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Research: You Might Get Passed Over For a Raise If You WFH, Especially If You’re a Man

illustration of a man drinking coffee and working, WFH

Some not so good news coming out of University of Warsaw this month: people who work remotely, even part-time, are less likely to get raises and promotions. And it’s male WFHers who miss out most. This research is the first of its kind post-COVID, surely academia will be investigating the matter further for many years to come.

The study abstract:

Work from home (WFH) has been a part of the professional landscape for over two decades, yet it was the COVID-19 pandemic that has substantially increased its prevalence. The impact of WFH on careers is rather ambiguous, and a question remains open about how this effect is manifested in the current times considering the recent extensive and widespread use of WFH during the pandemic. In an attempt to answer these questions, this article investigates whether managerial preferences for promotion, salary increase and training allowance depend on employee engagement in WFH. We also explore the heterogeneity of the effects of WFH on careers across different populations by taking into account the employee’s gender, parenthood status, frequency of WFH as well as the prevalence of WFH in the team. An online discrete choice experiment was run on a sample of over 1,000 managers from the United Kingdom. The experiment was conducted between July and December 2022, and thus after the extensive use of this working arrangement during the COVID-19 pandemic. The findings indicate that employees who WFH are less likely to be considered for promotion, salary increase and training than on-site workers. The pay and promotion penalties for WFH are particularly true for men (both fathers and non-fathers) and childless women, but not mothers. We also find that employees operating in teams with a higher prevalence of WFH do not experience negative career effects when working from home. The findings underline the importance of individual factors and familiarisation as well as social acceptance of flexible working arrangements in their impact on careers.

Tony Trueman of British Sociological Association writes in Phys.org:

A survey of 937 UK managers found that they were 11% less likely to give a promotion to staff who worked entirely from home than to those who were completely office-based.

Hybrid workers—those working partly in the office and partly at home—were on average 7% less likely to be promoted.

Managers were 9% less likely to give a pay rise to staff working entirely from home than to those who were completely office-based, and 7% less likely to give one to hybrid workers.

The research found a gender gap: managers were 15% less likely to promote men who worked entirely from home than those who were completely office-based, and 10% less likely to give a pay increase. The figures for women were 7% and 8%, respectively.

FWIW this was all hypothetical. The managers were given two profiles of made-up staff who worked full-time in office, full-time at home, or hybrid with three days in-office and two at home. From there the managers were asked to choose which one they’d promote and which one they’d give a raise.

Here’s the part that should get the attention of our friends with Big 4 email addresses [emphasis ours because we know y’all don’t read entire paragraphs]:

They found that in organizations with very demanding work cultures, the managers were around 30% less likely to promote and 19% less likely to give a pay rise to men who worked entirely from home than to men who worked solely in the office. The figures for women were 15% and 19%, respectively. In organizations with more supportive environments, no penalty to staff for flexible working was found.

“In more supportive organizations, so where there is less pressure and long working days and where family-friendly policies exist, we don’t find such negative consequences of remote work,” said co-author Agnieszka Kasperska presenting the study to the British Sociological Association at their annual conference on April 5th.

“[O]ur findings indicate that individuals working from home still encounter career penalties, irrespective of the widespread adoption of this mode of work. Both male and female remote workers experience career penalties, but they are substantially larger for men.”

Obviously we need more data to know for sure if this is a thing and if it’s something most people care enough about to go back into the office.

One thought on “Research: You Might Get Passed Over For a Raise If You WFH, Especially If You’re a Man

  1. Women are already promoted over men at most firms anyway. Promoting men doesn’t trigger the DIE scorecards.

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