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Your Guide to Remote Developer Salaries in 2023

September 29, 2022
Wes Mitchell-Lewis
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There are overarching policies and programs that will impact everyone at your company, regardless of what team they’re on. It’s important to pay attention to benefits, compensation, and all other areas that can make an employee’s life easier and help keep them satisfied. 

Things like mental health programs, diversity & inclusion initiatives, and social connections are becoming more popular than ever before. It can go a long way to making your company the sort of place that people want to stick around, but salary and the total compensation package will always be one of the most important factors.

Make Compensation Competitive

Searching for talent in the global market can help you outmaneuver skyrocketing salaries near HQ, but it’s best to maintain perspective. At its core, going remote is not about cutting costs; it’s about finding the best talent in the world.

To keep your talent around for the long haul, you’ll have to offer competitive pay and benefits with respect to the locales you’re recruiting in. Remote engineers in Canada & Mexico list pay & benefits as the top two things that are important to them in a role.

  • Being competitive means being generous. Just because you’re hiring in a market that may not offer robust comp packages compared to your local market doesn’t mean you should skimp on salaries. It will pay off, in the long run, to err on the side of more rather than less.
  • Salary isn’t everything. 60% of people report that benefits and perks are a major factor in staying at a job, and a whopping 80% say they would choose additional benefits over a pay raise. After health insurance, employees place the highest value on benefits that are relatively low-cost to employers, such as flexible hours, more paid vacation time, and work-from-home options.
  • Stay on top of payroll. Paying remote employees can take extra time and effort. International payroll systems can have lag times and cross-border tax issues, so be sure to anticipate these and head them off at the pass.

Approach salary adjustments with caution

As your company transitions to remote-first and current employees consider relocating their lives away from HQ, you might decide to rethink how you approach compensation. Be careful here – you don’t want to push your best employees away by giving them a pay cut.

As Jennifer Farris, Terminal’s Chief People Officer puts it, “Are you really going to dock your best engineer’s salary just because they’re moving?” But, if you still want to adjust your compensation strategy to reflect your changing workforce, there are a few different approaches you can take.

  • Geography is king. The value of a dollar in the Bay Area is not equivalent to the value of a dollar in Kansas, and one approach to remote salary is to let geography be the main factor in how you decide compensation. Keep in mind, if this approach appeals to you, you should probably look at salary on a case-by-case basis. Another idea might be to tell a developer who has moved to a less competitive region that their salary will be unchanged, however, they’ll be ineligible for a raise for one year after moving.
  • Geography meets lifestyle. This hybrid approach to salary is, in our opinion, the best one to take. Employees would be given the whole value of their compensation package, including benefits, in the form of credits based on their location and those credits could be used as the employee saw fit. Perhaps, for example, a young and healthy engineer with no family would rather forgo the premium healthcare plan and take home more salary. The flexibility of this approach would make your benefits attractive and customizable regardless of where an employee lives.
  • The digital nomad. Some employees will choose to use remote work as an opportunity to hit the road and reside in many places. You should encourage them to do so: Some of the best remote engineers are digital nomads since their lifestyle is so dependent on being good at remote work. But it can be hard to set a salary for someone who might live in three different regions over the course of a year. One solution is to have an open enrollment period for salary, in the same way, that you would for benefits. The digital nomad would have to prove where they live once a year, and you would have an opportunity to adjust their salary accordingly.
  • One-size-fits-all. This approach involves the nationalizing of salary data. Employees get paid the same no matter where they live. The theory behind this is that employees can choose where they live and they don’t need to be paid more or less purely based on location. It simplifies pay equity across your company, but it can be limiting for an employee who is forced to live in a more expensive region to be near, for example, their partner’s job, their child’s school, their ailing parents, or their family’s community. It can ultimately put your company at a disadvantage in retaining talent in certain higher-cost markets.

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