Alejandra McLatchie loves that her new home sits on two acres of land, with a pool and chicken coop, just a 10 minute walk to a lake.
In June, she and her family moved to Upper Tantallon, Nova Scotia, about 25 minutes from Halifax, abandoning their long daily commutes to downtown Toronto from their home with a small backyard in the suburb of Mississauga.
McLatchie and her husband Tyler, both of whom work in the insurance industry, are among what appear to be a growing number of people who have been able to relocate to smaller towns and cities across Canada as remote working for the pandemic has made their jobs – and their salaries in the big cities – transferable.
Statistics Canada data on internal migration during the pandemic period is not yet available, but a real estate boom in small towns across Canada has been linked, in part, to the new freedoms of remote working.
“I never thought I would have the opportunity to work from home five days a week, consistently, all the time,” McLatchie said.
LISTEN | Learn more about how Alejandra McLatchie advocated to move her work to the East Coast:
Cost of life9:33If I move, do I have to take my old salary with me?
When the pandemic struck, as difficult as that time was, she said she decided to use it as an opportunity to “show my abilities so that I can produce the same amount, if not more, by being at home from a distance. “.
Movements like the McLatchies have raised questions about whether employees should keep paychecks for the same amount when they move to cheaper areas. Tech giants, including Google and Facebook, for example, have said staff members who choose to continue working remotely after the pandemic from areas outside the normal commuting distance of the office may suffer a pay cut.
Good news for Canada, says economist
Yet other companies, including Shopify and many others in the tech industry, have said they are embracing remote working, in part as a way to retain workers with the skills in demand, while also expanding the pool of workers. candidates.
This is good news for our country, said Tony Bonen, director of research, data and analysis for the Ottawa Labor Market Information Council.
“I think the move to increased levels of flexibility for workers is good for companies; I think it’s good for the workers, ”he said.
“In the case of Canada, in particular, I think it’s particularly good for us, because it maybe allows people to expand a bit more. We have a lot of land here. And there’s a big difference between the number of people crowding in the big cities versus… the more remote areas that have a lot to offer, but there just weren’t any jobs there. “
If your job can be done just as well from part of the country without sky-high housing costs and long commutes, Bonen said the pay shouldn’t change with your zip code.
“I think if you have the flexibility, the advantage of working remotely anywhere in Canada, there is no reason your pay should be different, depending on where you choose to live,” said he declared. “If you live in an expensive city or a cheaper region, or a cheaper part of the city, for example, it’s a personal financial choice.”
Rather than clawing back existing wages when a worker moves further away, which would cause all kinds of human resource issues and hurt employee morale, Bonen said, a fairer way of looking at wages might be to offer a bonus for workers who have to live in our most expensive cities.
Necessary to compete for workers
Tying location to job – and therefore salary – disqualifies “99% of the people there,” said Greg Gunn, co-founder and CEO of Commit, a professional network that combines software engineers who work remotely. with tech startups.
That’s a problem, Gunn said, given that Canadian companies compete for these workers not only with the big American tech companies that have set up offices here, but with small and medium-sized companies outside of the country. countries that wish to hire Canadians to work remotely. .
“There are a lot of arbitrary rules that we created when we hired people and paid them in the past that have a certain necessity. But they are simply no longer relevant in a world where geography and opportunity become completely decoupled. “
There are a lot of arbitrary rules that we have created when we have hired people and paid them in the past that have some necessity. But they are simply no longer relevant in a world where geography and opportunity become completely decoupled.– Greg Gunn, CEO of Commit
Gunn, who lives in Vancouver, predicts that software engineering will be “the first completely distant career in the whole world, just because of the qualities of the profession.” This includes a long history of thousands of developers collaborating on open source software.
In fact, a number of Gunn’s industry colleagues have moved northwest from Vancouver to BC’s Sunshine Coast, including Commit engineer Alexandre Georges.
He and his girlfriend were able to move out of their one-bedroom apartment and buy a house in Gibsons, British Columbia, which would have cost three times as much in Vancouver, Georges said. Their new home is a five-minute walk from the forest and allows Georges to brew his own beer. With a bigger kitchen, he said, “we cook a lot more, which is quite nice.”
There was never any question of whether he would keep the same level of pay.
“I mean, in software engineer roles… there’s a lot of demand from companies, a lot of startups, launching new projects,” he said. “It definitely increases wages; it doesn’t matter where we are, especially with big companies like Amazon, Microsoft, who can afford to pay their engineers a lot. “
Bonen said that while many jobs remain tied to location, it’s not just high-tech workers who benefit from remote working. “For many professions in the service sector, there is this shift towards flexible working arrangements,” he said.
Companies are catching up
That said, compensation has traditionally varied between regions of Canada. For example, in the big category that Statistics Canada calls finance, insurance and business administration, people earn about $ 51,000 a year in Saskatchewan and just over $ 61,000 in British Columbia.
Afifa Siddiqui, CEO of Toronto-based Canadian Payroll Services, said many companies are catching up on the issue of location and compensation due to the lack of policies in place to deal with wage disparities between locations when employees asked them to relocate during the pandemic.
“I think the first step is for companies to create these policies very clearly and communicate them to their staff, so that when somebody decides or decides, ‘Am I going to take a pay cut’, they actually understand what the salary ranges are across their business. ”
In the case of Alejandra McLatchie, while her salary remained the same after leaving the Greater Toronto Area, she said her employer had let her know that he would generally pay $ 20,000 to $ 30,000 less for have someone do the same job in the Halifax area – “I guess I feel very lucky about my position.”