Remote Workers vs. Office Workers | Benefits & Pay Gaps


Though more than half of COVID's working-age population commuted in the year 2020, working from home became the new norm throughout 2021 and still prevails well into 2022. By the first quarter of this year, 36% of workers were on flexible hours and 41% regularly worked from home in a full-time capacity

But are trends changing?

Despite the potential cost savings to employers by using a “Work from Home” model, recent signs have seen a noted shift in policy. More and more companies are choosing to adopt policies that mandate staff to come into the office rather than telecommuting.

Many have done so in an effort to re-engage with their workforce and to increase communication and collaboration among team members. Also, fearing that without physical interaction, co-workers may lose focus and work less as a team, become disengaged and disloyal to the company or even quit their jobs.

Moreover, those that have chosen to return to work are feeling slightly short-changed by those who are still working remotely.

However, businesses are facing resistance.

There appears to be a major disparity between employees that want to return to a physical location, employees who prefer remote working, and what is best for the employer’s business and workforce model. And employers are treading carefully.

 Of those polled in the Morning Consult study earlier in the year, 54% said they would consider quitting their jobs if they were required to move back to an office location.

But there is also conflict in the office about who gets to work from home and who has to return to office, especially when the rules and policies are not transparent or consistent across all workers.


Why give up the benefits?

And it’s hardly surprising that Remote workers prefer their current situation, they may have spent the best part of the last 2 years carving out a favourable working environment for themselves. Furthermore, working from home has many benefits, including the ability to choose one's own work hours, decreased distractions, better concentration, avoiding commuting delays, and no office politics. Remote workers are also able to use the extra time that would normally be used for unnecessary work and use it for more productive things, such as sporting activities, overall wellbeing, and spending more time with family.


So, what’s the compromise?

The compromise appears to be the hybrid work models i.e., time spent between working from home and an expectation to work at the office, but also a work model that can be adapted for individual preferences. The creation of a two-tier workforce model might become inevitable, but that is unseen or unknown as yet; what the circumstances or consequences will be? Will employers try to please everybody without the use of specific incentives?

However, one thing is for certain, the ability to maintain face-to-face contact with co-workers is especially important for those that enjoy teamwork and seek feedback (even if they tend to get it remotely through group meetings and online interactions).


The use of Incentives:

Pay is often a way for a company to signal where it places value and employers are attempting to make the workplace a desirable destination. Furthermore, in order to get disgruntled employees back to work, some businesses are increasing salary and providing bonuses simply for walking through the door.

Companies are coming up with other creative perks to reward in-office workers, including drinks and meals, social programming, and free gym memberships. If the company feels strongly about the power of in-person connections right now and wants to impress that upon employees, then pay rises for those who come in at least three days a week may be a useful tool.

Furthermore, studies reveal that even this may not be enough for certain workers, who increasingly place a higher value on flexibility than pay. There are also valid questions about whether pay hikes and bonuses will be sufficient to get people back to work in the first place, particularly given the tight labour market for workers who may just switch jobs if their remote work expectations aren't met.


Creating a Pay Divide?

There has been much discussion on whether remote employees should be paid less, especially if they have relocated to lower-wage areas. Also, if in-office workers on the other hand, who pay for transportation and other expenses; will they be reimbursed if they lose the benefit of working from home in 2022?

Recent announcements have seen pay changes with those that work entirely from home may have their salary fixed, while those who return to the office may enjoy a 5-10% wage hike. But that could be seen as discrimination, so employers will need to tread carefully. So, for now, the issue of how fair is it to be paying the same workers at different scales could become a big topic of debate


For those that don't feel 100% ready to head back to the office.

It's fine if you aren't quite ready to return to work just yet. While there is no one-size-fits-all strategy for dealing with employees on prolonged remote working, there are certain actions that companies can take to ensure that they are taking all the necessary steps to support returning workers and enable them to return to work after a leave of absence. Finally, Some believe that these pay incentives would become obsolete in five years since "you are not going to employ fresh individuals into entirely remote responsibilities [for a hybrid office]."

 But one thing is certain: clear return-to-work rules assist businesses and workers in efficiently navigating these transitions, creating stability, and reducing ambiguity. .



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