Google's war on home workers was inevitable

12 August 2021

6:12 AM

12 August 2021

6:12 AM

Tapping out some code in the back garden. Working on a sales presentation while watching the school sports day. Or even better, traveling though a continent or two while still pulling down a ritzy six figure salary.

Over the last year, middle class professionals have bought into the Work From Home Dream – or WFHD as it’s known in HR circles – to create a working life that combines the best of all possible worlds. It is hardly surprising that so many highly-paid workers are happy to stay away from the office on a permanent basis. Forget Zero Covid. The WFH warriors will be aiming for Zero Flu and Zero Colds before they get back to their desks

But hold on. It turns out there is dark side to that dream. Google, the company that quietly dropped ‘don’t be evil’ from is corporate goals – possibly because it thought it might be just a trifle misleading – has suggested that some of those who opt to work from home could have their pay cut. According to reports from the United States, salaries might be docked depending on where you live and choose to work. And, in truth, there is not much anyone can do it.

Google’s move illustrates two big problems with WFH. The first is that you can’t network effectively, and it is unlikely you will integrate into a new organisation. In effect, you close down the option of getting another job, which, if we are being realistic, was probably the only reason why your employer treated you well in the first place.

Second, from being a real person the company sees every day, you turn into a remote supplier no one ever really thinks about. It is hardly surprising if the finance department decides to squeeze you the same way it squeezes every other unit of production. Why wouldn’t they?

Google won’t be cutting the pay of home workers in the UK in the same way. Our labour laws are a lot stricter and they would struggle to implement such a policy. Even so, it is a sharp reminder that WFH, contrary to what its evangelists suggest, fundamentally shifts power from labour to capital.

When that sinks in, the white collar classes might even put their power suits back on and get back to the office.

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