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Large number of workers would take a pay cut to work from home, new study says

File photo dated 04/03/20 of a woman using a laptop on a dining room table set up as a remote office to work from home. (Photo by Joe Giddens/Press Association via AP Images)

​INDIANAPOLIS (WISH)– New research by the University of South Australia has found that 45% of workers would accept a pay cut in exchange for remote work flexibility.

A survey of more than 1,100 Australian workers in 2020-21 found that the average worker who can carry out their role effectively at home is willing to give up $3,000 to $6,000 in annual wages, equal to 4-8% of their salary. One-fifth of participants said they would be willing to sacrifice $12,000 to $24,000 annually, or 16 – 33% of their salaries.

However, more than half (55%) of the participants indicated they would be unwilling to give up a portion of their wages to work from home and either see no benefit to productivity or well-being or have various concerns with remote working.

Lead researcher Associate Professor Akshay Vij says it’s clear more research is needed to understand employee preferences for remote and flexible work arrangements, given the variability in attitudes and expectations.

“We found that attitudes towards the impacts of remote working on human relationships and interactions were a significant predictor of these differences. For example, workers who didn’t place a positive value on remote working are more concerned about their relationship with colleagues and their supervisors, as well as missing out on opportunities for learning and career advancement,” Vij said.

“It was interesting to find that these concerns were raised more often by workers who had more experience with remote working before the pandemic. Workers who had less experience with remote working arrangements were more positive about working from home.”

The study found female workers were almost 30% more likely to value remote work than their male counterparts, while workers in their 30s and 50s were also more likely to value the ability to work from home. Workers in their 20s valued remote working the least, which researchers say could be because of the perceived importance of in-person interactions to career growth.

Couples with children who had either left home or still lived at home were prepared to sacrifice the most from their salary to work from home compared to couples with no children, single parents, or those living alone or with others.

It’s clear that COVID-19 has significantly impacted the ways people want to work. In the 2016 Australian Census, it was estimated that roughly 2 to 8% of employees in major Australian cities were working remotely. By the 2021 census, that figure rose to 21%.

Workplaces worldwide have adopted changes to support the work-from-home movement, developing the necessary protocols and processes to support their remote workers.

Vij says it’s too early to tell how working from home will settle into the new norm of working life, but he expects it is here to stay.

“Evidence shows that working from home will continue at higher levels than pre-pandemic, although there is likely to be considerable disparity in the uptake of remote working among different demographic groups. Working from home is not going to be suitable for everyone. It’s about trying to find what works for you and your employer and getting the balance right.”