Should You Take a Pay Cut to Work From Home?

Trading salary for flexibility can be frustrating, but in many cases, it still makes sense.

Maurie Backman
Maurie Backman
Jun 29, 2019 at 8:18AM
Investment Planning

These days, a growing number of companies are adopting work-from-home policies to grant workers more flexibility. And in many cases, employees aren't suffering financially because of it.

Much of the time, workers who do their jobs remotely earn the same salary as in-office employees, according to FlexJobs, and in some cases, work-from-homers even earn more. But what if your company is only willing to let you work from home in exchange for a pay cut? Is that option worth the cost?

Flexibility versus finances

Ideally, you won't land in a scenario where you're forced to choose between keeping your salary or getting more flexibility by working from home. But if your employer is compelling you to make that choice, you'll need to weigh the income hit against the added perks.

Man siting at desk in home office, facing a blue wall with a memo board

IMAGE SOURCE: GETTY IMAGES.

First, assess the pay cut in question. Is it substantial? A modest reduction in salary may not be all that bad when you consider the savings you stand to reap by not having to go into the office all the time.

Imagine you're looking at a $3,000 reduction in salary in exchange for being allowed to do your job from home. If you currently spend $250 a month on a train or bus pass to commute to your job, or a similar amount in fuel, then you're effectively breaking even.

Working from home might also help you save money in other ways. For example, if you have kids, you might manage to shave off some child care expenses, thereby saving hundreds or even thousands over the course of a year. You might also be far less tempted to buy lunch daily, since you'll have access to your kitchen. And if you're in the habit of blowing $10 a day on store-bought sandwiches, there are additional savings right there.

But monetary savings aside, there are benefits to being able to work remotely, like the time savings you'll reap by not having to travel to and from an office. This is especially valuable if you have a longer commute. Furthermore, when you work from home, you get the option to tend to household tasks in between work tasks so they're not all left waiting for you late in the evening. That, in turn, could help you enjoy your nights more and even snag added hours of sleep.

Therefore, when you contemplate a salary cut in exchange for working from home, ask yourself what your personal time and sanity are worth. A modest income hit could be well worth the sacrifice if it results in a better work-life balance.

Of course, you don't want to take too large a salary cut for the privilege of doing your job from home. If your earnings go down to the point where you might struggle to pay your bills, then perhaps that flexibility isn't worth it, since the stress that might ensue could wipe out any benefits you stand to reap. But if you're looking at a small hit in income for working remotely, it may be a worthwhile trade-off.