Work/life balance and flexibility
Achieving a balance between the demands of work and everything else in life was almost as important as pay to everyone we surveyed, and for those aged 45 and over it was the most important factor in their current role.
When we asked what elements of work have become more important to people over time, work/life balance swapped places with salary to take the top spot having been chosen by 48% of respondents (versus 46% for salary). Gen X (39-54 year olds) felt this most strongly, with 52% believing work/life balance has increased in importance throughout their career.
But are people willing to put their money where their mouth is? Yes.
When we asked people what salary they would need to earn to ensure happiness, the average answer was £51,000. Those who prioritise work/life balance felt they needed to earn around £49,000 to be happy, while those who did not required £55,000. That is a substantial £6,000 less per annum. This underlines the substantial value many employees place on keeping the demands of their job and their lives outside work in balance.
One area that can contribute to a better sense of work/life balance is having the option to work more flexibly. Desire for this is surging – in the last five years searches for working from home or flexible or remote work have soared 116% as a share of all searches on Indeed’s UK site. Thankfully, employers are catching on: between 2014 and 2019, we saw a 136% increase in the phrase “flexible working hours” in job descriptions in the UK.
But given three quarters (74%) of the people we spoke to believe they could do their job to the same standard in four days as they do in five, does greater flexibility go far enough when it comes to our desire for a good work/life balance?
Which generation thinks the four-day working week is most feasible?
The Indeed View
The strong backing for a four-day working week from UK workers is stark.. Recent trials of a four-day working week by organisations like the Wellcome Trust have concluded it is not a feasible option for every business, but the overall view of the UK workforce seems to be that it would not impact the standard and output of their work.
Of course, this rests on the assumption that generating the same amount of output also means receiving the same total pay, while working shorter hours. UK GDP per hour worked is significantly lower than in other countries such as the US, France and Germany and full-time employees in the UK work the longest hours in the EU.
Introducing the four-day working week – in at least some businesses and occupations – might help the UK seem more productive on an hourly basis, but sustained growth in total pay will require a sustained boost to output per worker – be it through business investment, spreading innovation and better management practices or undertaking other policy initiatives.
Workers looking to marry the benefits of a four-day working week with their desire for a higher salary may be disappointed: sustained productivity growth is the only proven way to create more wealth for all.