Working from home: The impact on promotions and pay rises

Stephanie Thomas

Written By Hayley Saunders, HR Technical Consultant

15th May 2024

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Working from home has become a common practice, but it raises questions about its effects on career progression and salary increases. A survey by TonerGiant found that two in five (41%) of British workers feel they are less likely to get a pay rise if they don’t spend enough time in the office.


To further explore the implications of remote work on career advancement, we spoke with Hayley Saunders, HR Technical Consultant at AdviserPlus, to gain insights into how working from home might influence professional growth and the considerations HR should keep in mind.

Who might experience a disadvantage if promotions or pay rises are given in favour of those working from the office more?

There are many reasons why an employee may work from home or less frequently in the office, so careful consideration of the impact on equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) initiatives is a must, especially when considering reasonable adjustments that may be a basis for working remotely for disabled or neurodivergent employees.

In a situation where promotions or pay hikes are given to employees who are physically present in the office more often than others, certain categories of employees may be disadvantaged. This could include employees who have caregiving responsibilities for children or elderly parents, or those who live far away from the office and must commute long distances. Such employees may have chosen work from home arrangements to better balance their professional and personal commitments, but if they are not physically present in the office, they may miss out on opportunities for career advancement. 

What strategies can businesses adopt to prevent favoring those physically present in the office and inadvertently implementing a “proximity bias” when making promotion decisions?

To avoid the negative effects of “proximity bias”, businesses can take several measures. For example, they could put in place performance metrics that are based on objective criteria such as productivity, quality of work, and meeting deadlines. They could also create a culture of transparency and communication that encourages employees to share their accomplishments and successes. Another option is to ensure that promotions and pay rises are based on a fair and transparent process that considers all employees equally, regardless of their physical location. 

It is crucial to recognise that remote work does not reflect an individual’s dedication or ability. With research recently demonstrating how job candidates are prioritising hybrid and remote roles, linking reward to a mandate to be in the office seems like it could have a detrimental impact on recruitment and retention. As companies navigate the future of work, assessing promotion criteria based on merit and performance should remain the norm. 

What insights does this situation offer regarding broader perceptions and acceptance of remote work and hybrid work arrangements?

The issue of proximity bias highlights the need for more flexible work arrangements that accommodate the diverse needs of employees. Many businesses have embraced remote and hybrid working models and have witnessed the greater employee satisfaction, productivity, and cost savings flexible working can deliver. However, there has been a more recent shift towards a return to the office for many and this could lead to challenges with recruitment, employee engagement and retention of top talent.

There are many reasons why an employee may work remotely or less frequently in the office, so careful consideration of the impact on equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) initiatives is a must, especially when considering reasonable adjustments that may be a basis for working remotely for disabled or neurodivergent employees.

Given the proven success of remote work in recent years, mandating a return to the office to qualify for promotions, without accounting for individual needs, could hinder overall efficiency, decrease employee morale and create bias. This approach could limit highly skilled individuals who excel in working from home from progressing and could be a very demotivating factor. Job performance, dedication and skills should be the primary factors influencing promotions, ensuring an inclusive and meritocratic approach to career progression. Many individuals have embraced the flexibility of remote work, and organisations should be attuned to the need for measures that accommodate diverse working preferences.

Striking a balance between in-office attendance and remote working

Regular in-person interactions can strengthen team dynamics, improve communication, and boost overall team performance, so implementing policies that tie promotions to in-office attendance could have positive outcomes on improving attendance and encouraging employees who can back to work, but it is essential to strike a balance. Providing flexibility in work arrangements signals trust in employees and aligns with EDI principles, acknowledging individual preferences and creating a sense of autonomy, positively impacting job satisfaction and employee morale.

The pace of change in today’s world is reshaping how we engage our people and customers.

To remain competitive, it is crucial for your organisation to implement an EDI strategy that unlocks the full potential of your workforce.

The right EDI initiatives will help:

  • Boost employee engagement and employees will feel supported.
  • Attract a diverse talent pool
  • Enhance service delivery to diverse customer bases
  • Enhance workplace creativity, innovation, and problem-solving
  • Strengthen overall organisational health
  • Mitigate potential legal issues

Now is the time to act. Find out how we can help solidify your commitment to promoting equality, diversity, and inclusion in your organisation or get in touch to find out more.

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