Most Employees Value Work-Life Balance Over Salary

Most Employees Value Work-Life Balance Over Salary

Workers place increasing value on social fulfillment and personal passions
father and son playing board game together

The forecast for employment continues to indicate mass resignation — and as workers quit in record numbers, companies may be hopeful that upcoming pay increases are the answer to combat this recent trend. But according to a new survey, workers are more interested in something else closer to the heart than to the wallet.

According to KeyBank's Fall 2021 Financial Mobility Survey, the majority of workers say that work-life balance is more important to them than salary. In the survey, which focused on individuals who make financial decisions for their households, more than 1,000 people were asked about their financial behavior and activity over the last year. Respondents pointed to a number of value shifts that have taken place in that time.

Shifting priorities

A recent survey from HR consultant and staffing firm Robert Half showed that, as of December 2021, 41% of workers said they were planning to look for a new job in the first half of the coming year. According to that same survey, the majority (54%) said they would leave their current role in order to secure an increase to their salaries.

In the KeyBank survey, however, respondents point to a potentially conflicting set of values. When asked what is "most important to you" when it comes to work-life balance or salary, respondents chose as follows:

  • Work-life balance (62%)
  • High-paying salary (22%)
  • Not sure (16%)

These results may indicate an overall shift in priorities that's been ushered in by the coronavirus pandemic. While a majority of adults report wanting to improve their finances in 2022 (per a recent CIT Bank survey), other social needs and personal wellness concerns may be more important.

In the survey, 46% of respondents told KeyBank that the pandemic changed their financial priorities. Here's how respondents rank what matters most to them now:

  1. Spending time with family and friends
  2. Growing their finances
  3. Pursuing passions outside of work
  4. Spending time in nature
  5. Investing time in self-care activities
  6. Physical exercise
  7. Building their careers

Other employment changes Whether it's remote work opportunities or a shift toward freelance work, there's no question that the nature of employment has changed over the last two years. In the KeyBank survey, many respondents reported having made a number of changes:

  • 26% had an increase in income
  • 22% chose to retire
  • 21% left a job for a different role
  • 12% were laid off and found a new job
  • 11% left a job and remain unemployed by choice
  • 3% were laid off and are now unemployed by choice

In contrast, a much smaller (though still significant) portion say they've experienced some less positive changes: leaving a job and still being unemployed (13%), involuntarily leaving a job via layoffs and still being unemployed (7%) or being forced to retire (11%). Notably, amid all of these shifts, the majority (53%) say their income has stayed the same over the past 12 months.

Methodology: Schmidt Market Research conducted this online survey between Sept. 30 and Oct. 2, 2021. Respondents consisted of 1,081 Americans ages 18 to 70 who have sole or shared responsibility for household financial decisions and own a checking or savings account.