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Traditionally, the top priority for most professionals was having a satisfactory and stable income that could increase year on year. Over time, many have come to define success by how far and how fast we can rise through the ranks.
But over the last decade or two, there has been a shift in how many professionals perceive work – and this has been accelerated by the pandemic. According to our latest market report, Talent Trends 2023: The Invisible Revolution, we are now at a point where eight out of every 10 people would choose their mental health and work-life balance over career success.
During the pandemic, the concept of ‘work-life balance’ became more tangible and meaningful than ever. Time is arguably people’s most valuable resource, and when remote working became the norm, many had more free time than ever before. Being in a home environment allowed people to get little household tasks done during the day that would usually eat into their evenings and they had more time to spend with their families, housemates, and bubbles.
That change – and the extra focus many workers were able to give to their mental health – showed a lot of people what work-life balance could look like. This has changed their relationship with work forever.
Of course, everyone has different priorities, but our research found that work-life balance was ranked as the most important influencer of job satisfaction. In our survey, three in five (60%) selected work-life balance, nearly 20% more than the 43% who selected salary (the second most popular factor).
The shift is not skewed by certain demographics of the workforce; in fact, it is a constant across all groups and communities. For example, work-life balance was the most important factor for 57% of people without children, in comparison to 61% of those without. Across different sectors, 77% of lawyers and policy makers said that work-life balance influenced their job satisfaction, dropping to a still significant 51% amongst those working in property and construction.
With work-life balance being the most important factor for job satisfaction, and 54% of candidates saying that job satisfaction is more important than a good salary when it comes to defining career success, it is clear that work-life balance is now non-negotiable for the majority of workers.
Work-life balance will never be able to take the place of pay completely. Ultimately, salaries provide people with security, safety and comfort – and they help workers to make the most of their spare time. For these reasons, it will always be essential. But work-life balance is highly valued by the workforce, and organisations that want to attract and keep top talent are prioritising it.
Going forward, employers are likely to focus on ensuring high productivity whilst still offering staff the work-life balance they want. Salary remains the number one factor attracting candidates to a business – but without work-life balance they will not stay.
Although some employers are keen to bring workers back into the office, the argument for hybrid working is strong: professionals are clear that they want flexibility. There are many valid reasons that companies may want their employees back in the office, but to demand their presence five days a week is likely to damage the work-life balance that they value so dearly.
For this reason, professionals – whether they are seeking hybrid working or not – are in a great position to gain better work-life balance. Of course, each person’s concept of what constitutes a good work-life balance is different, and one-size most certainly does not fit all. Additionally, hybrid working is not viable in all industries and roles, though in these cases, it may be that other approaches can improve work-life balance.
Overall, seven in 10 candidates want hybrid working arrangements, while a similar number would like flexible hours. Be sure to have an open discussion with your employer about your particular needs.
If you are not happy with your work-life balance or you are feeling dissatisfied with your role, it might be time for a change. Many employers are prepared to offer candidates the flexibility they crave, and a lifestyle that suits both you and the company – it’s just a case of finding the right fit.
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