Companies pushing employees to return to the office at all costs could be placing themselves at a disadvantage as an increasing number of jobseekers demand remote working options
LONDON, ENGLAND — Despite the overwhelming popularity of remote working spurred on by the COVID-19 pandemic, and the many studies indicating its benefits, pushback against work-from-home options remains pervasive, with some companies beginning to consider pay cuts for those who choose to continue working remotely rather than return to the traditional office.
Such is the case at London-based law firm Stephenson Harwood LLP, which made the decision to allow its employees to work from home full-time under the condition they accept 20 per cent less pay.
Over the course of the pandemic, the company has developed a hybrid work model, with staff being permitted to work remotely up to two days per week. According to a spokesperson, most employees are quite content with this flexible option and as such, Stephenson Harwood does not expect many team members to accept the new fully remote option.
In explaining its reasoning, that spokesperson told The Independent media house, “For the vast majority of our people — and the candidates we speak to — our hybrid working policy works well.
“Like so many firms, we see value in being in the office together regularly, while also being able to offer our people flexibility.”
Creating a disadvantage
Stephenson Harwood has explained its decision about the remote work pay cut intends to address location premium pay, wherein workers in the London office were receiving higher pay in consideration of the high cost of living.
However, the question remains whether this kind of adjustment is sustainable for like-minded organisations in the long run.
In an environment where “the Great Resignation” has seen many workers leave their old jobs, and where surveys have shown many employees said they would rather quit than go back to the traditional office, companies making an aggressive push to return to the pre-COVID world of work could be placing themselves at a disadvantage.
Further, recruiters have reported increasing competition in attracting, hiring, and retaining top talent as more and more workers demand remote work or at least some manner of flexible working options for the companies they are considering working for.
While Stephenson Harwood’s decision to offer pay cuts for employees who choose to work from home has sparked widespread debate on remote work’s longevity and whether a return to traditional working methods is “inevitable”.
However, the firm’s spokesperson also provided more context for the decision, noting that it is specifically meant to target employees who are receiving a pay location premium that can be standard in some areas, like London, with a high cost of living.
Such employees may have started working for the company with this location premium before the pandemic, but still received that additional pay when remote work became mandated in London during the peak of the pandemic.
From the organisations standpoint, it would be unfair for them to continue paying a location premium while staff members are working from home full-time.
In fact, its spokesperson noted its approach is different for remote workers who live outside London and who were hired when there was a pinch for labour. The company will honour its agreement with those workers, and they will not be expected to come into office or take a pay cut to continue working remotely.
This latest debate comes as many countries have begun pushing workers to return to physical offices, and as some employers and even high-ranking officials seem to retain a negative outlook on remote working on the whole.
The company will still retain fully remote workers who live outside of London and were hired during pinched labout availability. Those workers were hired remotely with the understanding they lived away from the HQ and the company will still honour that and not expect them to come into office.
The Stephenson Harwood spokesperson also explained that the pay cuts would only apply for remote workers who originally came onboard to work in the London office.
The reason behind this, Stephenson Harwood LLP law firm HQ in London, estimated more than 1,100 staff not just in UK but also in several major international cities can work from home full-time with 20% less pay.
Company said it currently offers hybrid working that allows employees to work remotely up to two days per week, which allegedly most staff are ok with. Said it does not expect many employees to take up the offer
A company spokesperson told The Independent: “For the vast majority of our people – and the candidates we speak to – our hybrid working policy works well. Like so many firms, we see value in being in the office together regularly, while also being able to offer our people flexibility”
Location premiums is the issue. Firm arguing it’s unfair for company to pay location premium if full-time staff have since moved out of the city, however, the company’s decision has sparked debate on the topic of remote work. This comes as many UK-based companies push for employees to return to traditional offices, and elsewhere around the world similar occurrences are happening.
PM himself badmouthed remote working end of April (27), “post-Covid, work-from-home, manana culture”.
“‘I did use those words [post-Covid manana culture]. I didn’t necessarily use them about any particular institution, but I think we have a general issue in some of our approaches to public services, and perhaps more widely, that we all got used to working from home, to Zoom calls, to thinking that we could do business like that. ‘I think for many people it is great, I don’t want to minimise the value of this, I think for lots of people, particularly for women who have kids, for parents who have kids, I don’t want to be stereotypical, anybody who wants to stay at home for one reason or another, you can see the advantages of working from home. But I have to ask myself, I’m the custodian of the public purse and I’m looking at how much we’re taking and how much we’re spending, whether actually it is as productive. When I see institutions not delivering things like passports or driving licences in a speedy way, these things are quite expensive, it’s £150 to get a new passport, we want action.''
Research shows many workers would rather quit than go back to the norm, and with a ‘Great Recession”, many are doing just that. Research also shows companies disadvantage themselves by not offering remote work as more and more of the best candidates are seeking fully remote jobs that give them better work-life balance.