Money or Life? WorldatWork Survey of 5400 Workers Choose Life

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A survey of over 5,400 workers reveals how COVID-19 and the current political environment have contributed to dramatic shifts in what workers value and expect from their organizations.

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“There has been a reckoning. The American Dream — bigger title, more pay — has been pushed aside and replaced with, ‘I want what I do to have meaning; to have a job that makes an impact; and a safe environment that values me as a whole person."

Money or Life? New WorldatWork Survey Shows Dramatic Shift in What Employees Expect from Their Bosses in Exchange for Their Time and Energy

Worker Value Survey of 5,400 Finds That Safety Replaces Money as the New Currency

  • Almost half would take a lower title and a 30% pay cut to work from home -
  • More than half prefer their organizations take a stand on social issues -

Employees are putting their safety, security, and personal values over money and titles according to the results of the Worker Value Survey, one of the largest of its kind, conducted by WorldatWork, the Total Rewards Association for HR professionals. The study of more than 5,400 working professionals uncovered significant workplace shifts and reflects the impact of COVID-19 lockdowns and social justice protests. (Journalists contact for a copy of the results.)

The survey found that employees value safety more than money and want to align with leaders who take a clear stance on issues in which they believe. The survey also dug into what benefits are most important.

“There has been a reckoning. The American Dream — bigger title, more pay — has been pushed aside and replaced with, ‘I want what I do to have meaning; to have a job that makes an impact; and a safe environment that values me as a whole person,” says Scott Cawood, CEO, WorldatWork.

The survey provides insights into how COVID-19 and the current political environment have pushed core values and current issues to the forefront of the employer/employee conversation. Findings can help business leaders design and deliver Total Rewards programs that give workers a sense of purpose and meaning in their lives.

According to the survey, employees say:

● They are seeking greater work/life balance, even if it means less money and a lower title. 42% of respondents would take 30% less pay and a lower title to work from home and have a more balanced work schedule. Over one-third (33%) of men and almost half (47%) of women say they’d make this trade.

● They strongly prefer that organizations take a public stance on social issues. More than half (54%) of respondents want companies to publicly voice opinions, one-third (33%) say they strongly prefer their employers speak out. Younger generations are the drivers for this. Standing for something is more important to Gen Z and Millennials (64%) than to their Boomer (38%) counterparts.

● They want their companies to ensure their safety … or they won’t go to work. 50% say they will NOT work for companies if they don’t feel safe. Another 28% say that if they don’t feel safe they are unlikely to work for that company.

● They want leaders whose values align with theirs. The majority (60%) state that working for a leader who shares similar social beliefs is very or extremely important. Almost a third (29%) viewed this as somewhat important and only 12% said it was not at all important. Almost two-thirds of Millennial and Gen X respondents want to work with someone who thinks like they do.

“This attitudinal shift -- across all generations - has implications well beyond the short-term accommodations that companies are making because of the pandemic. Companies must pay attention or risk losing talent to others who are putting employees first,” says Cawood.

Benefits that matter most now
The survey also looked at what benefits matter most to today’s professionals. While employees would like to engineer perfect work and life balances, when asked to rank benefits in order of importance, health insurance outranked lifestyle perks such as paid time off, flexible work schedules, and the ability to work remotely. Scoring 21 points higher than any other benefit, 45% of respondents said health insurance was the most/second most important benefit their company could offer.

Offering a retirement or 401K plan came in second, with 25% of respondents choosing it as their first or second most important benefit. Flexible work schedules and the ability to work from home came in fourth and fifth, respectively.

The WorldatWork Work Value survey, conducted online, captured responses from 5,417 working professionals, collected between 8/14/2020 – 8/31/2020. 46% of respondents identified as male, 54% identified as female. Respondents were screened to only include those that are full-time employed in the US.

About WorldatWork®
WorldatWork is the leading nonprofit professional association in compensation and Total Rewards. We serve those who design and deliver total rewards programs to cultivate engaged, effective workforces that power thriving organizations. We accomplish this through education and certification; idea exchange; knowledge creation; information sharing; research; advocacy; and affiliation and networking. Founded in the United States in 1955, today WorldatWork serves Total Rewards professionals throughout the world working in organizations of all sizes and structures.

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Judy Kalvin
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