Is the talent of one person worth less than another simply because of their physical location? As the pandemic has spread people across the globe, we’re taking a look at how remote work is changing the salary landscape.
High COL == high salary
After working for a FinTech company for a few years, I was ready to make a change and started looking to see what was out there. I was living in Denver at the time, and even though this was before prices skyrocketed, it still wasn’t exactly cheap. And then I got contacted by a company in the Bay Area. They were willing to pay me almost twice as much as what I was finding locally, but we all know what the Bay Area is like…even at double the salary, I couldn’t afford to take a position out there and live anywhere remotely close to the office.
And then the pandemic hit. When WFH became an option (neé necessity), San Francisco emptied out. Between April 2020 and July 2021, the city had a population decline of 6.7%. Compare that with 3.8% in New York City and 2.8% in Washington D.C., and you see how stark the difference really is. So where did all of those people go? Arizona, Texas, Idaho, Florida, and Tennessee, where cost of living is significantly lower than the major metropolitan areas we all previously flocked to, are topping the list. So that begs the question: is the work of the Bay Area developer who relocated to New Braunfels worth less simply because their home office is in a different location?
Where’s the money, Lebowski?
There’s no shortage of tactics currently in play allowing companies to justify bringing their workers back to the office, with pay based on location being a big one. They’ve found themselves stuck between a rock (we already pay you X amount of dollars to live and work in this city) and a hard place (we’ve got no immediate plans to return to the office full time). So now what? They can’t lower your salary without fear of you jumping ship to any one of the numerous other tech companies out there, but they somehow don’t think you deserve to be making $175k a year while you live in Des Moines.
Remote work is changing the salary landscape for exactly these reasons. People are taking their high salaries from the high cost of living areas, and spreading out, literally becoming the change. Because of the increase in remote work, a tech company based in Lexington, Kentucky is now competing for talent with tech companies in NYC and Los Angeles, and if they don’t pony up the cash they’re not going to get the talent they need. This effectively levels the playing field and allows people to live wherever they want, while still seeking out those high-paying jobs.
From our perspective, there are two situations in play: internal employees and our platform talent.
Let’s start internally. Yes, we are based in Nashville, Tennessee. There’s an office there and everything! But we will hire the best talent available, regardless of location. And we pay people what their work is worth, because living in Carolina Beach or Houston or Billings has zero bearing on your ability to kick ass at your job. In fact, it probably helps you kick even more ass because you’re able to live a life you feel is comfortable in a place that makes you happy. And if you’re not? Well, go ahead and move, like I did; I got nothing but support and excitement for my new journey.
And when it comes to our platform talent? They are the ones who are truly showing how remote work is changing the salary landscape, and that’s not just U.S.-based talent. We like to think that some of our policies are helping to make it happen. For example, we have a requested salary range for all talent on the platform, and there is a minimum requirement. You can’t beat the competition here by asking for $20 an hour. We don’t support the “race to the bottom” you see on so many other platforms, because we believe you should be paid appropriately for the years of hard work that got you to where you are today.
Can we instill these policies in every company? It’s not likely, but we can definitely do our best to show how well it works here, and to shine a light on the other places that do it well. In the end, all we know is that your skills are what you should be paid for, and no geographic location changes that.