To modern workers everywhere,
Mark Zuckerberg opened a Pandora’s box last week when he shared some of Facebook’s new policies on remote work—specifically when he suggested the company would cut pay for remote employees who relocate themselves to places with a lower cost of living.
This is not out of step with Facebook’s usual approach to salaries, although the remote-work element is a twist. As Zuckerberg said, “Our policy here has been for years that comp varies by location,” based on market rates.
But when geography is no longer a factor, what does a market rate even mean? Is a software developer in Dallas competing for an offer with other software developers in Dallas, or with software developers everywhere? And if a developer is hired in Dallas and then decides to fulfill a lifelong dream of living in Silicon Valley, will Facebook adjust the pay accordingly?
That’s just the start of the questions I’ve been kicking around with colleagues and sources. Here are a handful of others:
- What happens if the competition doesn’t follow suit? Would Facebook’s star engineers move to Montana and then take remote jobs with Silicon Valley-level salaries at Google?
- How enforceable is the policy? If an employee has a second home in a more affordable market, what’s to stop them from keeping their more expensive address on file while spending most of the year somewhere else?
- If the ability to hire in more affordable markets allows the company to diversify its ranks, does it also threaten to reinforce structural barriers to earnings mobility?
- Why would companies pay someone differently based on where they live, but not based on, say, how many children they have or how many other family members they support?
Back in August, Matt Darling from the nonprofit behavioral design lab ideas42 wrote a piece for Quartz at Work arguing that “each one of us is essentially our own labor market,” with our own mix of needs and preferences that shape the way we evaluate jobs. This feels especially resonant in the middle of a pandemic, when our preferences may be changing and new needs are emerging. Darling agrees, telling me this week, “It’s one more bargaining frontier that might be a lot more relevant now: What are your conditions for remote work?”
Meanwhile, there is plenty of speculation that Facebook will use its new policy to shift work to the lowest-cost places it can. But Facebook already engages in global labor arbitrage and employs thousands of people in markets far cheaper than Silicon Valley. Its stance on remote work merely lengthens the radius from which it can draw new recruits.
What I’m more curious to see is how current and prospective Facebook employees react to the idea that, even in a more remote-friendly world, their pay will continue to be based not just on the work they do or the experience they bring to it, but on the place from which they do it.—Heather Landy
Five things we learned this week
Remote-team managers can learn a lot from open-source communities.
Company swag can help employees feel more connected, especially now.
We can’t always count on the status quo—nor should we.
The “future of work” is here, thanks to Covid-19.
The founder of a pharmacy-related startup in Ghana landed a new board member he first read about in Fortune, when she was a senior executive at US drugstore chain CVS.
30-second case study
When childcare and school were canceled for their kids, Alice, a self-employed barrister in London, and her partner worked out a schedule where each tried to fulfill their job responsibilities while trading off shifts with the children. For three weeks, they ran themselves into the ground, working late into the nights. Meanwhile, Alice—accustomed pre-pandemic to covering childcare needs that rose during work hours—told Cassie Werber she also found herself the default organizer of meal planning and homeschool activities.
It wasn’t sustainable. As the couple talked through the issues created by lockdown, they modified their arrangements. Alice, though the higher earner, pared back her work. Her husband now does the majority of the homeschooling. They share cooking equally, while Alice tends to do most of the tidying.
The takeaway: The pandemic has been far from an equalizer, including for women who are used to shouldering the “mental load” for their families. But “[i]t’s forcing us all to own the choices we are making as individuals, and as societies,” Cassie writes. “And maybe, it will force some of us to change.”
+ Quartz at Work is obsessed with the lives of working parents. Find more of our coverage on the topic here.
It’s a fact
The share of no-income couples in the US is skyrocketing. According to a Quartz analysis of US Bureau of Labor Statistics data, 11% of married couples with one partner between 25 and 54 years old had no earners in April. Quartz data editor Dan Kopf says the share of US couples with no income reached a peak of 7% during the Great Recession.
A quick poll
Do you miss business travel?
😿 Heck yes
🏡 Heck no
+ Last week we asked you about conflict at work, and good news! Not many of you reported being overrun with it, and even fewer reported a debilitating lack of it.
Words of wisdom
“Unfortunately, organizations often tend to push work beyond working hours. They must understand that respecting employees’ time will go a long way in helping them keep their sanity during these tough months.”—Anjan Pathak, co-founder and CTO of employee engagement platform Vantage Circle
✦ Special to Quartz members ✦
Research shows that sitting in the front 75% of your chair or leaning forward slightly will result in people finding you more approachable, likable, and credible. Nonverbal communications expert Dustin York demonstrates the difference at the 30:34 mark on the video playback (✦) of our latest Quartz at Work (from home) workshop, “How to Communicate like the Best Remote Teams.”
+ Stay tuned for more workshops in June. The live events are free for anyone to attend; replays and detailed recaps are available exclusively (✦) to Quartz members.
A summer sale
Even if it’s winter in the hemisphere where you’re reading this, subscribers to The Memo can now get 50% off the first-year Quartz membership price of $99 by using the code SUMMERSALE. Sign up for your $49.99 membership here.
The language of time speaks volumes to us in the workplace—and we don’t always correctly interpret it. In this gem from our archive, Lila MacLellan examines the hidden meanings of our reply times and meeting norms, and concludes that time is a strong but rarely recognized power construct in the workplace.
You got The Memo!
Our best wishes for a productive and creative day. Please send any workplace news, comments, cost-of-living adjustments, or company swag to firstname.lastname@example.org. Get the most out of Quartz by downloading our app and becoming a member. This week’s edition of The Memo was produced by Heather Landy and Sarah Todd.