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For Whom the Polls Toll

Should you be paid less by your company for working from home? (and other queries).

During the month of August, I ran a half dozen or so polls on my LinkedIn feed on topics ranging from employment to technology. My LinkedIn network is over 10,000 people strong across almost every conceivable area (I’m an indiscriminate connector), though most of my daily interactions occur within the fields of the arts, entertainment, education, and technology.

Each question was posted individually across a period of weeks — so poll views ranged from the hundreds to the thousands, with votes ranging from the dozens to the hundreds (including on some of those with round number responses). I’ve listed the poll questions here roughly in order of voter interest. (One tangential learning is that arranging online polls by “most viewed” versus “most votes” results a different prioritization.)

My choice of topics was frankly based upon questions that I was personally interested in, occasionally motivated by a news article such as Google announcing significant pay cuts for work-at-home employees.

On that note (and without further ado) let’s dig into our first poll...

Should you be paid less by your company for working from home?

  • 3%    Yes
  • 97%  No

I was amused at being taken to task by former colleagues for even asking this question — as though I were raising an idea that wasn’t already being considered in board rooms and conference rooms around the world.

This query received the most views and most votes of any that I posed online, and also delivered a resounding message: 97% of respondents (including myself) believe that employees should not be paid less for working from home.

In poll comments and private messages, respondents noted that they typically work longer and harder at home (despite employer concerns to the contrary) and that the benefits of reduced commuting time and travel costs are offset by the uncompensated use of a portion of their home and utilities for work purposes.

Nevertheless — and despite the fact that companies save on vertical costs (facilities, utilities, insurance, etc...) by having employees work from home — you can expect employers to push for work-from-home pay cuts to offset near-term pandemic costs, and then to codify those reduced pay scales in place going forward.

Perhaps reduced work-from-home salaries will be considered the New Normal, with in-office increases qualifying as “hazard pay.” It all depends on what employees will tolerate. You have more power than you think... although most companies benefit from you being ignorant of that.

How much of your work is currently conducted from home?

  • 4%    None
  • 14%  Some
  • 23%  Most
  • 59%  All

Significantly (though unsurprisingly, given the number of knowledge workers in my LinkedIn network), more than 80% of respondents to this question indicated that they currently work from home. Notable exceptions include people who identified as laborers or service sector employees.

Despite technology being touted for decades as a means of working from “anywhere,” the skew of this response would have been inconceivable just two years ago. Nothing like a black swan event (or even a white swan event) to shake up the status quo.

How many hours a week do you work on average?

  • 0%    Less than 20
  • 10%  Less than 40
  • 60%  More than 40
  • 30%  More than 60

Sadly (from my subjective POV), an incredible 90% replied that they work more than 40 hours a week — with a third working more than 60 hours a week.

As a producer and professor, my weekly average varies but my annual average is less than 40 hours a week. And as a late-life dad with nothing to prove, I try to keep it that way. Time is more valuable to me than money. Which brings us to our next question...

What do you value more?

  • 86%  Time
  • 14%  Money

Despite the fact that 90% of respondents to the previous question work more than 40 hours per week, an almost equal percentage of respondents to this question claimed they value time more than money.

While this discrepancy could be explained by the fact that poll questions were posted separately and had different (though at times overlapping) reply pools, it may also demonstrate the phenomenon of aspirational response: where people answer idealistically versus realistically.

A few respondents noted that time becomes more valuable than money as you grow older (and presumably have more of the latter and less of the former) — something I can relate to as a late-life father of two young girls.

Which is the more important work consideration?

  • 20%  Salary
  • 4%    Security
  • 76%  Satisfaction

Resignation to the fact that job security is a thing of the past is apparent in the responses to this poll question. I count myself among those who indicated that satisfaction is more important than salary — and my work/life choices bear that out.

How should people be compensated?

  • 52%  By hours worked
  • 48%  By deliverables met

This question generated a fair amount of discussion. The response split is fairly even and (based on comments) appears to be related to whether you provide a commodity or a value (with full awareness that those of us who provide a commodity — especially on the creative front — are slow to recognize it and loath to admit it). As with all these poll questions, there’s no “correct” answer: context is everything.

The most vocal voters were animation workers, who overwhelmingly preferred to be compensated “by hours worked” and shared real-life horror stories of being raked over the coals on revisions — sometimes to the point of financial ruin. Indeed, as a former employee and union shop steward at Walt Disney Feature Animation, I appreciated my “hourly” status. The “pay to play” framework kept things in line: crunch time meant I got paid big time and producers planned accordingly.

That said, I’m currently one of those who voted “by deliverables met.” As an experienced freelance creative and consultant, I prefer my compensation to be based on the value of the work delivered, not on how many hours I spend in the near term. (To wit: if an hour of insightful conversation with me on a Zoom call can save millions of dollars on your China strategy, how much is that worth to you? I currently charge a bargain rate of just $500 per hour for that frontline intel.)

How attractive is China as a market?

  • 0%    More attractive than before
  • 64%  Less attractive than before
  • 36%  The same as before

On that note, I’ll give you a freebie: China appears to have jumped the shark — at least for foreigners. I lived and worked in China for 12 years — from 2008 until 2020 — less than some foreigners, but longer than most. I had my successes, and (like many) the tipping point on my departure was the pandemic, but the writing was on the wall long before then.

The “New Normal” of the pandemic coincides with (and some would say facilitates) a “New Normal” in China. Plan accordingly.

Tax breaks & other incentives aside, as an employer responsible for health benefits, where would you choose to open a new animation studio?

  • 64%  USA
  • 36%  Canada

Closer to home, I posed this question related to Disney’s announcement of the opening of a new production facility in Vancouver to feed the streaming content demands of Disney+.

In my opinion, opening a production studio in Canada makes just as much good business sense during the pandemic as it did before the pandemic — given Canadian tax breaks and other incentives. It also makes good creative sense, given the supply of top animation talent in Canada. Production incentives aside, it furthermore makes logistical sense in the Pandemic Era to manage risk by allocating your eggs to different territorial baskets.

Nevertheless — and despite the USA’s COVID-highlighted healthcare crisis — it appears that my respondents would currently prefer to be on the hook for employee health benefits in Canada than in America. Go figure.

Which company would you rather be CEO of?

  • 70%  Apple
  • 30%  Microsoft

This is another poll question that received many more votes that the round number response would imply. The topline, based on voter comments, is that most respondents care more about Apple than Microsoft and would like to be CEO of Apple to “fix” it. Voters who threw in with Microsoft generally believed that MS was fundamentally more progressive than Apple.

Jeff Bezos offers you a free round-trip space flight OR a $1,000,000 donation to your favorite charity. Which do you choose?

  • 17%  Space
  • 83%  Charity

I had to ask.  As expected, most voters replied “charity.” Call me cynical, but I don’t believe them. 

Aside from your smartphone, you can use only ONE of the following devices going forward. Which do you choose?

  • 30%  Desktop
  • 63%  Laptop
  • 7%    Tablet

For most, it’s laptop. For me, it’s a tablet. The fact that 5% of my work still requires a laptop or desktop is an annoying hardware play by Apple et al.

The “aside from your smartphone” caveat was based on the assumption that if “smartphone” were included as a choice, almost everyone would pick it.

How much time do you spend using VR per day?

  • 79%  None
  • 8%    Less than 15 minutes
  • 8%    Up to an hour
  • 5%    More than an hour

It’s a bad sign when 4 out of every 5 folks in my tech-savvy network don’t use VR at all. More than seven years after Facebook kicked off a VR frenzy by purchasing Oculus for $2 billion, the technology is still floundering for a market.

Are you currently using real-time technology for animation or visual effects?

  • 50%  Yes
  • 50%  No

I expect the “Yes” reply to be 100% in a year or so, for at least a portion of any given production pipeline.

Kevin Geiger's picture

Kevin is the author of AWN's Reality Bites blog, his musings on the art, technology and business of immersive media (AR, VR, MR) and AI. You can find Kevin's website at www.kevingeiger.com and he can be reached at holler@kevingeiger.com.

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