Taking a pay cut to work remotely could cost you 'hundreds of thousands of dollars,' career expert warns

"[Full-time remote workers] are also missing the opportunity to learn through osmosis."


As members of Gen Z enter the workforce, they are making it clear that remote work is a priority. For those who secured a full-time job upon graduating, 37% took a job that is full-time remote and 35% took a job that embraced a hybrid work model, according to a Breeze survey of 1,000 members of the class of 2021.

Even more telling, of those with a flexible work situation, 67% took a pay cut to have the ability to work from home. And more than half of the unemployed Gen Zers surveyed, 58%, said that going forward, the option to work from home would be the most important factor while exploring future job opportunities.

For recent grads, working full-time remote is not a "career-killer," says Amanda Augustine, career expert for TopResume. However, it "can cost you hundreds of thousands of dollars over the course of your career."

Before taking a pay cut for a more flexible work situation in your first job, here's what to think about, according to career experts.

Your starting salary determines your future raises

When you're just starting out in your career, you might be willing to trade a few thousand dollars for increased flexibility. However, as you get older and your financial goals get loftier — investing for retirement or saving for a down payment for a house — you may depend more on receiving regular cost-of-living and merit raises.

Starting at a lower figure puts you at a disadvantage for the rest of your time at that company, Augustine says: "Often, raises at companies are based on a percentage of your current salary — if you're starting with a lower salary, then your raises will often be smaller as well."

Think about how long you want to stay at this company and if the trade-off of salary for flexibility will be worth it in the long run.

Finding a mentor could prove challenging

Starting a job and only working remotely might result in you "missing moments of informal and organic guidance," says Akhila Satish, a career expert and CEO of consulting company Meseekna.

"One of the most important steps in starting your career is finding mentors, and those relationships are harder to form remotely," she says.

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Along with learning from more seasoned co-workers, there are benefits to seeing how your peers accomplish goals in person.

Full-time remote workers "are also missing the opportunity to learn through osmosis when they opt for remote work as they won't get to experience the day-to-day interactions and learning moments from behind their computer screens," Satish says. "Even if they're not directly involved in certain projects, being in the office and observing the way their colleagues interact with each other and with clients is key to developing a professional mindset."

One of the most important steps in starting your career is finding mentors, and those relationships are harder to form remotely.
Akhila Satish
career expert and CEO of consulting company Meseekna

Working remotely full time might not put you at a disadvantage, but until you are a few months into your job, it will be hard to know, she adds.

"My advice to those who opted for a remote job after college is to make sure to set a time for yourself a few months down the line to reevaluate the remote position once you're more settled," she says. "You may not have been in the right decision-making mindset when you took the job, but a few months of work should give you a better understanding of if the remote workplace was the optimal choice."

You could be a victim of 'proximity bias'

If you are one of the only people in the office working full-time remote, this might reflect poorly on you, even if you are performing your job well, Augustine says.

"If many of your colleagues are not working remotely as often as you are, there is a chance that you'll face proximity bias — the false assumption that employees who work in the office, where their managers can see and hear them, will be more productive than their work-from-home colleagues," she says.

Offices that encourage remote work can display this bias, she says.

If you're starting with a lower salary, then your raises will often be smaller as well.
Amanda Augustine
Career expert with TopResume

"Even companies who promoted a flexible working environment prior to the pandemic may unknowingly exhibit proximity bias, which can cause remote workers to be overlooked for promotions or other career-advancement opportunities in favor of those who are working in the office," she says.

Pay attention to who is getting promoted and how often they are in the office. If you feel like your goals cannot be reached if you are working remotely, think about making a change, she says: "If you're new to the workforce and have yet to establish your professional reputation, hone your skills, or build your network, you might want to think twice before going completely remote for the long term."

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