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What you need to know about COVID-19: September 18, 2020
We’ve decided on the lifestyle that’s acceptable for you, and we’re not going to give you any flexibility in that.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to travel across the United States, companies are looking at the variety of issues it creates. Businesses like the New York Times, for example, have decided that they won’t ask their staff to return to the company’s offices before January 2021 — other businesses, seeing absolutely no decline in productivity as a result of staff working from home, have decided that there might not even be a need for an office for workers to come back to.
Still others are not only happy to transfer office space to home offices, but even want to change what they pay employees for the “privilege.”
Enter Facebook: the company’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg, says his company plans to “aggressively” use remote hiring, in part because the company feels it will strengthen the corporate culture.
“When you limit hiring to people who either live in a small number of big cities or are willing to move there, that cuts out a lot of people who live in different communities, different backgrounds or may have different perspectives,” Zuckerberg said during a livestream.
In the end, he expects more than 50 per cent of the company will be working remotely.
But there’s a hitch: if you’re working from afar, be prepared to be treated as a second-class employee, because you won’t be paid as much as those who do the same work.
“We’ll adjust salary to your location at that point,” Zuckerberg said. “There’ll be severe ramifications for people who are not honest about this.”
On one hand, you can understand it: one of the reasons Facebook has to pay high wages is to enable staff to live in the supercharged area of Silicon Valley. If you don’t have to compensate people for the cost of living in an overcharged economy, why would you?
But keeping salary rates the same as they are now as workers disperse to remote office space doesn’t actually hurt the hugely profitable company — the dispersal is already going to help the company’s bottom line by diminishing the needed office space, along with heating and cooling costs, commercial taxes and a whole host of other expenses.
Cutting pay rates looks a lot like simply gouging money from employees who have decided to make a different lifestyle choice than Silicon Valley.
There are lots of lifestyle choices you can make that determine where your salary goes, far beyond where you choose to live. Should you, for example, be paid more if you like expensive red wines or hate cooking and depend solely on more-expensive take-out meals? Should you be paid more if you’re paying rent or paying down a mortgage, but less if you’ve paid your mortgage off and have lower housing costs?
And if the cost of living rises in the area you have chosen to live in, does that mean a corresponding increase in pay would appear as well?
I wouldn’t bet on that, any more than I’d bet that companies will be able to resist playing divide-and-conquer with a widely dispersed workforce. When it comes to negotiations, it will be the home-based individual on one side of the table, the entire corporation on the other, and now, no set standard for what a job pays, based on your experience, training and skills.
Oh, and don’t forget: “severe ramifications” being threatened from the very beginning.
Russell Wangersky’s column appears in SaltWire newspapers and websites across Atlantic Canada. He can be reached at email@example.com — Twitter: @wangersky.