Balancing act: Would you take a pay cut to work from home?
I think I've established, through numerous surveys and anecdotes, that telecommuting is growing in popularity with both workers and some companies.
But is it popular enough for employees that they would be willing to put their money where their work-life balance is?
According to a new survey, the answer for a surprisingly large number of workers is a resounding, "Yes!"
The September survey by GetVoIP, a VoIP provider comparison website, used the Google Consumer Surveys tool to ask 501 tech workers whether they would be willing to take a pay cut to work from home, and how big that cut could be.
The results were not exactly what I expected. According to GetVoIP, 53 percent of tech workers surveyed said they would accept some kind of wage reduction to work from home.
"Many employees exchange compensation perks in lieu of pay, especially in a slow economy where businesses can't afford to give raises," the GetVoIP press release about the survey said. "Workers who trade in their daily drive for a telecommute generally cite better work-life balance, less stress and more family time as reasons for making the switch."
All of those reasons make sense to me, and I think you could add money saved on gasoline and wear and tear on the commuter's car as other reasons to accept a pay cut in exchange for working from home.
As I've mentioned before, I'm able to work from home occasionally, and I've thoroughly appreciated the opportunity. I've been very productive on those days, and I'm able to more easily attend school programs or other activities that may be scheduled in the middle of the typical workday.
My job isn't one in which I could telecommute every day, however. As such, it's hard for me to say whether I would be willing for my pocketbook to take a hit if I could work from home daily.
It's hard to put a price on better family time and reduced stress, but a person still has to earn enough to pay the bills.
That's why even more surprising to me in the GetVoIP survey was the average size of the pay cut tech workers said they would accept to work from home: 7.9 percent.
Based on a different 2013 study by Dice.com that showed the average salary for tech workers is $85,619, that means the average pay cut those workers would be willing to take for work flexibility would be $6,764 a year, according to GetVoIP.
But that's just the average. The GetVoIP survey showed that 31.9 percent of workers would accept a 10 percent pay cut to telecommute, while 4.7 percent would accept an 11 to 20 percent cut, 3.5 percent would take a 21 to 30 percent cut and an astonishing 6.7 percent would accept a 31 percent pay reduction in order to work from home.
Would you be willing to cut your pay by a third to work in your pajamas every day?
That seems a bit extreme to me. With one child in high school, two in middle school and one in elementary school, we're finding that life gets more expensive all the time. We'd struggle to make ends meet if I made 31 percent less than I do now.
Would we be able to get by with an 8 percent cut? Perhaps. As I mentioned before, I think the savings on gas and other car-related expenses alone would probably cover about a 5 percent cut, and maybe even more, if I never had to go to the office. If I had the kind of job that lent itself to full-time working from home, I'd probably at least consider that.
Of course, there is more than just the employee side to this equation. We also need to consider what level of pay reduction would make it worthwhile to employers to allow more people to work from home.
"The balance is important for employers, who must consider the productivity tradeoff — is a 7.9 percent pay cut worth it if the relative decrease in productivity is more than 8 (percent)? Probably not. But if productivity can be maintained, the benefits are obvious for many tech companies," the GetVoIP press release said.
Productivity is the key variable in this equation. As I've mentioned in previous columns, several workers on my team have found they are actually more productive than usual during their occasional work-from-home days. And I would guess some tech workers would find that to be the case every day.
Furthermore, some companies may see added savings in this kind of arrangement, as they wouldn't have to rent or buy as much office space, furniture and the like. Even with an investment in technology to make telecommuting easier, they could come out ahead if employees took a pay cut to work from home.
But that still doesn't mean this would make sense for every employee or every company.
What do you think? Would you be willing to accept a pay cut if you could work from home every day? How large could that cut be to still make sense for you and your family?
Send me an email or leave a comment online with your ideas, and I'll use some of your responses when I revisit this issue in a future column.