As employees consider the pros and cons of any employment opportunity, there are a lot of elements to be considered. The work culture of the company, whether the new position is a promotion, the level of compensation and quality of benefits, who they will report to and the team that they will work with, along with future career development opportunities all are important parts of the equation.
Job location has also been one of those key factors for a candidate or existing employee to consider. Relocating for a job causes an employee and family to weigh so many different work and life elements prior to accepting a new position, including things like housing markets, cost of living, dependent schooling options, and likely where family and friends are located. In this scenario, the relocation is a method of moving people to jobs.
In a recent whitepaper from AIRINC CEO Steve Brink, "Reevaluating Total Rewards Strategies for the Growing Remote Workforce," he reminds us that prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, just 3.6% of the U.S. labor force worked remotely half of the time or more, even though 56% of employees had jobs that could be performed remotely. (Those stats are pulled from a 2018 study done by GlobalWorkplaceAnalytics.com). But that obviously changed dramatically once the pandemic hit and remote work was mandated where possible to stop the spread of infection.
According to this article from Stanford, which came out at the end of June, "...42 percent of the U.S. labor force is now working from home full-time. About another 33 percent are not working – a testament to the savage impact of the lockdown recession. And the remaining 26 percent – mostly essential service workers – are working on their business premises. So, by sheer numbers, the U.S. is a working-from-home economy. Almost twice as many employees are working from home as at work."
This huge shift to increased telecommuting (btw, there are many other similar terms like "remote work," "work-from-home," "distributed work," "mobile work," "smart working" in the UK or even "workshifting" in Canada) is causing numerous knock-on impacts. For example, there is a greater degree of corporate comfort in the productivity of remote work. There is an increasing number of "handraisers" (those self-initiating a relocation) who want to move and work from somewhere else, so we are seeing people moving away from city centers to suburbs. Then with many companies having been negatively impacted financially, the need to evaluate the costs of doing business to find ways for saving funds has many considering reducing office sizes and minimizing rents. Some companies have even begun to roll out "de-location" programs to support their "work from anywhere" (WFA) approach aimed at allowing employees who want to move out of high-cost locations to leverage relocation support for these situations. However, many of these "de-location" programs do come with salary/wage reductions for the employee and will help the company save payroll costs along with reducing office space costs.
This WFA phenomenon has many companies considering it as a talent strategy where they can attract new talent from a larger geographic area and retain talent that is looking for an improved work/life experience by moving out of a high-cost location like the Bay Area, Seattle, and New York City. What Mr. Brink explores in his article is the compensation-related aspects of a WFA strategy. He explains that the previous methodology of setting salaries based upon office locations no longer works in a WFA environment. AIRINC has developed a "WFA Index" to help companies consider what salary adjustments need to be made for given locations. The index looks at things like income tax, transportation, the costs of goods and services, and housing.
Ultimately, he suggests that there are four approaches to consider for determining appropriate and equitable pay for remote workers:
- Align all compensation to company HQ
- Use current market-level pay for the specific location
- Develop geographic zones with specific structures for salary pay levels
- Provide pay based on the cost of living
If your company is looking at a WFA environment, this is a must read as a corresponding compensation strategy must be considered. If your company has not been considering a WFA strategy, it may be worth considering the pros and cons as some are questioning whether WFA is now the biggest talent attractor.
Prior to the current pandemic, a 2018 study by GlobalWorkplaceAnalytics.com highlighted that just 3.6% of the United States labor force worked remotely 50% or more of the time.