Should you use office presence requirements to negotiate a higher salary?

Jul 20, 2023

4 mins

Should you use office presence requirements to negotiate a higher salary?
Christine Wilson

Christine is a writer based in Toronto, Canada.

We had a good two(ish)-year run of working from home in sweats and having mid-week afternoon laundry be the new normal. While many are still relishing in these perks, for some, these novelties are a thing of the past. As we find ourselves on the other side of the Covid-19 pandemic, work-from-home as a standard feature for full-time positions is dwindling, and many businesses are calling their employees back to the office.

One 2022 study from Owl Labs notes that, globally, only 16% of businesses are fully remote, and 44% do not allow remote work of any kind, signaling that the morning commute is not behind us entirely. Working from home was necessary during lockdowns, but is it now a privilege, or should it still be a right? If the latter, does that mean you can bolster the requirement for in-office presence to negotiate a higher salary?

For some perspective on the debate, we spoke with Lori Haugland, a Career Coach and Negotiation Expert with over 30 years of negotiation experience in the corporate world. Here’s why she believes required office presence isn’t advantageous when negotiating salary and the tactics she suggests using instead.

Why are businesses calling people back to the office?

When working from home extended much longer than the initial two-week Shelter In Place plan at the beginning of the pandemic, many started to believe that it would become a permanent fixture in the future of work.

However, that changed when even some of the most innovative tech companies reintroduced mandating office time. Data from Build Remote shows that 77% of Fortune 100 companies have implemented a hybrid work model, meaning some office face time is still necessary. Companies on this list, such as Morgan Stanley and Tesla, are back to an office-first work policy.

For some businesses, bringing people to the office comes down to necessity. Despite video calls being the norm, there are instances where online interactions just won’t cut it. Some examples include client-facing roles like sales, business development, or product development with proprietary information. Other arguments for bringing employees into the office could be to nurture the company culture and promote in-person collaboration.

Another reason companies want their employees back in the office is the sunk cost fallacy; these businesses have invested money into their office buildings, signed leases, and want to get the most out of them. Without staff to fill them, office buildings become a money pit for investors and businesses. According to a 2023 report from Cushman Wakefield, nearly 20% of office spaces across the United States are sitting empty.

The main thing to keep in mind when negotiating your salary

Knowing that companies might struggle to find employees prepared to return to their morning commute, does this allow you to negotiate a higher salary to get you on board?

Haugland believes that when negotiating your salary, the focus should be on the value you bring to the organization, your skills and qualifications, and the overall market demand for your expertise. “Individual circumstances may vary, and some companies or industries may have specific policies or cultures that influence compensation based on work location. My salary negotiations were never because of where I worked, but rather how I performed.” Haugland begins.

She notes that the first step to negotiation is your due diligence, and proper research is vital. “Generalizations regarding higher pay for employees working in the office would require more comprehensive data and analysis on a case-by-case basis.”

What can you negotiate instead if you are required to go to the office?

Just because mandatory office presence isn’t necessarily an advantage in negotiating your salary doesn’t mean you shouldn’t negotiate at all. There are other ways to use that aspect of the role to your advantage and find other perks to ask for in your offer.

One example is negotiating flexibility in your work arrangement; this might look like one work-from-home day a month or a work-from-anywhere week in the year. If being out of the office is an absolute no-go, consider negotiating what will support you in that environment or getting to it; for example, the cost of a monthly subway pass or the guarantee of a dedicated and quiet workspace.

If you do decide to go the route of negotiating a higher salary, doing your research is paramount. Instead of leaning on office presence requirements as your main negotiation point, come prepared with quantifiable data to support your ask. “Market trends have a significant role in salary negotiations, especially salary benchmarking. The candidate would have to know the average salaries for that position and negotiate from there,” Haugland notes.

Key takeaways: should you use office presence requirements to negotiate a higher salary?

Haugland believes citing the requirement for in-office presence is not how you should approach negotiating a higher salary. “I have never had clients that used office presence for salary negotiation, nor would I recommend it,” she affirms. “It’s difficult to validate how working in the office would be advantageous to an employer regarding salary, and I don’t believe anyone can leverage their office presence to make more money.”

That said, there are other ways to get what you want—whether that’s a higher salary or an office that allows you to work remotely. Here’s what Haugland suggests to keep in mind:

Reflect on your values. If a higher salary is what it would take for you to want to go into the office for this job, then is it the right job for you? If remote work is something you value, contemplate whether you’d be better off placing your efforts towards a job that offers that from the get-go and the same (or perhaps a better) salary.

Negotiate perks to support you coming into the office. If you still want the job but need more clarification regarding office presence requirements, lean into other perks that could make it more compelling and work to your benefit.

Use data and performance to leverage a salary increase. If you want to negotiate a higher salary, leave office presence out of the equation. Instead, focus on benchmarking and research and what you bring to the table (for more tips on how to do this, check out this primer on proper negotiating).

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