Remote Work and Return to Office Mandates

A proposal to companies willing to find a harmonious balance between working remotely and working from a corporate office

Employers and employees face two significant issues in the wake of the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Employers claim that there is value in having employees in the physical office space. Many companies have tried mandating a return-to-office policy, which has resulted in significant turnover, with some cases resulting in over 50% of the workforce resigning to find a job which fits their preferences for remote work.

Working remotely was a perk which was not all that uncommon within the tech sector prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. With the pandemic changing the employment landscape significantly, and most people well beyond the tech sector getting a change to experience working remotely, there are a few issues that have surfaced between companies and their employees which haven’t yet seen widespread solutions adopted.

Employees working remotely face a disparity of salaries between themselves and their peers based on the geographical region in which they choose to perform their work. Most companies will pay employees less if a given employee lives in a location which they calculate to have a lower average cost-of-living.

At present, the tech industry in particular is dealing with a lot of layoffs in recent years and so the demand for companies to make themselves an attractive landing spot for top candidates has decreased. While they may have a bigger pool of talent available to them to fill job postings, the search for top talent in the market will continue to be competitive.

Companies which choose to address the issues of remote work salaries and return-to-office mandates will have a distinct advantage in attracting top talent. These two issues can be resolved together with a common-sense approach. I propose the following to companies who wish to not only attract, but even more importantly to retain, top talent.

On the topic of geographic offsets for salaries, lets stop this practice altogether. It alienates employees who are being nickel-and-dimed based on where they live or choose to work. This is especially true when they are delivering higher quality and/or quantity work than peers who are in a geographic location that is deemed higher value.

Also lets be honest about this. The salaries are not to try to be fair to people who live in markets such as San Francisco or New York City where the cost of living is higher. The purpose is to cut the salaries of those who do not live in these expensive regions. A geographically agnostic pay scale for remote work makes the most sense for all parties concerned.

Regarding the topic that executives see value in employees returning to the office, I propose that they would offer return to office as an option, but reflect the value that they espouse in the form of compensation increases of employees who choose to work in-office.

If companies believe geography should be a factor in the compensation of an employee, perhaps they should choose to rethink the compensation of a remote employee in one location compared to that of a remote employee in another. Instead, only adjust compensation for those employees who are remote compared with those who agree to work from the corporate office.

A company which figures this out can and will attract more top quality candidates and retain them for a longer period of time.