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Why You Should Take a Pay Cut to Telecommute

I respectfully disagree with the assertion of my peer that you shouldn't accept a pay cut in order to work from home

An IDG peer of mine recently wrote an article proclaiming that workers who are willing to take a pay cut in exchange for working from home have not fully considered the impact of that trade-off. If you stop to do the math, though, a reasonable pay cut is actually more like a raise when you're working from home.

In the article, Meredith Levinson talks about a variety of recent surveys related to telecommuting. A FINS.com informal online poll found 92 percent of respondents would accept a dream job that requires them to work from home. A survey from the tech careers site Dice.com reported that more than a third of IT workers are willing to take up to a 10 percent pay cut to telecommute. Finally, she also notes that many of the comments on Slashdot related to the Dice.com survey agree that a pay cut is reasonable.

Levinson doesn't agree, though. In fact, given the many benefits for the employer, she feels that a pay raise is in order to workers who telecommute. I understand her point, and I agree. In fact, I wrote an article at the beginning of this year explaining why both employers and employees benefit from telecommuting.

It is true that the employer has significant incentive to promote telecommuting. Telecommuting simultaneously boosts productivity and significantly cuts costs. If you add up the money saved in office space, power, climate control, networking, janitorial services, and in many cases even the technology used if workers rely on their own home PC and/or smartphones, the company can save a ton of money by letting users stay home. Based on that, I can see why it might seem like you should get a raise instead of a cut.

But, having worked from home for ten straight years, I can also quantify the value from the employee perspective, and a ten percent cut seems like a reasonable trade. I don't have to spend any money on gas, or wear and tear on my car (or risk playing highway roulette and getting into an accident) to get to and from work each day. I don't have to invest as much in my wardrobe--tshirts and pajama pants are generally less expensive than slacks and dress shirts, plus they don't have to be drycleaned. I don't have to spend as much eating out for lunch or buying special lunch items to pack.

There are also a number of ‘intangibles'. I can sleep later because I don't have to get ready for work. I get back two to four hours of day of personal time that I would be wasting if I had to spend it in rush hour to and from work each day. Instead of wasting time whining about my manager or chatting about sports with co-workers, I can get some laundry done, or repair a dysfunctional doorknob--the kinds of things that would still have to get done if I worked in an office, but would further cut into my own personal time.

For me, the math was even simpler. Even when I had a ‘day job', I was still doing freelance writing. That time that I would be wasting getting ready for work, and driving to and from work each day adds up to about 20 hours a week I could be writing and making more money.

Then, there are the intangibles you just can't put a price on. I am here when my kids wake up, and I can make them breakfast and spend time with them. I can sit on the patio and have lunch with my wife next to the pool. It also means I have way more time to be involved with my family, or to attend events and activities. No offense to my peers, but I would much rather spend my day with my wife and kids.

You have to do the math and don't get stuck on the fact that the employer will come out ahead in the deal. It is a win-win. As long as the pay "cut" is reasonable, it is more than offset by the money you'll save and the quality of life telecommuting affords you. In the end, that pay cut will feel more like a raise.

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