Kavitha’s keynote: The true cost of working from home

Kavitha’s keynote: Choosing to challenge

Employee Benefits has reported on a number of stories relating to working from home lately – particularly following the pandemic – and many have been about its positive effects on employee wellbeing and work-life balance.

However, two of our stories this week have highlighted the potential pitfalls for those working remotely, and specifically how it could affect their pay and benefits.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics, for example, showed that while wages have risen for home workers, their bonuses and promotional opportunities are lower. According to the data, those who exclusively worked from home before 2020 were 38% less likely to have received a bonus than those who never did.

Statistics such as this, which suggest home working could have severe financial consequences, may well encourage staff to think twice about doing so in the future. And in addition to losing out on bonuses and promotions, these workers could now lose out on their take-home pay.

Facebook, for example, has said that staff who chose to continue working from home once lockdown restrictions ease may have their wages cut.

Brynn Harrington, the social networking site’s vice president of people growth, explained there would be “variability in terms of pay for remote workers based on where they work”.

Other organisations have also mooted the idea that employees who work from home should accept a pay cut to compensate for the cost and time savings they make by not commuting.

But is it really fair to expect employees to take a financial hit for the perceived privilege of working from home, particularly when their household bills are likely to have risen as a result and employers are already likely to be making savings by not having all staff at work?

While there is a level of government and employer support in covering people’s expenses, there are other risks beyond the financial ones that need to be considered with regard to home working – such as the impact on employees’ mental health and potentially their physical health too.

At a time when people are facing so many challenges in the face of the pandemic, surely increasing financial penalties for those who want – or indeed need – flexibility in terms of their working location is a step too far. After all, for many, their financial wellbeing is primarily in the hands of their employer.

Kavitha Sivasubramaniam
Tweet: @kavithasiva_EB