Guest column

Houston expert: Weighing the pros and cons of how to pay remote workers

From startups to global corporations — here's what you need to know about paying remote workers. Photo via Getty Images

In the years leading up to the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. job market saw a steady increase in hybrid and remote work opportunities. The mass adoption, however, of a more “flexible workplace” — and the teleconferencing technologies necessary to make it a widespread option — was not yet commonplace. And in many industries, the idea of offering employees the ability to work from home several days a week — or more — brought up concerns over loss of productivity and loss of control.

Although the tech industry was more open to the idea of hybrid and remote work (and offered the option to a growing number of employees) — it wasn’t until pandemic lockdowns sent millions of workers home in early 2020, that the landscape of the American workplace, as a whole, changed forever.

For those workers whose positions allowed them to work from home, there were challenges related to balancing remote work with remote learning and overcoming Wi-Fi and teleconferencing glitches.

To minimize the time necessary to adapt to a whole new way of doing business, tech companies stepped in — utilizing their innovation to power hybrid work spaces and provide applications and other means to facilitate virtual collaboration and solve network connectivity and security concerns.

As employees — in tech and other industries — adapted to the “new normal,” a few things became clear:

  • Productivity — in many cases — increased
  • Hybrid and remote work option are viable for the long term
  • Employees value flexibility (in many cases, they value it over a higher salary)
  • Remote work offered up a whole new world of opportunities — no matter where you live or where your business is located

For employees and employers alike, hybrid/remote work broke down geographic barriers — allowing tech companies to hire qualified talent anywhere in the world and providing employees with the ability to relocate to hometowns that offer lower living expenses, a better quality of life, or the opportunity to be closer to family in other cities or states.

This new geographic freedom also brought up a very important question — especially for tech companies based in regions with a high cost of living:

As we open job opportunities up to remote workers across the country, do we pay employees based on their location (cost of living) or the job description?

According to an April 2022 article in Fast Company, “Several large tech companies, including Meta and Google, announced that employees moving to cities with a lower cost of living would be taking a pay cut. For instance, Google employees moving to cheaper cities or outside of the office hub could see a cut—as high as 25 percent —in their compensation.”

While Reuters’ “Pay cut: Google employees who work from home could lose money,” by Danielle Kaye noted that “…smaller companies including Reddit and Zillow have shifted to location-agnostic pay models, citing advantages when it comes to hiring, retention and diversity.”

We have clients on both sides of this equation, but it is important to note that asking an employee to take a pay cut might be risky in a competitive labor market. Making a decision on location-based pay versus job-based pay should consider all factors involved to help determine what's best for your workforce and your business.

We outlined a few pros and cons for each pay model. As you make decisions for your own organization, it’s a good idea to consider the following:

Pros and cons of location-based pay

  • PRO: Workers are paid wages commensurate with where they live and can expect to cover state and local taxes, housing, and other expenses associated with that location.
  • PRO: A company can save on wage costs, mainly if remote workers live in more affordable markets.
  • CON: Employees who live in less expensive housing markets make less for the same work done by co-workers in locations with a higher cost of living.
  • CON: Companies may experience higher turnover rates if they impose a pay cut policy that penalizes employees who move to smaller, more rural locations.

Pros and cons of job-based pay

  • PRO: Employees who live in a lower-cost area can opt for a larger home and more expensive "extras" and save more than if they choose to live in a city with a higher cost-of-living.
  • PRO: A job-based compensation structure can be more straightforward to administer because it focuses on allocating pay systematically and not on where employees live, which may shift over time.
  • CON: Employees with specialized skills and expertise who live in more expensive geographic markets may not be compensated as generously as those who work for competitors with location-based pay policies. This can diminish a company's recruiting competitive edge.
  • CON: Employees who move to locations with increased legislative and regulatory requirements can create increased operational costs for employers as they comply with new laws in the new location.
  • CON: Job-based pay structures can increase a company's wage (operating) costs.

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Lisa Bauer is director of compliance services at G&A Partners.

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Building Houston

 
 

Here's your roundup of energy innovation news coming out of Houston. Photo via Getty Images

Houston's energy innovation ecosystem has seen a busy spring season, with startup accelerator cohorts announced, expanded corporate partnerships, and recent funding raised.

In this roundup of short stories within Houston energy innovation, a startup enters into a strategic partnership, Greentown Labs announces a new accelerator, and more.

Syzygy taps global company to lead scaling for tech development 

Syzygy has brought on a new partner that's key to its future growth and tech production. Photo via Emerson

Houston-based Syzygy Plasmonics, which has developed a light-based catalyst reactor technology that originated out of Rice University, has selected global technology and software company Emerson (NYSE: EMR) to automate electrification of chemical production processes.

The reactor technology uses light instead of thermal energy for chemical manufacturing. The all-electric production method has the opportunity to replace fossil fuel-based combustion, making energy generation more sustainable. Syzygy estimates, according to the news release, that its reactor systems could eliminate 1 gigaton of CO2 emissions by 2040.

“We are excited to advance this opportunity with Emerson not only for its automation technologies and software but also its sustainability leadership and domain expertise in chemical engineering, electrification and hydrogen production,” says Syzygy CEO Trevor Best in the release. “As we expand beyond traditional paradigms of reactor technology and launch a new way to electrify chemical manufacturing, we wanted a technology partner who can help us scale our technology efficiently, safely and reliably.”

Emerson will provide its suite of hardware, software, and services for the Syzygy modular reactors.

"Emerson is excited to collaborate with Syzygy Plasmonics on such promising technology that could have a significant impact on industries that are some of the most challenging to decarbonize," says Peter Zornio, CTO at Emerson. “This aligns with Emerson’s culture of innovation that takes on our customers’ biggest challenges.”

Greentown Labs announces applications opening for Shell accelerator

Shell is seeking energy tech companies. Photo via greentownlabs.com

Greentown Labs, a climatetech incubator co-located in Houston and Boston, has teamed up with Shell for a Greentown Go program, geared at accelerating startup-corporate partnerships, to focus on technologies for carbon utilization, storage, and traceability.

Greentown Go Make 2023 zeroing in on alternative carbon feedstocks for carbon-intensive commodities; biogenic and nature-based solutions; and solutions for carbon storage and traceability, according to a news release.

Applications are open now, and the selected startups will have access to mentorship from Shell and Greentown's networks, desk space and membership within Greentown, $15,000 in non-dilutive grant funding, and educational workshops throughout the duration of the six-month program.

“Greentown Go brings together groundbreaking climatetech startups and the corporations that can help commercialize and scale their technologies,” says Kevin T. Taylor, interim CEO and CFO at Greentown Labs, in a news release. “Every Greentown Go program aims to drive climate impact and accelerate the energy transition. We look forward to working with Shell, a long-time Greentown partner, on this important program and supporting the latest innovations in carbon utilization, storage, and traceability.”

The program will help support Shell’s strategy through the development and scaling of technologies for carbon utilization, storage, and traceability across chemicals, carbon fuels, and more.

“Collaboration to accelerate technology development is critical to developing the energy solutions we need for a low-carbon energy future, and I am excited to see what novel technologies arise from startups participating in the Greentown Go Make 2023 program,” says Ed Holgate, commercial partnerships manager at Shell.

Chevron Technology Ventures adds Canadian startup to its Catalyst Program

Motive.io ia using AI to optimize workforce training. Photo via Motive.io

Chevron Technology Ventures announced the addition of Vancouver-based Motive.io, which provides immersive training solutions that leverage virtual and augmented reality technologies, to its Catalyst program. The program seeks out and helps to grow breakthrough technologies and solutions that have the potential to disrupt the energy industry.

"We are honored and thrilled to be selected as part of Chevron Technology Ventures' Catalyst program," says Ryan Chapman, CEO of Motive.io, in a news release. "Selection for this program represents a tremendous opportunity for Motive.io to collaborate with Chevron Technology Ventures as we continue to advance our cutting-edge immersive training solutions for the energy sector."

Motive.io's technology, called the XR Management System, "aims to revolutionize how companies train their employees by providing realistic and interactive simulations that allow learners to practice their skills in a safe and controlled environment," according to a news release.

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