Claire Williams, Chief People Officer at CIPHR

Work-life balance trumps pay, new research reveals

Two-thirds of workers think work-life balance is more valuable than pay

Despite increasing inflation and the UK’s cost-of-living crisis, a new survey suggests that employees value work-life balance more than pay.

The survey by HR and payroll software provider CIPHR polled over 1,000 UK workers about the most important job aspects. The results revealed that 70% of women and 65% of men consider work-life balance more important than pay and employee benefits combined.

According to the research, the top 20 most important aspects of a job, ranked by popularity, are:

  • Work-life balance (67%)
  • Pay and benefits – total rewards package (59%)
  • Job security (57%)
  • Job satisfaction (53%)
  • Healthy work environment (42%)
  • Recognition: feeling valued and appreciated (37%)
  • Feeling safe at work (36%)
  • Feeling included / belonging at work (33%)
  • Right to disconnect from work outside of usual working hours (26%)
  • Promotion opportunities / career progression (25%)
  • Job autonomy – trusted to do a job without being micromanaged (24%)
  • Clear goals and targets (23%)
  • Correct tools for the job (20%)
  • Job purpose and variety (20%)
  • Learning and development initiatives (18%)
  • Social connection (18%)
  • Team-oriented culture (17%)
  • Transparent leadership (15%)
  • Fewer meetings (9%)
  • Regular coaching and feedback (9%)

Interestingly, flexibility in where employees were allowed to work affected the results, with work-life balance being the most-valued job aspect for 79% of remote workers compared to 66% of workers who are either partly remote or who never work from home.

Similarly, the right to disconnect from work – and not feel obliged to do any unpaid work-related tasks outside of contracted hours was also a priority for employees who work remotely, compared to those who don’t (36% vs. 25%).

The results indicated that office- or workplace-based staff see greater value in their physical workspace and working among others. Top priorities among these employees include:

  • Healthy work environment (47%)
  • Feeling safe at work (40%)
  • Feeling included and belonging at work (38%)

Employees with hybrid working arrangements generally seem to place equal importance on how pay and benefits (56%), job security (55%), and job satisfaction (55%) interrelate.

Two-fifths of these workers agree that recognition and feeling valued and appreciated by their employers rank more highly than a healthy work environment (41% vs. 39%).

Further data analysis indicates that survey respondents in leadership and senior management team (SMT) roles are likelier to work remotely than those in non-SMT positions (70% vs. 50%). These workers also have different job priorities than the rest of the workforce, with pay and benefits being the fourth most important aspect of a job, at 46%. Work-life balance (60%), job satisfaction (52%), and job security (51%) were at the top of the list.

Regarding age and career longevity, 72% of 24-to-44-year-olds favoured work-life balance over 51% of 18-to-24-year-olds. People kicking off or ending their careers were more likely to place job satisfaction ahead of job security, with 45% of 18-to-24-year-olds and 65% of over 55s preferring to have a job that they enjoy, even if it’s not completely secure.

For respondents aged 45 to 54, 56% said job security was more important than pay and rewards packages (52%).

Across industries, the results vary. People in the finance and insurance sectors are more likely to prize pay and benefits over work-life balance (60% compared to 58%, respectively). In the IT and software industry, job security beats pay and benefits and work-life balance (58% compared to 54% and 54%). Manufacturing workers rate work-life balance and pay and benefits equally (63%).

Claire Williams, Chief People Officer at CIPHR, commented: “CIPHR’s latest findings highlight that salary often isn’t the key driver that many people think it is. People rarely have just one single aspect of a job that matters most to them: there are always a variety of factors that govern whether an individual will join, stay, or leave an organisation, and these will vary depending on where they are with their career at the time.

“Everyone has their own idea of what work-life balance looks like to them. For some, it means looking for more flexibility at work – such as flexible hours, a four-day week, or remote working – while for others it’s an aspiration that helps shape their career choices, the type of roles they want, and the employers they want to work for. It’s certainly not a new concept, but there’s no doubt that the pandemic has spurred many people to re-evaluate their work-life priorities and change how they want to spend their time at work.

“While employers are still navigating what this means in the long term, they do need to recognise that if they are not meeting their staff’s current needs and priorities – particularly around any core job aspects that they want and value – it’s likely that another organisation will.

“Take the time to actively listen to your workforce – perhaps by running a survey similar to this one – to find out what’s important to them, and map these results against employee demographics, life stages, locations and department. An integrated HR tech stack, with a sophisticated HR system, such as CIPHR HR, at its centre, will help you gain this holistic view of your people data.

“It won’t always be possible to tick every box but if you can act on the feedback where possible, it will help improve employee experience and engagement at all levels. Do nothing, and you’re likely to lose staff in the long run.”

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