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August 11, 2021

Working remotely at Google? Prepare to have your salary cut

By Eric Johansson

Google wants its employees to get back into the office if they’ve had their jabs. And it seems as if the tech titan could be prepared to slash the salaries of US remote staff to make that happen, according to Reuters.

According to the news agency, the Mountain View-headquartered company is considering slicing salaries of employees electing to keep working from home once the pandemic has ebbed out.

The changes would reportedly affect workers with a long commute worse than their peers living closer to the office.

At the same time, other Silicon Valley behemoths like Facebook and Twitter are also said to be cutting pay for workers living in less expensive areas.

The news comes on the back of reports suggesting that the coronavirus has fundamentally changed workers’ relationship with their office, with many experts believing flexible working or hybrid models will become the norm.

“[Office work] will not be the same after Covid-19,” a recent GlobalData thematic research report stated. “Physical spaces will be transformed, and remote working, supported by technology, will become the norm for millions of employees.”

Silicon Valley leaders have spent the past few months being slightly ambiguous in their response to this, having somewhat settled on hybrid models, and it’s against this background that Google’s new salary policy has hit the news.

Google salary cuts

Alphabet-owned Google has reportedly introduced a new salary calculator for employees considering opting to work remotely.

The calculator, seen by Reuters, is said to be set up to help workers determine how much their salaries would change if they moved. However, Mountain View’s tool could arguably also be used to show how big pay cuts remote workers could endure, even if they don’t move home.

Remote Google workers who had long commutes could face steeper salary reductions than peers living closer to the office.

Employees could lose up to 25% of their salaries if they elect not to return to the office, according to interviews conducted by Reuters.

Google denied that employees who lived in the same city would risk seeing their salary cut just because they opted to work remotely.

However, Mountain View neglected to address concerns from workers who lived in nearby counties or towns not necessarily counted as being part of the city.

“Our compensation packages have always been determined by location, and we always pay at the top of the local market based on where an employee works from,” a Google spokesperson told Reuters.

Conversationally, an online survey commissioned by insurance company Breeze and published last week found that most US workers wouldn’t have a problem with taking a pay cut if it meant they could keep working from home. The survey found that 65% of workers who said their jobs could be done entirely remotely were willing to take a 5% pay cut to continue working remotely.

Return of the Google employees

The news about Google potentially cutting the pay cheques of workers comes after months of Mountain View flip-flopping about its post-Covid working policies.

Back in March, the $1.8tn search engine giant made it clear that home working would become a rarity. While remote working would be allowed, it would be restricted to 14 days per year for each employee and only if they’d been given special permission.

A few weeks later the tech titan changed its tune. Following a public backlash, flexible working was now the flavour of the day, with CEO Sundar Pichai saying it was “the future of work at Google”.

Nevertheless, he claimed that the “majority of our employees still want to be on campus some of the time yet many would also enjoy the flexibility of working from home a couple days a week, spending time in another city for part of the year or even moving there permanently.”

Google received about 10,000 requests to relocate or to work remotely by 2 July, according to Business Insider. Of those, the Alphabet-owned company approved 85%.

Later in July, Google said it would introduce strict bans against unvaccinated employees showing up to the office. Facebook and Netflix had introduced similar restrictions, saying workers shouldn’t come to work unless they’d had their jabs.

Google was originally aimed for employees to return to the office in September. Two weeks ago it postponed the return to the office until mid-October.