Image: GettyImages/10’000 Hours

Negotiating salary for a new job or raises for a current job is often a challenge for workers and companies alike. It can be especially tricky without a face-to-face sit down whereby both sides can make an interpersonal case for what is sought versus what is offered. Even video conferences may lack that sense of diplomacy when it comes to establishing appropriate pay levels.

SEE: Google Workspace vs. Microsoft 365: A side-by-side analysis w/checklist (TechRepublic Premium)

“Negotiating pay remotely comes with its own set of challenges and can be particularly nerve-wracking,” said Andrew Hunter, co-founder of Adzuna. “The last 18 months have shown that working remotely doesn’t need to negatively impact productivity, but in some cases there may still be a sense of division between office-based workers and remote workers. However, there is no reason why remote employees shouldn’t be striving for raises and promotions at the same rate as their office-based colleagues.”

It’s been my observation that the disparity between on-premises and remote work is really the elephant in the room when it comes to salary discussions. When it comes landing that a new job, employees might argue that a technical job which paid $120K two years ago should remain the same if not adjusted upward to account for the 3% annual cost of living increase, as the value of the work is the same.

Employers might counter by stating a remote job doesn’t require commuting costs, automobile maintenance and dining out, which many on-premises workers might choose over a brown bag lunch. In such a scenario an employer might offer $108K, a 10% cut, to match the money saved by the remote employee.

However, overall that’s generally not the case, Hunter said. “Some big brands, including Google, Facebook and Twitter, have publicly stated that they will adjust remote workers’ salaries depending on where they live. However a recent survey found that 95% of companies don’t plan to adjust salaries for remote workers.”

There’s also another factor at hand when it comes to asking for wage increases, Hunter said. “Some remote employees may feel that they don’t get the same level of recognition as office-based colleagues—and therefore might be more hesitant to start a salary discussion; it can feel more difficult because of that lack of face-to-face interaction.”

Hunter also shared my viewpoint that working remotely may mean less exposure to senior leaders and more time working on independent initiatives, which can make feelings of imposter syndrome more acute and employees may thus feel devalued.

SEE: Top keyboard shortcuts you need to know (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

“Employees should know their market rate and have a thorough understanding of their skills and the value they bring, emphasize the reasons they deserve to be paid their asking salary in addition to the courses of action they have taken that make them worthy of the raise (for existing employees),” Hunter said. He cited the tool Adzuna’s ValueMyResume as a place to start understanding market rates.

“In addition, if an employee increased their value by learning new skills or by working towards a certification, it’s crucial their employer is aware of this because it shows career ambition and a desire to learn and advance. Ultimately, the most useful conversations around raises are part of a longer-term career plan about what you want and how you can get there,” he said.

Hunter also stressed some techniques I have seen come in handy; employees highlighting what their collaboration, timeliness and communication has been like with the team, emphasizing a “go above and beyond” spirit by volunteering for tasks where appropriate and describing how they get tasks done in a timely manner. “Coming with examples of success and dedication will help an employee have a strong case when asking for a raise,” he said.

For employers, Hunter offered these key strategies:

  • Recognize your employees’ worth—Before diving into these conversations, it’s important that employers ask themselves how much value an employee adds to the organization, what it would cost them to replace the employee and how much this negotiation can benefit the organization’s culture.
  • Communicate clearly and directly—Having effective and transparent communication is essential with salary negotiations. When employers are up front with their employees, clear expectations are set, there is less room for misunderstandings and that means better morale throughout the company.
  • Understand your financial capabilities—Consider what the company is able to provide over and above an employees’ request. For instance, you might not be able to provide a significant raise but may be able to offer additional benefits such as more paid time off.
  • Stay flexible—Salary negotiations can have a lot of back and forth as employees try to provide counter offers. Even if the negotiation is a long shot that the company cannot afford a higher salary at the moment, it’s important to seek middle ground. This will lead to a fair settlement and also maintain a positive relationship.