Even since the beginning of COVID-19, most employees started working from home and many realised that they either love it or hate it, there's no in-between. Working from home can be better for some who have no need of being in the office and can work from the comforts of their own home. Being comfortable contributes to productivity thus making them a more motivated and efficient employee.
Since we are in the endemic stages of COVID-19, the government has reopened all the sectors most people are back to working at the office, some are hybrid while others have grown to love the comforts of working from home. Since it is quite a new thing here in Malaysia, many are unsure of how to react to this new normal.
The Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF) being one of them suggested that the salary of employees who are working from home should be cut since the cost of travelling to and from work has been removed from the equation.
Here's why we think that this is unfair to employees who are working from home:
#1 Workload Is The Same or More In Some Cases
If you want to talk about lowering our salaries, does that mean our workloads will also be decreased because we get paid based on our contributions to the company? When working from home, your workload is the same as when you're working from the office the only difference is the location. In some cases, companies actually think that working from home means that we are available to work 24/7 and we'll be getting emails at ungodly hours! So if we are doing the same amount of work, you have the same amount of experience and the same skillset, then your salary shouldn't be affected.
#2 Salaries Are Determined Based On Skills, Experience & Workload NOT Travel Distance
Shamsuddin Bardan, Executive Director of the Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF) explained that working from home saves the costs of travelling to and from work which got many of us thinking since when has our salary been determined by how much we spend travelling to and from work. An employee's salary is determined by your skills, experience and workload the cost of travelling to work has nothing to do with the process of determining your salary so it shouldn't be used as an excuse to lower salaries.
While he did mention that companies who give travelling allowances should stop giving them, but allowances are a separate thing and have nothing to do with the amount of your salary. Your salary is a fixed regular payment, typically paid on a monthly basis for your contributions to the company. Allowances are a fixed amount of money paid by your employer to you to meet certain expenditures above the basic salary. So getting rid of the travelling allowances is understandable but bear in mind that employees still need to spend on their internet bills, utility bills and more while working from home. So instead of cancelling the allowance, maybe replace it with other allowances to help cover the extra expenses that the employees have to bear while working from home.
#3 Internet Bills
In order to work from home, you need a secure internet connection since most of what you're doing is online. You will also need the internet connection to be fast so that it doesn't delay your day to day tasks. What this essentially means is that you may have to upgrade whatever internet plan you're using to a better one, especially if you have a lousy plan.
This is going to add probably RM50 or more to your monthly internet bill. Bear in mind that when working at the office, employees do not have to pay any internet bills. This just means that their monthly expenses have increased by a little, but that's not all..
#4 Utility Bills
When you work at the office, no one's at your home. All the plugs are turned off and even all the pipes are off for 9 hours, 5 days a week which makes a total of 45 hours a week. That saves a ton of electricity and water, which means your utility bills are significantly lower.
However, when you're working at home, you need to charge all your devices, your computer needs to be turned on, you need a fan or air conditioner on, the light needs to be on if it is a gloomy day, you even need to drink your own water, use the toilet throughout that 9 hours. All that electricity and water being used needs to be paid for by none other than yourself. All this adds to your monthly expenses, imagine going from not being home 45 hours a week to being home 24/7, that is going to cost a lot!
#5 Groceries Spending
More often than not, when you're working from the office, you would go out for lunch and if you're feeling snacky or need some coffee, you can just head over to the pantry and have some. When you work from home, you would normally have lunch at home, the pantry that you're going into when you're snacky or need some coffee is your very own pantry, all these added meals and snack and coffees add up which means you will have to spend more on groceries each month.
No matter how many times people tell you cooking your own meals is cheaper than buying food, that is not entirely true. You'll need to have all the ingredients to cook yourself a meal which means buying more stuff when you're grocery shopping which equates to spending more on grocery shopping.
#6 Office Supplies
Another thing that adds to the expenses of an employee who is working from home is office supplies. When you're at the office, there are pens, paper and even printers available for your use but at home, you will most probably have to buy your own office supplies. Also, printer ink isn't cheap and working from home involves a lot of printing for some people which means they often run out of printer ink. So employees working from home will have to fork out extra cash just to make sure they have the supplies needed to work from home efficiently.
This is very uncommon but some people have to move house or buy a new home just to ensure that they have enough space for a fully functional home office. When you work at your office, having a home office is a waste of space but when you're working entirely from home, you need a space to focus and work, you can't be working from your couch! So in some very rare cases, employees who are working from home may have had to move to a bigger home or buy a bigger home so that they can have a home office to work from.
Having employees working from home already saves the company a ton of money as companies will have to spend less on internet bills, utility bills, office supplies, snacks and coffee but it just means that the cost of all these things is added onto the employees' plates. Lowers salaries for employees who are working from home put them in a very bad situation financially especially when all the added expenses are taken into consideration. It is unfair and could increase the stress levels of employees which then lowers their productivity.
Do you think it is fair to cut the salary of employees working from home when all they have to cover all these extra costs? Leave your thoughts in the comments section.