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

 
 

What's an employee group and why do you need to know about it during Hispanic Heritage Month? This Houston expert explains. Photo via Getty Images

Making a name for yourself in corporate America is no easy task. It is especially hard if you are the first generation in your family to attend college in this country and the first to take a stab at climbing the corporate ladder. The secret behind those who successfully make it to the top is access to a strong support group.

Finding the right support system, one that provides professional and personal mentorship and one that you identify with culturally, can help you navigate the business world and help you achieve your career goals.

Many Hispanic/Latino professionals have found that support system in employee groups, or EGs.

What are EGs and how can they help Hispanic professionals succeed?

EGs are employee-led groups that foster inclusivity and build community. The purpose of the group is to provide personal and professional support to its members, who usually share certain characteristics in common – like being Hispanic, or those who simply have interest in learning about a culture that is not unique to them.

AT&T has 14 EGs, including HACEMOS, which was established in 1988 and is dedicated to supporting Hispanic employees and the communities they live in. There are 36 HACEMOS chapters across the country supporting more than 8,500 members. The Houston chapter currently supports 278 members – all in different phases of their career.

HACEMOS members believe that “Juntos HACEMOS más,” which means “Together we do more.” Under that guiding belief, members work together to support each other in advancing their careers. Through HACEMOS, AT&T employees can participate in various professional development learning opportunities and have access to one- on-one mentorship sessions with members from the leadership team.

For many members, the group offers a safe environment to engage and learn from other professionals who understand their personal and professional hurdles from a cultural point of view.

At a personal level, the support I receive from HACEMOS has helped me to better understand and be proud of my heritage. HACEMOS has embraced my “Latina” identity, encouraging me to continue using my Spanish skills to serve our Latino customers within AT&T.

EGs provide members with a sense of community and belonging. 

Most EGs have a community aspect to them that allow members to work together to address needs in their communities. HACEMOS members in Houston take pride in organizing, volunteering, and participating in various initiatives that provide support to the most vulnerable members of their community.

This year, in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, the Houston HACEMOS Chapter will be hosting events throughout the city, helping support our youth and instill the importance of continuing their education and striving for success. Our national group is actively volunteering on efforts to help close the digital divide (the gap between people who have reliable internet access and those who do not) which is more likely to impact people of color, especially Hispanic families.

EGs create a win-win for employees and employers. 

EGs are beneficial to employees and employers. It’s true, EG members are engaged and develop strong relationships with their colleagues from other departments resulting in a collaborative environment.

Also, the company benefits from the knowledge and skills EG members gain through the various workshops and learning resources. In addition, EG members serve as brand ambassadors in the community for the company while they participate in community volunteer events.

So, if the company you work for currently does not have an EG you identify with, it’s easy to build your case to launch one. And if your company has an EG you identify with, then I encourage you to join it today – I can ensure you, it will be a rewarding experience that can help you advance your career.

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Erika Portillo is the Houston HACEMOS president for AT&T.

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