIP, fire them, or require them to come work in person. If companies want to hire at a lower starting salary that would be different.

  63. Scott D*

    Not everyone saves on commuting costs. For example, I used to bike to work which costs basically nothing. Yes, there’s the cost of the bike and some maintenance, but I ride recreationally and commuting by bike was basically a way to save time by getting my workouts in while going to and from work.

    To be fair, a lot of the remote work rules and stuff are still being hashed out and both employees and managers are still figuring stuff out, tweaking rules, etc. My company lucked out in that we sold our office in February 2020 expecting to rent a new one in March 2020 but went to remote work instead so they don’t have the carrying cost of a mostly empty building. Things are going to keep changing for awhile and we have to just learn to roll with it on BOTH the employee and manager sides of things.

    One thing I do hope mangers keep in mind is that all of the talking heads on TV saying “people need to go back to offices” and “kids need to be back in school” are all sitting in their own little Zoom boxes indicating that they themselves are working from home, which makes me take what they have to say with a grain of salt at best and, at worst, them saying “I’m staying home to stay safe but you need to sacrifice your health for the economy”

  64. Ben Marcus Consulting*

    I am currently trialing positions as WFH that within my industry typically would not be allowed to do so (due to regulatory compliance issues). While the WFH employees are actually making much more than their previous jobs, it is a cut in pay from the in-house roles. I decided on this cut because 1) we were able to hire people in low-cost-of-living areas and provide a minimum $15k bump in pay, and 2) a portion of that cut was then redirected back to them as untaxed reimbursements (annual office stipend, internet stipend, phone stipend, etc).

  65. Annie*

    I don’t believe work from home is a perk, but even if it was, getting paid less to do the same job really isn’t a good idea for morale.
    i’ll try to express my thoughts with a very poor analogy, imagine you work at a restaurant and one of the perks of this is that you get free food, you do your job very well for two years and then your bosses decide that you don’t need to be paid as much because they pay for your lunch anyway, i’m sure most would be annoyed in that scenario and I don’t see work from home as any different.

  66. CatLady*

    As much as this would irritate me, I would take it because I spend more than 5% of my income commuting. It costs so much in gas money, time and toll roads. But I’d also look for another job because they seem to not value the work being done if they were fine with you working from home to get through this crisis time but then suddenly want to cut your pay if you want to keep working from home. If it truly couldn’t be done from home, then it wouldn’t have worked. This is of course only applicable if the people in office aren’t getting extra work because of it. If they are then those in office should have been offered more money rather than cutting pay. But that’s just my opinion.

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