Workers willing to forgo salary to work remotely

The COVID pandemic normalized the concept of working remotely for vast swathes of the workforce, and yet, despite huge amounts of evidence about its efficacy and value to employees, the debate rages as to whether to continue with the practice or not.

Research from the University of South Australia shows that many Australian workers are so keen to continue with remote work they would willingly sacrifice parts of their salary to do so.

The researchers quizzed around 1,100 workers during 2020 and 2021, all of whom could effectively perform their jobs from home. The survey found that many would be willing to give up to $6,000 in salary to work from home, which is equivalent to 8% of their salary. Indeed, around 20% of respondents would be willing to forgo up to 33% of their salary to do so.

While this obviously still leaves half of the respondents unwilling to give up any of their income to work from home, the researchers nonetheless believe that it provides a reminder of the value that many workers place on having the autonomy to work where they see fit. It's also a timely reminder that managers shouldn't be looking to employ blanket policies to their entire team but instead, look for ways to ensure everyone has a way of working that works for them and their colleagues.

"We found that attitudes towards the impacts of remote working on human relationships and interactions were a significant predictor of these differences," they explain. "For example, workers who didn't place a positive value on remote working are more concerned about their relationship with colleagues and their supervisors, as well as missing out on opportunities for learning and career advancement."

A known proposition

Interestingly, while we might assume that the main opponents to remote working would be those who are less familiar with it, the survey actually found that the main concerns were raised by those who had worked remotely prior to the pandemic.

Perhaps less surprising was that women were more inclined to want remote work than men, which aligns with previous studies done in other countries. There were also some interesting age-related differences evident in the data, with workers in their 30s and 50s most likely to want to work remotely.

This is perhaps because there have been well-documented concerns about the impact remote working has on our ability to form connections at work, which can be problematic for those just starting out in their careers. Despite the differences, the researchers believe that remote working is something that’s here to stay.

"Evidence shows that working from home will continue at higher levels than pre-pandemic, although there is likely to be considerable disparity in the uptake of remote working among different demographic groups," they explain. "Working from home is not going to be suitable for everyone. It's about trying to find what works for you and your employer and getting the balance right."

Making remote work work

Recent research conducted by the Georgia Institute of Technology has shed light on the factors that contribute to successful remote work arrangements. The researchers utilized data from Glassdoor to identify the key elements that differentiate thriving remote work environments.

Notably, companies that prioritized employees’ interests, fostered a sense of independence, promoted collaboration, and upheld flexible policies emerged as those most likely to cultivate robust remote workplaces.

“There are a lot of reports of quiet quitting and the great resignation because millennials or Gen Z value culture a lot, in contrast to previous generations like Baby Boomers, for whom job satisfaction was largely about compensation,” the authors explain. “Younger generations might say they’re OK with an average salary if they can have that flexibility in work hours, and that’s what makes these companies more favorable to remote work.”

Of course, while these studies highlight the importance of remote work for many workers today, it shouldn't be taken as an indication that employers can reduce wages for those who work from home. While this practice has been tried in various workplaces, it sends completely the wrong message and undermines the kind of cultures that make the remote work experience beneficial in the first place.

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