Don't count on a fat raise if you work from home

Flickr user Tina Lawson

(MoneyWatch) COMMENTARY   As much as we love telecommuting and corporate work-from-home policies, there's strong evidence that people who don't work in the office every day are less likely to get raises and promotions than those who do. You might argue that's not fair; you might also argue that employees make a choice and for them, the benefits of working from home outweigh the career advancement opportunities. Either way, the MIT Sloan Management Review has just published a study that tries to explain why this is so.

Perhaps the most important conclusion is that employee pay and performance evaluations do not necessarily reflect conscious decisions on the part of managers. As a result, any biases against employees who work from are not easily overcome. Specifically, such decisions by management are related to something MIT researchers call "passive face time." According to MIT, there are two kinds of face time:

"Expected face time" is a consequence of being seen at work, at your desk or in meetings, during regular business hours. By contrast, "extracurricular face time" happens when you appear at work outside of normal hours, such as early in the morning, late at night, or on weekends.

These different levels of visibility in the workplace lead managers to draw different conclusions about employees. Expected face time tends to result in labels like "responsible" and "dependable," while extracurricular face time leads managers to think of you as "committed" and "dedicated."

If you work from home, whether all the time or a couple days a week -- this can have a significant impact on your face-time observations. As MIT points out, this is often unintentional, even subconscious, which makes it potentially more insidious because managers don't realize they are judging you negatively by the very same guidelines they consciously authorized -- letting you work from home.

Said one interviewee in the study:

"It really has sort of an automatic negative effect when a manager is in crisis mode, and they look and notice you're not there. It's kind of irritating to them if you're not immediately available, or [on the other hand, comforting] if they can check and see you are there in the office, just in case they need you. Because they're in crisis mode they may not even really remember what it was that irritated them, but they've just got this feeling that you're unreliable."
Has work-from-home policies appeared to have negative consequences at your workplace? Share your observations in the comments.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Tina Lawson