Chapter 5

What do remote workers want?

While a company’s operational and financial needs have a large influence on its remote compensation strategy, a strong remote pay policy will also take into account the needs of remote workers.


In our interviews with remote work experts, the main points that they shared when it comes to what remote workers want are:
  • Transparency
  • Pay equity
  • Benefits
  • Clear communication

Transparency about pay and pay strategy

In the US, pay transparency laws have been growing in popularity in recent years. In 2021, Colorado became the first state to require employers to show salary ranges in their job listings. Beginning in 2023, California, Rhode Island, and Washington also began enforcing similar laws, and other locations are following suit. Transparency isn’t just about showing salary ranges to job seekers, though (although that can certainly be a good start). Workers also want to know what a company’s pay policy is and how their pay is determined. When asked what job seekers are looking for with remote compensation, We Work Remotely's CEO Kevin Kirkpatrick says,
“Transparency. This is part of a cultural change happening. The compensation needs to be transparent. Companies are still evaluating what level of transparency is right for them – do you share all salaries? Do you share compensation calculators? Do you share the formulas for cost of living adjustment? When you’re in the same [local] market, there’s an assumption you’re paying the same rate. But if you’re across the world, the assumption is that pay is different, and people want to know if it’s fair.”Kevin Kirkpatrick, CEO at We Work Remotely
Alex Wilson-Campbell, host of the Remote Work Life podcast, consults with both employers and job seekers as a career development coach. He states, “Transparency is number one on the list” of what the job seekers he works with want. He says transparency “starts all the way from when the job is actually advertised. The number one complaint I get from people looking for roles is that they don’t know what the salary is for that particular role when they apply. In fact, some companies will only really share those salary details at the very end. That leaves job seekers feeling disgruntled.” Wilson-Campbell says that lack of salary transparency can be particularly detrimental to people who are reluctant to negotiate. He states, “The research shows that women are perhaps less likely to push for a specific salary and therefore, when they get to the offer stage, they may get offered less than their male counterparts…If there are compensation strategies that are fair, equitable, [and] transparent, that will in turn allay any sort of fears or any sort of misconceptions around the pay that remote workers get.”Frameworks Marketing CEO Michelle Keefer says, “Trust is fundamental. I have to be very transparent with my staff. They see the margins that we have. If anyone feels they’re being exploited, it doesn’t work. It takes a lot of pay transparency between teammates, for them to feel comfortable sharing with each other.”Remote Works co-author Ali Greene believes that the type of strategy a company chooses to use is not necessarily even as important as how clearly the company explains that strategy. She says, “The most successful remote compensation strategies are very explicit in why they were created in a certain way…What makes one [compensation] version more successful than another is not the strategy itself but the intentionality behind it.” Greene explains that it’s important for a company to share “clear criteria for the salary by role, how you came up with those benchmarks and rubrics, where the data’s coming from, and [make] sure you’re being consistent [and] objective.” She states that asking “can you explain the reasoning, the logistics, and the methodology back to your employee base is a really good gut check to ensure that you have a successful strategy on your hands.”
“Transparency is number one on the list...The number one complaint I get from people looking for roles is that they don’t know what the salary is for that particular role when they apply.”Alex Wilson-Campbell, Founder and Host of Remote Work Life podcast

Pay equity

As we discussed for each of the three main remote pay strategies, there are pros and cons for each model, and every model will be unfair in its own way. The best model, from a remote worker’s viewpoint, will be the one that is most equitable. What is considered most equitable or fair may vary by worker and company. For Chris Dyer, founding member at Remote-First Institute, he found that the employees at his company PeopleG2 preferred that, under a certain salary, employees be paid the same, regardless of location. He says that this location-agnostic approach “just made it simple, and the employees preferred it that way. We got a lot of feedback that they didn’t want it to be $50,000 for this person [in a lower cost-of-living area] and the same person in LA is getting $55,000. They would just rather it be the same.”For virtual school Prisma, they used a location-based strategy so they could attract teachers from areas with higher cost of living. Their location-based salaries have worked well with their staff. Their CEO Kristen Shroff states, “Our team reports feeling compensated fairly. We’ve never had anyone leave because of compensation.”
Alex Wilson-Campbell, Founder & Host of Remote Work Life podcast
Alex Wilson-Campbell, Founder & Host of Remote Work Life podcast

Benefits available regardless of location

Another factor that remote workers are looking for is compensation packages that offer benefits, such as healthcare, which can be tricky for companies to navigate when they hire internationally. We Work Remotely's Kevin Kirkpatrick says that job seekers are attracted to places that offer benefits, but they can be hard to find:
“Benefits are so different when you go to remote work. Some companies don’t offer any health benefits because it’s nearly impossible to manage geographical differences, so they hire contractors instead.”Kevin Kirkpatrick, CEO at We Work Remotely
Because of the complexity of offering benefits, it can take time until a company is ready to do so. SafetyWing built up their benefits offerings over time, as their company has grown. Their CEO Sondre Rasch says, “We have improved benefits quite a lot over the years. We started out with nothing, as I think a lot of startups start out – when it’s only the founders and they hire their first person, they’re not going to have benefits set up.” Now the company offers health insurance and also “fun benefits,” like one for buying indoor plants. Rasch states, “You can expense an unlimited amount of plants as long as they’re under two meters. And you have to take a photo and post them to this channel. So [the channel] is full of people’s living rooms that are full of plants, and it’s lovely.”

Clear communication

Whatever remote compensation policy your company decides to use, providing clear communication about the policy – and being open to feedback – is key. Kevin Kirkpatrick recommends giving advance notice to employees before rolling out a policy: “Communicate the strategy to your company and team in advance, so if you’re making a change, it’s well known and well understood.” Frameworks Marketing CEO Michelle Keefer emphasizes the importance of conversation:
“Pay transparency conversations can be uncomfortable. Just remember it’s human to human, and it softens and eases the conversations when you take the authoritarianism out of it.”Michelle Keefer, Founder and CEO at Frameworks Marketing
Soliciting and listening to employee feedback on your pay policy is also important. Thinking back to how they launched their pay policy at PeopleG2, Chris Dyer says, “There was never a date when we were [formally]  ‘announcing the policy.’ It was always evolving and changing over time, where we would work on it and update it and make it more fair and a little bit better and get more feedback.”
Next Chapter
Things to consider when developing your remote pay strategy
Now that you've learned about the three main types of remote compensation strategies, it's time to decide which of these will work best for your company.
Read more