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Workers are starting to value personal time over salary
January 12, 2005
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Needham, Mass. -- An increasing number of American workers would sacrifice pay to spend more time with their families if given the choice, according to a new survey released by Salary.com. Salary.com recently conducted an online survey of more than 4,600 individual employees representing a large cross-section of industries, locations and employer sizes.

Given the choice, 39 percent of respondents said they would choose more time off instead of a $5,000 raise. This nearly 20 percent increase is a large jump from just three years ago when only 33 percent of respondents said they would opt for more free time. While the majority would still choose a raise, the number of respondents who would prefer time off represents a significant change in employees' work mentality.

"This new survey shows a continued growth of the trend among workers to change their priorities from work-first to more personal concerns," says Tim Driver, SVP of Consumer Products at Salary.com. "Workers are saying they need a break from the stresses caused by increasing hours, reduced staff and the push for more productivity. From these survey results we can also conclude that a new generation of workers has priorities that differ significantly from those who preceded them. The results show that younger workers are much more likely to be family-centric than older workers. It's also possible that following several years of layoffs and cost-cutting, an increasing number of workers are less inclined to believe that placing work above personal concerns will pay off in career advancement and pay."

Changing priorities

Comments from those participating in the survey also show some impact from the September 11 terrorist attacks, job burnout, and the extra financial buffer provided by dual-income couples. Several respondents reported that the continuing impact of terrorist threats has made them re-examine their priorities, with work diminishing in importance. Others say that years of working long hours during the 1990s boom and the layoffs that followed has dampened their desire to sacrifice personal time for money. Also, the increase in the number of two-income couples has reduced some their dependence on one particular job.

Implications for compensation

"The trend revealed by this Salary.com survey will combine with changes in the economy and the workforce to put new pressures on employers," says Bill Coleman, SVP of Compensation at Salary.com. "The economy is returning to growth as the baby boomer generation starts to retire. Within a few years we could see labor shortages. This, combined with the changing work priorities of employees, will put pressure on employers to offer more flexibility. Successful companies will recognize that their employees value forms of compensation beyond money, and the most successful employers will be the ones that perfect ways to handle this."

About the Salary.com survey

In November 2004, Salary.com asked visitors to its web site and readers of its monthly newsletter to answer the question "Which would you prefer: a $5,000 increase in your base pay or the equivalent in time off." There were more than 4,600 respondents to the online poll. A similar question was posed in the 2001 poll of Salary.com users.

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