Is Less Money for Telecommuters Fair?

I received a comment in my comments que this morning from a guy who’s planning to move and has been given the green light to telecommute from his current employer, but he has some questions about it. Instead of trying to answer in the comments thread, I’ve decided to answer him right here instead (easier on the eyes and a really, really good point to discuss I think)!

Here’s the note Brian left me at 10:30 this morning:

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Hi there, I have a telecommuting question, but couldn’t find the right place to ask it, so here goes:

I plan to move and I would like to keep my current job. My employer gave me the green light to telecommute, but they want to adjust my salary downwards to match the reduced cost of living where I am moving. Is this standard procedure for employers and telecommuters? I understand they will pick up some new costs in terms of flying me to the home office every once in a while, but at the same time the real estate and other savings seems like it would offset that.

What do you think?

Thanks in advance for your thoughts,

Brian
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Well, Brian, I’m a tad leery to give you advice because I don’t know any specifics about the company or your relationship in the company. Having said that… here’s what I think (I’m never short on opinions):

Kudos…

  1. To you for thinking to seek that solution in the first place instead of just looking for a new job in whatever city you’re moving to!
  2. To the employer for being open-minded enough to allow you to telecommute from your new location! Keeping good people however you can is just good business practice.

Adjusting Your Salary in Exchange for Telecommuting

This is where it gets tricky but I’d think you’re in a darn good position in this particular bartering instance. And I’d definitely barter until both you and the employer are happy!

From what I’ve seen personally and heard tell of, it is common practice for employers to want to adjust a salary for an employee who’s making the switch from working full time in the office to telecommuting full time. What totally throw me for a loop is that your employer says the adjustment is to off-set the cost of living between where you currently reside and where you’ll be residing after you move.

That’s insane! Does that mean that if you were moving somewhere where the cost of living was higher that they’d be giving you a raise for telecommuting?

Normally an employers’ stance is one that tries to offset the actual working time – ie – they don’t want to pay you a salary anymore at all, they want to move you to a contracting status where they’ll pay you an agreed amount per hour for work that you do for them. Since that’s a fair concern, most folks in your situation are hashing out a fair hourly compensation package… but I digress.

I’d stand firm on your salary, ask them if they plan to give you a cost of living increase raise if you move again, and point out that you were planning on the reduced cost of living to help you offset the need for a bigger house with plenty of space for the professional home office and all of the equipment you’ll be needing to purchase and maintain YOURSELF in order to telecommute productively.

Anytime the switch is made both the employer and the worker have some benefits and some hardships. But cost of living isn’t something that the employer should even consider in the agreement. I’d argue that the money they save in office space, parking costs, equipment you use, etc. should easily offset the amount of money they’ll spend if and when they ever want to have you back in the office for a day or two. But the list of actuals depends on the specifics of your job and your company and the specifics of how often they’ll want to have you back in person. There’s not a lot that can’t be handled with teleconferences, phone conferences, IM and similar tools so maybe it won’t be a frequent trip for you.

I’d also make sure that you have the telecommuting arrangement details in writing so that you are protected from changing rules in the near future.

Be sure to take what I say with a grain of salt since I don’t know all of the particulars. And be sure to let us know how the move and the telecommuting goes! And thanks for the question (I hope my answer helps some).

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