by Meridith Levinson

Why You Shouldn’t Take a Pay Cut to Telecommute

May 04, 20114 mins

A recent survey shows that more than one-third of IT professionals would take a 10 percent pay cut to work from home.

Telecommuting appears to be the most underrated employment perk of the digital age—underrated by employers, that is. Most employees would love the opportunity to work from home full-time. In an informal online poll conducted by job search website FINS, a whopping 92 percent of site visitors said they’d accept a dream job offer even if it meant they had to telecommute.

A separate survey conducted recently by another job search website, Dice, shows just how much some IT workers want to telecommute. More than one-third (35 percent) of survey respondents said they’d be willing to take a 10 percent pay cut in return for the privilege of being able to work from home. Many members of Slashdot, responding to the same question (Would you take a 10 percent pay cut to telecommute?) said they’d do the same.

It’s one thing to want to telecommute. It’s another thing to be willing to give up money to do so. Those IT workers who are willing to relinquish 10 percent of their pay to work from home must have money to burn. That, or they haven’t quite thought through such a trade-off.

I have first-hand experience with telecommuting and pay cuts, having worked from home as a writer and editor since 2003. While I’d take telecommuting over working in an office any day for the boost it affords my productivity and my sense of work-life balance, I would never accept a pay cut to telecommute, nor would I advise anyone to compromise their pay to work at home. Pay cuts hurt. That’s why they’re called cuts.

I would argue that employers should pay their employees more to telecommute. Here’s why:

First of all, unless you’re a complete slacker, your productivity will rise when you telecommute. You can devote the time you would otherwise spend in traffic to getting actual work done, and you won’t be distracted by conversations with co-workers. That means your employer will get more out of you. If a productivity increase isn’t worth more money, I don’t know what is. It’s certainly not worth a pay cut. In fact, I think making employees take a pay cut to telecommute would make them less productive, as they would lack the financial incentive to work hard. I know that part of the reason I work hard as a telecommuter is so that I can maintain this good work-at-home gig. (Thank you IDG for being progressive on the matter of telecommuting.) 

Some people say they’d rather work in an office because they worry they’d be too distracted by household chores or the TV. I can tell you from first-hand experience that if you have enough work, NOTHING will tempt you to leave your home office. Oprah/ESPN, the laundry and dishes can wait.

Second, you’re saving your employer money. You’re one less mouth to feed on the odd occasions when the company decides to bring in pizza to boost morale. More important, it’s in a company’s financial interest to have as many employees as possible working from home. The more people who telecommute, the less office space the employer will need, resulting in reduced real estate and infrastructure costs. Employers will also save on office supplies.

Meanwhile, your household expenses will increase when you work from home. You’ll be using more electricity to light your office and to power your computer, monitor, printer, etc. You’ll have toheat your home during the day in the winter when it otherwise would be unoccupied. You’ll also be consuming more water (every time that toilet flushes) and more household items. So any savings you might have gained, for example, from not having to put gas in your car to commute will be offset—if not exceeded—by this increase in household expenses.

Finally, most corporations will use any excuse to cheat their employees out of more money. As soon as they see data suggesting that employees would do a job for less money provided they could do it from the comfort of their own home, they’ll start nickel-and-diming.

I firmly believe most corporations would pay their employees in dryer lint if they could get away with it. So let’s not give these cheapskates any ideas.