Asking for a salary increase when working from home

Posted On 20 Oct 2021

Asking for a salary increase when working from home

20 Oct 2021
Asking for a salary increase when working from home

Candidate Resource, Employer Resource, EST10 Team, News & Events

Asking for a salary increase when working from home

This is a tough, challenging and sensitive scenario. It’s also a new situation for all of us and not as clear cut as it might first seem.

Let’s face it, asking for a salary increase is stressful at the best of times. Overlay COVID and working from home (WFH), and the bar just inched up that little bit higher. It’s ‘easier’ to put aside such conversations ‘for another time’. Delaying the discussion in some cases is a wise strategy if it is a strategy and not a diversion or procrastination coming from anxiety and discomfort.

Before you put yourself out there, first ascertain if the increase is valid?
Knowing if a salary increase is warranted is critical to the whole equation and discussion. If it is not valid, you may embark on a path of disappointment, misunderstanding, and resentment. If your finances have changed, i.e., a new mortgage, etc., this is not a reason for an increase. Typically, asking for an increase is based on:

  1. Performing above expectations
  2. Not receiving an increase for an extended period of time (over 2 years), and it’s in line with CPI or market shifts.

In either case, it is crucial to be objective, with facts and figures and not wishful thinking.

The hardships that bring us to be working from home

Be sensible. There is a lot of discussion around whether salary increases should be expected when WFH. It’s the sensitivity of how and why we have come to work from home, i.e., because of the lockdowns and the pandemic and the hardship associated, that leave us feeling uncomfortable. And to that, I agree. Awareness of our reality and what has brought us here needs to occur.

However, as we move forward, with WFH now becoming the new norm and for some businesses providing an option and a choice, all that changes the dynamic. There is also the talk of reduced personal costs due to such things as less travel, no need for expenses on work attire and similar. In the same way, I have said increased mortgage repayments are not a valid reason for an increase; your reduced personal expenses are also not a reason not to warrant an increase. You might also feel fortunate to work from home, WFH or the office makes no difference if an increase is justified.

However, there are hurdles and sensitivities to consider.

Hurdles and sensitivities

Is your boss aware of your hard work? Research shows employees are more likely to be promoted when ‘visible’. When working remotely, your boss is likely to only see the finished product and not witness the effort. Subconsciously, your boss might not realise how hard you worked. You are responsible for ensuring your boss is aware of your effort and actions. This doesn’t have to be done in an awkward self-promoting way. Having said that, when WFH, your skillset in self-promoting will require further attention and development as it’s vital to your ‘existence’ in our new working environment.

Instead, incorporate your efforts and achievements in your typical dialogue, conversations and updates. Developing and polishing your communication skills may need to be your new focus as we continue to work remotely and with decreased close physical contact with our colleagues. Consider communicating tasks and achievements via an update each Friday. It also acts as a record for your own easy reference.

The pandemic. Apply your good judgment to appreciate if the circumstances that have likely brought you to WFH are the pandemic and lockdowns. If the business has experienced significant challenges, the style of conversation and your expectation may need to be tempered or even delayed. In these circumstances, you may deserve a raise, and in normal conditions, your boss may be delighted to give you one–but what if they can’t right now? If the climate isn’t right, that means the timing is also not right. Alternatively, have the conversation, acknowledge the environment and timing and say you are willing to wait. Delivered in non-passive aggressive tones, will build stronger relationships, demonstrate compassion and your boss will appreciate it.

What if the increase is valid and the climate is good?

Still, be strategic! Start thinking and having preliminary conversations well before your review, potentially 2, 3, or even 4 months ahead of time. If asking for an increase in your review without preliminary conversations, your boss may not be prepared, and disappointment may result. Depending upon the organisations, some salary increases are calculated well in advance, fitting into larger plans. Flex in such companies and on the spot increases are often beyond the scope of your boss. Knowing this ahead of time can help you work within its parameters.

Practice saying what you want to convey and ensure it’s not about your personal circumstances. Make it about your achievements and the value created. Use a neutral, even tone. It portrays calmness, allays nerves and is conducive to an exploratory conversation without emotion.

A downside of WFH is it creates an environment where relationships are easily impacted. Trust and having strong relationships when having discussions of this nature are essential and will more likely produce a positive result. When I say, ‘positive result’, I am not solely referring to meeting salary expectations–for this may not occur, but the result can still be positive. How both parties feel (respected, heard, etc.) at the end of the discussion determines a good outcome. Trust and respect come from time and shared experiences, which is harder to achieve and maintain when WFH.

For that reason, use opportunities every time they present themselves. One way of doing this is to utilise the ‘office time’. If your business can operate in the office on occasions, do so and coordinate the same days as your boss and other team members. Book a coffee catch up or working lunch. View that time as an investment in your working relationships, which are critical to success in the workplace. Also, attend all virtual team building and meeting sessions. They all help! Even better if you can come with your own ideas and initiatives for these sessions. Being proactive is paramount if you want to be seen and recognised, even if you belong to the ‘quiet achiever’ type.

Where possible, have conversations about your salary face to face. Use an online platform as the next best option. If you have to wait to have a face-to-face meeting–do so. Avoid phone calls and utilise emails as the very last resort.

What if it is a no?

Given our current times, don’t be disappointed if the answer is a no or you don’t receive your desired outcome. Salary negotiations are not personal. Apply detachment and be pragmatic. If you like your job, company and boss, be patient. Many a career disaster has unfolded in reactive decision making after such discussions. 

 

Ask why. If your manager can provide an area to work on, this is good news! You can plan and move forward. If the answer is due to the economic climate or business performance, ask what you can do to assist and when it might be appropriate to continue the conversation or review the subject at a later date. Or maybe your role has hit its threshold? Then look to see if it can be redesigned and additional tasks added to create and bring more value to the company.

 

Asking for a salary increase is one of the most uncomfortable topics to have at work. People resign rather than tackling the awkward discussion! And WFH makes it even harder! Help yourself by doing research, understand your environment, plan, be considerate and patient. More than anything, don’t compare; let your unique contribution and confidence shine!

‘Be so good they can’t ignore you.’ – Steve Martin

About the author
Roxanne Calder
Managing Director

As Founder and Managing Director at EST10, Roxanne has an all-encompassing role that includes building and growing the business, as well as actively recruiting and consulting.

After completing a Bachelor’s Degree at Monash University, Roxanne began her recruitment career with renowned recruiter Julia Ross. From there, Roxanne worked in HR and recruitment with a number of global players and boutique businesses throughout Australia, the UK, Singapore and Hong Kong for over 20 years. She has been responsible for managing large teams and projects, implementing RPO models, managing and assisting businesses to an IPO and assisting companies in setting up their recruitment teams and processes.

Following completion of her MBA at the Australian Graduate School of Management, Roxanne launched EST10 in July 2010. In doing so, she hoped to combine the flexibility and high touch service levels of boutique agencies with the structure and strategy afforded to larger firms. Roxanne believes in high-touch, high-care consulting and is always on the lookout for consultants that share this vision of recruitment.