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后疫情时代,企业用工存在哪四大挑战?

后疫情时代,企业用工存在哪四大挑战?

《财富》编辑部 2021年04月11日
谁也没想到,新冠疫情成了新常态,企业经营面临巨大挑战。

没有人预料到这场疫情竟然会持续一年多。很多企业虽然设立了一些远程办工和员工管理的应急方案,但都旨在短期应急,没想到它们竟然成了现在的“新常态”。企业经营面临的艰难,真是一言难尽。

现在,美国超过三分之一的成年人已经接种了疫苗,大家仿佛终于松了一口气。不过有一件事是肯定的:美国再也回不到以前的美国了。过去一年,大大小小的企业都重组了员工队伍,精简了业务流程,加快了技术革新,很多企业都开始在这些变革的基础上展望未来。

超过60%的员工表示,他们想要一种混合的工作模式,也就是一部分时间在单位工作,一部分时间在家工作。很多企业已经据此对办公时间、办公场地做出了调整。不过这种职场的巨大变化也带来了不少挑战,尤其是疫情暴露出了很多涉及职场公平的问题。对此,无论是企业领导者还是一般员工,都有必要正视这些挑战。

薪资

疫情可能会缩小男女之间的工资差距——当然,这并非是雇主的功劳。美国劳动力市场上的女性劳动者比一年前整整少了200万人,这主要是由于疫情导致了服务性企业大量关门,而这些企业的员工多数为女性。可以说,疫情期间的失业人口绝大部分是女性,而且她们的薪资待遇本来就不高(尤其是有色族裔女性)。而在她们失业或离开劳动力市场之后,其薪资就不会被计算在内。所以讽刺的是,正是因为她们的失业,才缩小了男性劳动力和剩余的女性劳动力之间的薪资差距。

哈佛大学的知名经济历史学家和劳动经济学家克劳迪娅•戈尔丁指出:“美甲、美发和零售等遭到重创的行业,都雇佣了大量西班牙语族的女性和黑人女性,以及那些学历在本科以下的女性。”

随着疫苗接种的加速,上述部分企业已经重新开工了,“但这个过程是缓慢的。”她表示。而且很多疫情期间关门的餐馆和其他小企业将永远无法重新开业。“我们甚至不知道这将造成多大的损失。”

根据全美妇女法律中心提供的数据,在疫情之前,如果一个男性能挣1美元,那么一个拉丁裔女性只能挣到55美分,美洲土著女性和黑人女性分别能挣到60和63美分。(而白人女性能挣到79美分,亚裔女性能挣到85美元。平衡族群因素后,美国女性的平均值是82美分。)

这种工资差距累积起来,就会变得很明显。根据全美妇女法律中心估算,假设一个人一生可以工作40年,那么一个拉丁裔女性一生就会少挣110万美元,黑人和印第安女性一生平均会少挣将近100万美元。全美妇女法律中心总裁兼CEO法蒂玛·戈斯·格雷夫斯表示:“这笔钱可以改变人的一生,甚至是下一代的命运。而且从疫情一开始,女性就存在工资和财富上的差距。所以她们没有足够的储蓄来面对这种困难时期。”

由于疫情期间,美国的很多学校和日托机构都关闭了,即便是一些收入较高的职场女性,有的也只得辞职带娃,或者减少对工作的投入,承担起家务的负担。戈尔丁认为,这些女性在薪资待遇和薪酬平等上受到的长期影响是更难预测的。“这一年里,这些女性当上合伙人了吗?获得第一次晋升了吗?谈下更好的客户了吗?完成销售业绩了吗?还是她们只能在家教孩子学数学?”

不过,戈尔丁等经济学家认为,过去的一年,职场还是带来了一些新的希望——疫情迫使很多企业只能接受远程办公,并且允许工作上有更大的灵活性。而戈尔丁的研究表明,这种做法有助于缩小薪资差距。

“以前如果你说:‘我周四必须回家,因为我要陪父母去看病。’你可能会被踢出项目。而现在人人都在这么做。” 戈尔丁说。而对企业来说:“这会降低弹性工作的成本,我始终认为,弹性工作制更适合女性。”

不过弹性工作制也带来了一个新问题。如果在“后疫情时代”,依然有员工选择100%远程办公,企业应该怎样公平地调整他们的工资呢?特别是有些员工可能住在甚至搬到一些生活成本较低的地区。比如去年,脸书等大型科技公司已经表示,他们会给那些选择搬到旧金山和纽约以外的员工降薪。

“这是重要的平衡问题。”戈尔丁说。如果企业不再租用那么大的办公空间,“企业的经营成本实际上会有所下降。”但这样一来,员工就要承担越来越多的负担,因为他们无论是买房还是租房,必须留出足够的工作空间。因此,雇主在调整远程办公的员工的生活成本时,也应该将这些费用考虑在内。

疫情加速了远程办公的应用,但这种趋势究竟会对员工薪酬产生哪些影响,特别是对薪酬差距产生多大影响,现在预测还为时过早。不过一些专家仍然对后者表示担忧,因为不管女性从弹性工作制中受益多少,她们仍然是弱势的一方。去年8月份,经济学家曾经预测,新冠疫情最终可能会使美国的男女薪酬差距拉大5个百分点。

美国西北大学的简·奥姆斯特德·拉姆齐是这篇论文的作者之一。她表示:“即便远程办公真的提高了工作的灵活性,而且男人也愿意更多地照顾孩子,根据我们的模型预测,美国还需要10到20年才能让男女薪资差距回归到疫情前的水平。这对女性来说,是一个重大的倒退……所有这些问题对有色族裔女性来说尤为严重。”

——玛丽亚·阿斯潘

医疗福利

疫情爆发后,可能有人逃离了城市,住到了父母家的地下室,有人过上了一直向往的乡村生活。但这些都对个人的医疗福利有影响。而医疗福利,也是企业给员工发放的福利的一部分。

美世咨询公司(Mercer)跨国客户部的全球健康负责人洛娜·弗里德曼指出,企业在设计医疗福利和选择保险公司的时候,主要考虑的是保险公司的网点密度和服务质量,而且在地理上,它必须要能够覆盖大多数员工。(他们想把选择权交给员工。)

大型跨国公司可能在任何地方都有很好的医疗保障,但很多企业的大多数员工都集中在同一个地方,所以更侧重的是覆盖本地。因此,这些员工一旦搬到另一个地方后,可能会发现,本地根本没有既物美价廉,又在自己参保范围内的医疗机构,或者即便有,选择也十分有限。这样就会增加员工的实际医疗支出,哪怕他们和他们的企业已经买了医保。

一旦美国劳动力市场的“去集中化”趋势持续下去,企业恐怕将更难为员工提供低价优质的医疗福利。近几年,美国企业界也出现了一种控制医疗成本和提高价值的策略,那就是为员工选择“更窄的医保供应商网络”,从那里获得高质量的医疗服务。不过如果员工没有集中在少数几个地区的话,这也是很难做到的。(也更难形成杠杆效应。)

美国人力资源管理协会的顾问帕特里夏·格拉夫斯认为:“企业可能会想主动地、全面地研究医保覆盖的问题。”基于这种转变,企业可能会面临“更复杂的计划设计,这可能会增加企业的行政负担。”而远程办公的员工“可能会觉得有必要购买补充性的医疗保险。”虽然这也是一种办法,而且有可能提高员工的医保成本,但她和弗里德曼都认为,远程办公仍将继续存在,而且未来有利于降低企业成本。

——埃里卡·弗莱

时差

疫情期间,高盛公司高管格雷格·莱姆卡乌选择搬到夏威夷躲疫情。不过这里并非只有美食和海滩。莱姆卡乌在推特上贴了两张从办公桌望向窗外的照片作对比,白天那张是阳光沙滩,晚上那张是一片黑暗——不过晚上才是他真正起床工作的时候,因为夏威夷和高盛的纽约总部有时差。他开玩笑道:在夏威夷工作,“理论上很美……可惜这只是理论上,因为我得摸黑工作6个小时,天才会亮。”

在夏威夷的第2周。理论上很美……可惜这只是理论上,因为我得摸黑工作6个小时,天才会亮。希望大家安全、健康。

— Gregg Lemkau (@grlemkau) 2020年3月23日

疫情期间,由于员工分布在全国各地,没法回来上班,企业在这方面应该说是有所准备的。但牵涉到时差问题,就显得更加复杂了。对于高盛这样全球化的大企业,他们应对时区问题已经有几十年的经验了。不过在“后疫情时代”,随着灵活工作制的广泛应用,加之有些气候宜人的地区正在想方设法地吸引远程办公人群到那里生活,未来,越来越多的员工(包括他们的领导们)可能都要面对时差的问题。

从某些角度来看,让员工分散到不同的时区是有好处的。当工作地点不再重要时,企业就更容易招募到多元化的员工。有些必须连轴转的岗位,比如客服等等,就可以由不同时区的员工轮流值班了。(比如一旦有了突发新闻,在欧洲的《财富》编辑就可以第一时间在我们的网站上发稿,而这个时候,他们的美国同事还没起床。)而一些团队项目也能够做到“时时有进展”。Virtual not Distant就是一家专门帮助企业管理远程员工的咨询公司,该公司的主管皮拉尔•奥尔蒂表示:“你早上起床时就会发现,在你睡觉的时候,工作已经有进展了。”

当然,在这方面,挑战也是存在的。比如怎么合理安排会议时间的问题,和其他时区的员工缺乏面对面交流和社交互动的问题,以及延迟的问题——比如某个关键员工今天掉线了一整天,导致工作无法推进。另外,在很多情况下,如果交流有延迟,就只能靠文字,这对一些大量依赖视觉的工作显然很不友好。

尽管如此,还是有一些工具和策略能够将这些问题的影响控制在最小。比如一个项目团队除了要有一个共享日历,还应该有一个持续更新的“工作进度”文档,方便不同时区的员工对标、对表。另外,你还可以在Zoom上安排视频会议,带来电子邮件和即时通讯软件里无法传递的视觉元素。还有一些新的APP(比如Loom),不仅可以录制小视频,还可以整合电脑屏幕上的画面,它提供了与电子邮件一样的跨时区交流功能,而且添加了视觉元素。它也是人们向同事们展示身边环境的一种方式。奥尔蒂表示:“你可以间接地体验别人的生活方式。这样一来,你就感觉世界变小了,改变它变得更容易了。”

自动化软件开发公司Zapier的CEO韦德·福斯特指出,有时候,要想确保所有人都能参与进来,就需要放慢节奏。Zapier一共有400多名员工,分布在18个不同的时区。“对于一些无法取消的决定,应该建立一个等待24或48小时的机制,好让所有时区的人都进行了评估之后再去推动。”

——亚伦·普雷斯曼

税务

2020年,当大批企业打发员工回家的时候,他们大概不会意识到,远程办公将成为未来的“新常态”。现在一年多过去了,很多员工仍然分散在全美(甚至全球)各地,甚至压根没有再回过办公室。不过,这种灵活工作制也给企业和员工带来了一个难题——远程办公会从税务上带来哪些影响?

这并不是一个简单的问题,其中涉及很多变量,跟各州的税法和企业的规模都有关系。不过有一点是明确的:“跟一年前相比,远程办公的人会变得非常非常多。” 均富会计师事务所州与地方税务合伙人马修·梅林森说。而且在这种情况下,税务问题可能会变得更复杂。美国城市布鲁金斯税收政策中心的高级政策研究员理查德·奥希尔表示,对雇主和员工来说,底线是要“非常注意”你所在的州和你的公司所在州的税务规则。

早在疫情以前,就有企业担心过这个问题:如果我的某个员工在另一个州远程工作,是不是代表我的公司在这个州就有业务存在,政府会不会据此向我收税呢?(这种税又叫“经济关联”税,触发它有几种条件,比如达到一定的工资和销售额等。)不过在疫情期间,各州对这个问题的态度也不尽相同。根据美国注册师会计协会发布的消息,有15个州已经明确表示,如果员工已经在雇主所在的州交了税,那他们就不会对其再次征税。不过梅林森认为,随着职场进一步向“后疫情时代”进化,“我认为税收的‘常态’将变成‘你在哪工作,就在哪交税’。”如果这样的话,企业就得紧切追踪员工的行踪(他们是在度假村工作,还是搬到别的州去了?他们是不是没法跨州,所以才不能到公司上班?),以便在每个州登记、预扣和缴纳相应税款。梅林森认为,这也可能给企业造成额外的行政负担,特别是中小型企业面临的困难更多,因为他们可能没有一套系统来实时追踪员工究竟是在哪里工作的。

有税务专家认为,美国两党需要考虑的另一件事是,一旦部分州的财政枯竭,他们或将向在本州远程工作的员工征税。至于未来情况会如何发展,奥希尔表示:“现在确实有人在考虑直接对这种新的工作环境征税,但是情况也可能有变化,因为很多城市还在从去年一年的事情里吸取教训。”

所以说,如果员工选择了在另一个州扎根,那么这的确有可能对他们的税单有影响。虽然目前并非所有的州都要对居住在本地的远程员工征税,但梅林森认为,员工某一天突然发现自己欠了不止一个州的所得税,这也不是没有可能的。他表示,员工尤其要注意纽约这样的州,因为那里有所谓的“雇主便利”政策,只要你的企业在纽约,哪怕你本人不住在纽约,你也可能会被征税。专家建议,你可以关注一下你居住的地方,了解当地的税法,然后再关注一下你的雇主所在州的税法。奥希尔则指出,目前,美国有些州为了吸引人口,甚至出台了税收激励政策,鼓励远程办公的人到那里居住——比如西弗吉尼亚州就正在推动这样的政策。

不过最终,雇主也需要分析这些法律,然后决定如何管理远程工作,并且就税务问题的变化与员工进行有效沟通。但是在哪里工作的问题上,还是要靠员工个人来做出更全面的选择。梅林森表示:“从生活的角度,和工作与生活平衡的角度来看,我想要的到底是什么?在大多数情况下,税收问题不足以影响总体决定。”

——安妮·斯拉德斯(财富中文网)

译者:朴成奎

没有人预料到这场疫情竟然会持续一年多。很多企业虽然设立了一些远程办工和员工管理的应急方案,但都旨在短期应急,没想到它们竟然成了现在的“新常态”。企业经营面临的艰难,真是一言难尽。

现在,美国超过三分之一的成年人已经接种了疫苗,大家仿佛终于松了一口气。不过有一件事是肯定的:美国再也回不到以前的美国了。过去一年,大大小小的企业都重组了员工队伍,精简了业务流程,加快了技术革新,很多企业都开始在这些变革的基础上展望未来。

超过60%的员工表示,他们想要一种混合的工作模式,也就是一部分时间在单位工作,一部分时间在家工作。很多企业已经据此对办公时间、办公场地做出了调整。不过这种职场的巨大变化也带来了不少挑战,尤其是疫情暴露出了很多涉及职场公平的问题。对此,无论是企业领导者还是一般员工,都有必要正视这些挑战。

薪资

疫情可能会缩小男女之间的工资差距——当然,这并非是雇主的功劳。美国劳动力市场上的女性劳动者比一年前整整少了200万人,这主要是由于疫情导致了服务性企业大量关门,而这些企业的员工多数为女性。可以说,疫情期间的失业人口绝大部分是女性,而且她们的薪资待遇本来就不高(尤其是有色族裔女性)。而在她们失业或离开劳动力市场之后,其薪资就不会被计算在内。所以讽刺的是,正是因为她们的失业,才缩小了男性劳动力和剩余的女性劳动力之间的薪资差距。

哈佛大学的知名经济历史学家和劳动经济学家克劳迪娅•戈尔丁指出:“美甲、美发和零售等遭到重创的行业,都雇佣了大量西班牙语族的女性和黑人女性,以及那些学历在本科以下的女性。”

随着疫苗接种的加速,上述部分企业已经重新开工了,“但这个过程是缓慢的。”她表示。而且很多疫情期间关门的餐馆和其他小企业将永远无法重新开业。“我们甚至不知道这将造成多大的损失。”

根据全美妇女法律中心提供的数据,在疫情之前,如果一个男性能挣1美元,那么一个拉丁裔女性只能挣到55美分,美洲土著女性和黑人女性分别能挣到60和63美分。(而白人女性能挣到79美分,亚裔女性能挣到85美元。平衡族群因素后,美国女性的平均值是82美分。)

这种工资差距累积起来,就会变得很明显。根据全美妇女法律中心估算,假设一个人一生可以工作40年,那么一个拉丁裔女性一生就会少挣110万美元,黑人和印第安女性一生平均会少挣将近100万美元。全美妇女法律中心总裁兼CEO法蒂玛·戈斯·格雷夫斯表示:“这笔钱可以改变人的一生,甚至是下一代的命运。而且从疫情一开始,女性就存在工资和财富上的差距。所以她们没有足够的储蓄来面对这种困难时期。”

由于疫情期间,美国的很多学校和日托机构都关闭了,即便是一些收入较高的职场女性,有的也只得辞职带娃,或者减少对工作的投入,承担起家务的负担。戈尔丁认为,这些女性在薪资待遇和薪酬平等上受到的长期影响是更难预测的。“这一年里,这些女性当上合伙人了吗?获得第一次晋升了吗?谈下更好的客户了吗?完成销售业绩了吗?还是她们只能在家教孩子学数学?”

不过,戈尔丁等经济学家认为,过去的一年,职场还是带来了一些新的希望——疫情迫使很多企业只能接受远程办公,并且允许工作上有更大的灵活性。而戈尔丁的研究表明,这种做法有助于缩小薪资差距。

“以前如果你说:‘我周四必须回家,因为我要陪父母去看病。’你可能会被踢出项目。而现在人人都在这么做。” 戈尔丁说。而对企业来说:“这会降低弹性工作的成本,我始终认为,弹性工作制更适合女性。”

不过弹性工作制也带来了一个新问题。如果在“后疫情时代”,依然有员工选择100%远程办公,企业应该怎样公平地调整他们的工资呢?特别是有些员工可能住在甚至搬到一些生活成本较低的地区。比如去年,脸书等大型科技公司已经表示,他们会给那些选择搬到旧金山和纽约以外的员工降薪。

“这是重要的平衡问题。”戈尔丁说。如果企业不再租用那么大的办公空间,“企业的经营成本实际上会有所下降。”但这样一来,员工就要承担越来越多的负担,因为他们无论是买房还是租房,必须留出足够的工作空间。因此,雇主在调整远程办公的员工的生活成本时,也应该将这些费用考虑在内。

疫情加速了远程办公的应用,但这种趋势究竟会对员工薪酬产生哪些影响,特别是对薪酬差距产生多大影响,现在预测还为时过早。不过一些专家仍然对后者表示担忧,因为不管女性从弹性工作制中受益多少,她们仍然是弱势的一方。去年8月份,经济学家曾经预测,新冠疫情最终可能会使美国的男女薪酬差距拉大5个百分点。

美国西北大学的简·奥姆斯特德·拉姆齐是这篇论文的作者之一。她表示:“即便远程办公真的提高了工作的灵活性,而且男人也愿意更多地照顾孩子,根据我们的模型预测,美国还需要10到20年才能让男女薪资差距回归到疫情前的水平。这对女性来说,是一个重大的倒退……所有这些问题对有色族裔女性来说尤为严重。”

——玛丽亚·阿斯潘

医疗福利

疫情爆发后,可能有人逃离了城市,住到了父母家的地下室,有人过上了一直向往的乡村生活。但这些都对个人的医疗福利有影响。而医疗福利,也是企业给员工发放的福利的一部分。

美世咨询公司(Mercer)跨国客户部的全球健康负责人洛娜·弗里德曼指出,企业在设计医疗福利和选择保险公司的时候,主要考虑的是保险公司的网点密度和服务质量,而且在地理上,它必须要能够覆盖大多数员工。(他们想把选择权交给员工。)

大型跨国公司可能在任何地方都有很好的医疗保障,但很多企业的大多数员工都集中在同一个地方,所以更侧重的是覆盖本地。因此,这些员工一旦搬到另一个地方后,可能会发现,本地根本没有既物美价廉,又在自己参保范围内的医疗机构,或者即便有,选择也十分有限。这样就会增加员工的实际医疗支出,哪怕他们和他们的企业已经买了医保。

一旦美国劳动力市场的“去集中化”趋势持续下去,企业恐怕将更难为员工提供低价优质的医疗福利。近几年,美国企业界也出现了一种控制医疗成本和提高价值的策略,那就是为员工选择“更窄的医保供应商网络”,从那里获得高质量的医疗服务。不过如果员工没有集中在少数几个地区的话,这也是很难做到的。(也更难形成杠杆效应。)

美国人力资源管理协会的顾问帕特里夏·格拉夫斯认为:“企业可能会想主动地、全面地研究医保覆盖的问题。”基于这种转变,企业可能会面临“更复杂的计划设计,这可能会增加企业的行政负担。”而远程办公的员工“可能会觉得有必要购买补充性的医疗保险。”虽然这也是一种办法,而且有可能提高员工的医保成本,但她和弗里德曼都认为,远程办公仍将继续存在,而且未来有利于降低企业成本。

——埃里卡·弗莱

时差

疫情期间,高盛公司高管格雷格·莱姆卡乌选择搬到夏威夷躲疫情。不过这里并非只有美食和海滩。莱姆卡乌在推特上贴了两张从办公桌望向窗外的照片作对比,白天那张是阳光沙滩,晚上那张是一片黑暗——不过晚上才是他真正起床工作的时候,因为夏威夷和高盛的纽约总部有时差。他开玩笑道:在夏威夷工作,“理论上很美……可惜这只是理论上,因为我得摸黑工作6个小时,天才会亮。”

在夏威夷的第2周。理论上很美……可惜这只是理论上,因为我得摸黑工作6个小时,天才会亮。希望大家安全、健康。

— Gregg Lemkau (@grlemkau) 2020年3月23日

疫情期间,由于员工分布在全国各地,没法回来上班,企业在这方面应该说是有所准备的。但牵涉到时差问题,就显得更加复杂了。对于高盛这样全球化的大企业,他们应对时区问题已经有几十年的经验了。不过在“后疫情时代”,随着灵活工作制的广泛应用,加之有些气候宜人的地区正在想方设法地吸引远程办公人群到那里生活,未来,越来越多的员工(包括他们的领导们)可能都要面对时差的问题。

从某些角度来看,让员工分散到不同的时区是有好处的。当工作地点不再重要时,企业就更容易招募到多元化的员工。有些必须连轴转的岗位,比如客服等等,就可以由不同时区的员工轮流值班了。(比如一旦有了突发新闻,在欧洲的《财富》编辑就可以第一时间在我们的网站上发稿,而这个时候,他们的美国同事还没起床。)而一些团队项目也能够做到“时时有进展”。Virtual not Distant就是一家专门帮助企业管理远程员工的咨询公司,该公司的主管皮拉尔•奥尔蒂表示:“你早上起床时就会发现,在你睡觉的时候,工作已经有进展了。”

当然,在这方面,挑战也是存在的。比如怎么合理安排会议时间的问题,和其他时区的员工缺乏面对面交流和社交互动的问题,以及延迟的问题——比如某个关键员工今天掉线了一整天,导致工作无法推进。另外,在很多情况下,如果交流有延迟,就只能靠文字,这对一些大量依赖视觉的工作显然很不友好。

尽管如此,还是有一些工具和策略能够将这些问题的影响控制在最小。比如一个项目团队除了要有一个共享日历,还应该有一个持续更新的“工作进度”文档,方便不同时区的员工对标、对表。另外,你还可以在Zoom上安排视频会议,带来电子邮件和即时通讯软件里无法传递的视觉元素。还有一些新的APP(比如Loom),不仅可以录制小视频,还可以整合电脑屏幕上的画面,它提供了与电子邮件一样的跨时区交流功能,而且添加了视觉元素。它也是人们向同事们展示身边环境的一种方式。奥尔蒂表示:“你可以间接地体验别人的生活方式。这样一来,你就感觉世界变小了,改变它变得更容易了。”

自动化软件开发公司Zapier的CEO韦德·福斯特指出,有时候,要想确保所有人都能参与进来,就需要放慢节奏。Zapier一共有400多名员工,分布在18个不同的时区。“对于一些无法取消的决定,应该建立一个等待24或48小时的机制,好让所有时区的人都进行了评估之后再去推动。”

——亚伦·普雷斯曼

税务

2020年,当大批企业打发员工回家的时候,他们大概不会意识到,远程办公将成为未来的“新常态”。现在一年多过去了,很多员工仍然分散在全美(甚至全球)各地,甚至压根没有再回过办公室。不过,这种灵活工作制也给企业和员工带来了一个难题——远程办公会从税务上带来哪些影响?

这并不是一个简单的问题,其中涉及很多变量,跟各州的税法和企业的规模都有关系。不过有一点是明确的:“跟一年前相比,远程办公的人会变得非常非常多。” 均富会计师事务所州与地方税务合伙人马修·梅林森说。而且在这种情况下,税务问题可能会变得更复杂。美国城市布鲁金斯税收政策中心的高级政策研究员理查德·奥希尔表示,对雇主和员工来说,底线是要“非常注意”你所在的州和你的公司所在州的税务规则。

早在疫情以前,就有企业担心过这个问题:如果我的某个员工在另一个州远程工作,是不是代表我的公司在这个州就有业务存在,政府会不会据此向我收税呢?(这种税又叫“经济关联”税,触发它有几种条件,比如达到一定的工资和销售额等。)不过在疫情期间,各州对这个问题的态度也不尽相同。根据美国注册师会计协会发布的消息,有15个州已经明确表示,如果员工已经在雇主所在的州交了税,那他们就不会对其再次征税。不过梅林森认为,随着职场进一步向“后疫情时代”进化,“我认为税收的‘常态’将变成‘你在哪工作,就在哪交税’。”如果这样的话,企业就得紧切追踪员工的行踪(他们是在度假村工作,还是搬到别的州去了?他们是不是没法跨州,所以才不能到公司上班?),以便在每个州登记、预扣和缴纳相应税款。梅林森认为,这也可能给企业造成额外的行政负担,特别是中小型企业面临的困难更多,因为他们可能没有一套系统来实时追踪员工究竟是在哪里工作的。

有税务专家认为,美国两党需要考虑的另一件事是,一旦部分州的财政枯竭,他们或将向在本州远程工作的员工征税。至于未来情况会如何发展,奥希尔表示:“现在确实有人在考虑直接对这种新的工作环境征税,但是情况也可能有变化,因为很多城市还在从去年一年的事情里吸取教训。”

所以说,如果员工选择了在另一个州扎根,那么这的确有可能对他们的税单有影响。虽然目前并非所有的州都要对居住在本地的远程员工征税,但梅林森认为,员工某一天突然发现自己欠了不止一个州的所得税,这也不是没有可能的。他表示,员工尤其要注意纽约这样的州,因为那里有所谓的“雇主便利”政策,只要你的企业在纽约,哪怕你本人不住在纽约,你也可能会被征税。专家建议,你可以关注一下你居住的地方,了解当地的税法,然后再关注一下你的雇主所在州的税法。奥希尔则指出,目前,美国有些州为了吸引人口,甚至出台了税收激励政策,鼓励远程办公的人到那里居住——比如西弗吉尼亚州就正在推动这样的政策。

不过最终,雇主也需要分析这些法律,然后决定如何管理远程工作,并且就税务问题的变化与员工进行有效沟通。但是在哪里工作的问题上,还是要靠员工个人来做出更全面的选择。梅林森表示:“从生活的角度,和工作与生活平衡的角度来看,我想要的到底是什么?在大多数情况下,税收问题不足以影响总体决定。”

——安妮·斯拉德斯(财富中文网)

译者:朴成奎

No one expected the pandemic to last more than a year, and many of the solutions for remote work and employee management that business leaders put into place were Band-Aids—short-term solutions that ended up serving much longer than they should have. Things have been hard. Really hard.

Yet now that more than a third of U.S. adults are vaccinated, there's a collective sigh of relief happening across the country. But one thing is for sure: We aren't going back to the Before Times. Companies big and small reorganized their workforce, streamlined their processes, and accelerated their technology updates over the past year, and many are envisioning a future that builds on these changes.

More than 60% of workers want a hybrid model with some time in the office and some time working from home, and many companies have adjusted their policies and their real estate to this new way of working. Yet such a massive shift in workplace dynamics brings challenges that business leaders—and employees—should get in front of before they exacerbate the equity issues already laid bare by the pandemic.

Salaries

The pandemic might actually narrow the gender wage gap—but employers shouldn’t be taking any victory laps about approaching equal pay. The U.S. labor force is still missing nearly 2 million women, compared to a year ago, as COVID-19 amplified the nation’s caretaking crisis and shut down the service-sector businesses that predominantly employ women. Those who have lost work are overwhelmingly women who aren’t paid very well to begin with (and are disproportionately women of color). So when they become unemployed or leave the workforce and their salaries are no longer taken into account, their absence may actually improve, in a bitter irony, the disparities between what men and the remaining women earn.

“The nail person, the hair person, the retail [worker]—all of the sectors that have been clobbered are sectors that disproportionately hire Hispanic women, Black women, and women who have less than a college degree,” says Claudia Goldin, a leading economic historian and labor economist at Harvard.

Some of these businesses are reopening, as vaccine distribution accelerates, “but it’s going to be slow,” she adds. Many restaurants and other small businesses that closed during the pandemic will never reopen, so “we don’t even know yet the degree of harm this is going to do.”

Even before the pandemic, Latinas were paid 55¢ for every dollar earned by a white man, according to the National Women’s Law Center, with Native American and Black women earning 60¢ and 63¢, respectively. (White women earn 79¢ and Asian women 85¢, for a combined gender wage gap of 82¢ on the dollar, according to the NWLC’s analysis.)

These pay disparities add up dramatically: Over the course of a 40-year career, the wage gap costs Latinas an average of $1.1 million in lifetime pay, and costs Black and Indigenous women an average of almost $1 million, the NWLC projects. “That is what life-changing and generational money looks like,” says Fatima Goss Graves, president and CEO of the NWLC. “Women went into the pandemic with a wage gap and a wealth gap—they weren’t sitting on a nest egg of support waiting for this moment.”

Even higher-paid women who work in corporate, remote-friendly roles have taken on an outsize burden of childcare during the yearlong closures of many schools and day cares, with some also stepping back at work or leaving their jobs entirely to shoulder the pandemic’s caretaking burden. Goldin says the long-term impact on the salaries and pay equity of these women is more difficult to predict: “Did women make partner, get their first promotion, get the better clients, make the sale, and so forth—or did they lose out in their year teaching their children algebra?”

Still, she and other economists see one big silver lining to the past year’s workforce upheavals: The pandemic forced many employers to embrace remote work—and to allow the greater flexibility that, as Goldin’s work has long shown, helps narrow the wage gap.

“It used to be if you said, ‘I have to be home on Thursdays because that's when my parents go to their physical therapist,’ you would be taken off projects. And now, everyone is doing that,” Goldin says. For employers, “this will reduce the cost of flexibility—and my point is always that flexibility is better for women.”

More flexibility brings up another salary-gap question, however: How will employers equitably adjust the pay of those workers choosing to remain entirely remote post-pandemic, especially if they live in or move to lower-cost parts of the country? In the past year, for example, Facebook and other large tech companies have said they will reduce the salaries of employees who choose to work outside of expensive hubs like San Francisco or New York.

“This is a great big general equilibrium problem,” Goldin says. If companies can get out of their commercial real estate contracts for renting large office spaces, “firm costs are actually going to go down,” she says. But employees “are going to have to bear more of a burden” of buying or renting homes with enough space to work out of, meaning that employers should factor in those expenses when making cost-of-living adjustments for fully remote workers.

It remains too early to predict how the pandemic’s acceleration of remote work will shake out for worker pay in general and for the gender wage gap in particular. But some experts remain worried about the latter, no matter how much women will benefit from increased workplace flexibility. In an August working paper, one group of economists predicted that the pandemic could ultimately widen the gender wage gap by five percentage points.

“Even if we assume some of these silver linings—of increased telework flexibility, and men doing more childcare—our model predicts that it could take 10 to 20 years for the gender wage gap to return to pre-pandemic levels,” says Jane Olmstead-Rumsey of Northwestern University, one of the paper’s authors. “That's a really significant setback for women…and all of these things that we’re talking about are particularly severe for women of color.”

—Maria Aspan

Health benefits

So you picked up and left town during the pandemic? Whether you moved into your parents’ basement across the country or to the country home you’ve always dreamed of, there are implications for your health benefits, which, of course, is one of the ways in which your company compensates you.

When employers design health benefits and choose an insurance carrier, they base a large part of the decision on the density and quality of the provider networks in the localities where they have the most employees, explains Lorna Friedman, global health leader of Mercer’s Multinational Client Segment, part of the firm’s health and benefits consulting business. (They want to give employees choice.)

Large, multinational companies may have good coverage everywhere, but many firms with a majority of workers in one spot do not, and employees who relocate may find that lower-cost, in-network provider options are limited or nonexistent. That may increase out-of-pocket costs for the employee, even as they (and their employer) pay the same premium for coverage.

A move to more permanently dispersed workforces will likely make the task of providing affordable, high-quality health benefits trickier for companies. A strategy for controlling costs and improving value in recent years has been steering employees to “narrower networks” of providers, from whom they’re more likely to receive high-quality care. That’s harder to do (and leverage is harder to come by) when employees aren’t concentrated in a few markets.

“Employers may want to be proactive and begin looking into health coverage on a universal level,” says Patricia Graves, a knowledge center adviser with the Society of Human Resource Management, who adds that with the shift, employers would likely face “more complex plan designs that could be administratively burdensome,” and that remote employees “may find it necessary to get supplemental coverage.” While that all may sound like a recipe for even more expensive health care, both she and Friedman expect telemedicine will remain and can help keep costs down in the future.

—Erika Fry

Time zones

When Gregg Lemkau, one of the top executives at Goldman Sachs, retreated to a home in Hawaii during COVID, it wasn't all luaus and beaches. Lemkau tweeted a picture contrasting the gorgeous view from his desk during the day versus the total darkness when he was actually awake and working because of the time difference with Goldman headquarters in New York. Working from Hawaii was "awesome in concept…unfortunately 'in concept' doesn’t happen until the sun comes up 6 hours into the workday," he joked.

Week 2 of #WFH begins from Hawaii. Awesome in concept...unfortunately “in concept” doesn’t happen until the sun comes up 6 hours into the workday🌚 Hope everyone staying safe and healthy.

— Gregg Lemkau (@grlemkau) March 23, 2020

While companies have been coming to grips during the pandemic with workers distributed across many locations, the added twist of far-flung time zones can multiply the complications. For big, global companies like Goldman, working across time zones is a problem they've faced for decades. But with the spread of hybrid work after the pandemic, not to mention new programs trying to attract remote workers to sunny corners, from Barbados to Montserrat, a lot more employees—and their managers—may be forced to handle the time zone shuffle in the future.

In some ways, spreading workers across time zones can be beneficial. It's easier to recruit a diverse workforce when location no longer matters. Customer service or other continuous functions can be manned around the clock by people on shifts in different zones. (Fortune editors in Europe post breaking news stories to our website before their American colleagues are even out of bed.) And for people working on team projects, progress happens at all hours. "When you wake up in the morning, the work has advanced while you were sleeping," says Pilar Orti, director at Virtual not Distant, a consulting firm that helps companies deal with dispersed workers.

But there are challenges too. Problems include trying to set times for meetings that don't require any participants to attend at crazy hours, the lack of direct face-to-face communication and social interaction for people in an isolated time zone, and delays that set in when work can't proceed because a key player is offline for the day. And almost all asynchronous communications happens in writing, a drag for visually oriented workers.

Still, there are tools and tactics to minimize the problems. For projects, go a step beyond a shared calendar and keep an updated "work in progress" document that people in multiple time zones can rely on to discover the status and timing of next steps. Schedule Zoom calls and meetings to add back the visual component often overlooked in email and messaging apps. Newer apps like Loom allow people to record video messages that incorporate a view of what's on their computer screen, offering the same kind of cross-time-zone communication as an email but with the visual element too. It's also a way people can show off their varied surroundings to coworkers. "You get to experience different ways of living secondhand," says Orti. "The world feels smaller, and changing it feels more manageable."

Sometimes, making sure everyone is included requires slowing down, says Wade Foster, CEO of automation software developer Zapier, which counts over 400 employees spread across 18 time zones. "For decisions that are irreversible, set up a process that waits 24 or 48 hours so that folks across time zones can weigh in on the decision before moving forward," Foster says.

—Aaron Pressman

Taxes

It’s likely few companies realized how potentially permanent remote work would become when they sent employees home en masse in 2020. Over a year later, many workers are now scattered across the U.S. (or even the globe), in some cases laying down roots away from their pre-pandemic offices. That flexibility, however, poses a conundrum for employers and employees alike: What kind of tax complications might arise from this migration away from the office?

Unfortunately, it may not be simple; there are plenty of variables, including different tax laws for individual states and the size of the business. But what is clear: “There's going to be many, many, many more people working remotely than there were before this thing started a year ago,” says Matthew Melinson, a state and local tax partner at Grant Thornton, and taxes are likely to become more complex. For employers and employees alike, the bottom line is to be “very mindful of the rules” in your state and your employer’s state, says Richard Auxier, senior policy associate in the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center.

Even prior to the pandemic, one key consideration for companies is—and increasingly will be—whether having an employee working remotely in another state gives the business what’s called “nexus,” or a taxable business presence, in that state or locality (there are a few inputs at play when triggering nexus, including payroll and sales). Through the pandemic, states are handling it in different ways: Fifteen states have said they won’t double-tax employees who are being taxed in their employer’s state, according to the American Institute of CPAs. But Melinson argues that as we move into the post-pandemic work environment, “I think the norm is going to become: You tax people where they actually work.” Businesses may then have to track their employees’ whereabouts (Are they working from their vacation home? Did they move out of state? Have they been unable to safely commute to the office across state borders?) in order to register, withhold, and file the appropriate taxes in each state. Melinson speculates that might create an extra administrative burden that could be a bit tougher on smaller or midsize businesses that might not have the systems in place to track where their employees are working from at any given time.

Another thing to consider for both parties, say tax experts: Depleted state budgets might prompt states to go on the offensive when it comes to collecting tax revenue from employees working remotely in their state. In terms of how that might change things moving forward, Auxier argues, “There really is both an idea of tax policy related directly to this idea of a new work environment, but there's also just, there might be changes because cities are still trying to dig out from what happened over the past year.”

Where employees choose to put down roots, meanwhile, could have an impact on their tax bill if it’s somewhere other than where they were working prior to the pandemic. Though not all states have thrown down the gauntlet about taxing the income of remote workers living in their state, Melinson says, it’s possible employees could find themselves owing income taxes in more than one state. In particular, he says, watch out for states like New York, which has something called “employer convenience” and could tax you if your employer resides in New York, even if you don’t. Experts suggest keeping track of the places you’re working from and understanding the tax laws in those states and the state where your employer is based. On the flip side, however, Auxier points out that some states are even trying to create tax incentives to move—he names West Virginia as one that is pushing for more remote worker–friendly policies.

At the end of the day, employers will need to analyze the laws and make decisions about how they’ll handle remote work and communicate effectively with employees about any tax changes. But employees will also have to make a broader choice when it comes to where they want their office to be, too: “What do I want to do from a life standpoint and a work/life standpoint?” notes Melinson. “Tax usually won't drive that overall decision in the majority of cases.”

—Anne Sraders

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