You may soon be asked to take a pay cut to keep working from home

Working from home during the pandemic became a surprising success.

Many workers enjoyed a better quality of life plus savings on commuting, office wardrobe and other expenses. Companies boosted productivity and lowered costs.

Now as remote work looks likely to survive in some form for the foreseeable future, a battle is starting to brew over who should pocket those savings, with some employers arguing that working from home is a benefit that should be offset by lower salaries.

With the pandemic easing, more companies are calling workers back to the office. Even so, about 30% of all paid workdays are still being done from home, up from just 5% before the COVID-19 outbreak, according to the Working From Home Research Project led by economists at Stanford and the University of Chicago.

Paying remote workers less is a practice that is already catching on abroad. In Britain, the law firm Stephenson Harwood recently announced that employees could work full time from home on the condition that they take a 20% pay cut.

Right now, such arrangements seem rare in the U.S., probably because of the tight labor market. But that could change in the event of a recession as employers eye how remote working can lower labor costs and boost the bottom line.

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