Google’s WFH pay cuts are a backwards move in our new hybrid world

Digital performance agency DMPG managing director, James Wawne, looks at Google's response to Working From Home (WFH), and examines the steps forward essential for today's working life.

Google made the headlines last week for all the wrong reasons as news broke that the company had set up a calculator that determines pay cuts for employees choosing to work remotely long term.

The tech giant’s new internal calculator, revealed in screenshots obtained by Reuters, works out potential pay cuts for its employees based on where they live. The screenshots showed Google employees would have their pay reduced for living in suburban areas with the California suburb of Lake Tahoe, for example, attracting a 25% reduction.

Location-based pay isn’t new, many companies including other tech giants such as Facebook and Twitter, pay according to where employees are recruited and live. However, reducing pay based on employees moving or on the back of post-pandemic WFH policies seems much harder to swallow.

The idea of cutting an employee’s pay simply because they’ve decided not to adhere to the somewhat anachronistic ‘city centre rat race’ is outdated. The story is not only bad PR for Google, but a sign that the tech giant doesn’t want to embrace the post-COVID reality along with the rest of the world.

A hybrid model is the future of work, and companies who refuse to acknowledge this are at risk of losing top talent. Working at Google might once have felt like the coolest job around, but today, they’re just another inflexible corporate juggernaut.

What about Australia? 

Australians have fled the city during the pandemic, with migration data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) showing the nation’s capital cities had a net loss of 11,200 people during July, August and September last year – the largest quarterly net loss since records began in 2001. The media, marketing, and tech industries could make up a decent chunk of these numbers, thanks to the desk-based nature of our roles.

With lockdowns continuing indefinitely and millions of Australians stuck in WFH limbo, city living is looking less and less appealing by the day. Even once the pandemic starts to improve, the idea of life simply returning to ‘normal’ is out of the question. Data from ABS found 80% of firms that currently work remotely believe the practice will carry on after the pandemic. Remote roles and hybrid working are here to stay.

Hybrid is the future

The pandemic has shown us that working from home is not only possible, but in many cases, it’s preferable. A hybrid model offers the best of both worlds, with a switch to ‘shared spaces’ like WeWork; which can be ramped up and down as needed for meetings and face to face collaboration but not somewhere all employees must commute to five days a week. Offices have transitioned from places employees are forced to spend their time in, to spaces that allow for in-person collaborative working which offer a nice change of scenery from being at home 24/7.

The hybrid model is better for the ‘bottom line’, since you no longer have to provision office space for their entire workforce to sit at a desk five days a week. At DMPG, we quickly adopted the hybrid model in response to the pandemic and we will continue to offer our employees facilities that support rather than impede their success. We also believe in outcomes rather than hours worked and suggest a 4.5/day week and meritocratic logic around bonuses, meaning the more value someone delivers to the business, the greater their recognition.

A truly forward-thinking company acknowledges, celebrates and embraces diversity. It doesn’t cut an employee’s pay if they move out of the city, or penalise them if they want to WFH more often than not.

James Wawne is the managing director and Principal Consultant (ANZ) at DMPG.


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