Work-life balance more important than pay for two thirds of people

work-life balanceRising inflation and the UK’s cost-of-living crisis have put a lot of pressure on employers to increase wages and starting salaries this year, but a new survey suggests that there’s something that employees value more than pay – work-life balance. HR and payroll software provider CIPHR polled over 1,000 UK workers to find out which job aspects matter most to them. Based on the results, over two-thirds (70 percent of women and 65 percent of men) see work-life balance – albeit a term that can mean different things to different people – as being more important than their pay and employee benefits combined (selected by 60 percent of women and 57 percent of men).

Having job security and feeling secure about the future of a role or organisation is the third most important consideration for over half of respondents, followed by job satisfaction (57 percent and 53 percent respectively).

Two-fifths (42 percent) of employees rank a healthy work environment (42 percent) within the top five most valuable aspects of a job. This can encompass numerous other factors, such as feeling psychologically and physically safe at work, feeling recognised, appreciated and valued, feeling trusted and included, and being listened to, among others.

In contrast, only around a quarter cite career advancement opportunities or job autonomy – the freedom and trust to do a job without being micromanaged – as important priorities (25 percent and 24 percent respectively).

Job purpose and variety, and learning and development initiatives, are also, surprisingly, even further down the list of importance, selected by just a fifth of workers (20 percent and 18 percent respectively). And, less than one in 10 (9 percent) think regular coaching and feedback is an essential element of a job.

According to the poll, the top 20 most important aspects of a job, ranked by popularity, are:

  1. Work-life balance (67 percent)
  2. Pay and benefits – total rewards package (59 percent)
  3. Job security (57 percent)
  4. Job satisfaction (53 percent)
  5. Healthy work environment (42 percent)
  6. Recognition: feeling valued and appreciated (37 percent)
  7. Feeling safe at work (36 percent)
  8. Feeling included / belonging at work (33 percent)
  9. Right to disconnect from work outside of usual working hours (26 percent)
  10. Promotion opportunities / career progression (25 percent)
  11. Job autonomy – trusted to do a job without being micromanaged (24 percent)
  12. Clear goals and targets (23 percent)
  13. Correct tools for the job (20 percent)
  14. Job purpose and variety (20 percent)
  15. Learning and development initiatives (18 percent)
  16. Social connection (18 percent)
  17. Team-oriented culture (17 percent)
  18. Transparent leadership (15 percent)
  19. Fewer meetings (9 percent)
  20. Regular coaching and feedback (9 percent)


Whether an employee has flexibility in where they work has a bearing on the results (although it doesn’t alter the order of the four most important job aspects – work-life balance, pay and benefits, job security, and job satisfaction). Work-life balance is by far the most-valued job aspect for nearly four in five (79 percent) remote workers, compared to two-thirds (66 percent) of workers who are either partly remote or who never work from home.

The right to disconnect from work – and not feel obliged to do any unpaid work-related tasks outside of one’s contracted hours – also appears higher in the list for employees who work 100 percent remotely, compared to those who don’t (36 percent vs 25 percent).

Staff who are office or workplace-based, on the other hand, are more likely to see greater value in job aspects that relate to their physical workspace and working among other people, such as a healthy work environment (47 percent), feeling safe at work (40 percent), and feeling included and belonging at work (38 percent).

[perfectpullquote align=”right” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Opinions differ with age and career longevity[/perfectpullquote]

Hybrid employees, who split their time between home and their employer’s office, appear to place equal importance on how their pay and benefits, job security, and job satisfaction interrelate (56 percent, 55 percent and 55 percent respectively). For two-fifths (41 percent) of these workers, recognition and feeling valued and appreciated by their employers ranks more highly than a healthy work environment (41 percent compared to 39 percent).

Analysis of the data suggests that survey respondents in leadership and senior management team (SMT) roles are the most likely to work remotely in some capacity than those in non-SMT positions (70 percent vs 50 percent). They also have different job priorities than the rest of the workforce. For them, pay and benefits are only the fourth most important aspect of a job (46 percent), after work-life balance (60 percent), job satisfaction (52 percent) and job security (51 percent).

Opinions also differ with age and career longevity, with 24-to-44-year-olds around 20 percent more likely to want work-life balance than 18-to-24-year-olds (72 percent vs 51 percent). While people at the start, and end, of their careers, are more likely to place job satisfaction ahead of job security. Nearly half (45 percent) of 18-to-24-year-olds, and two-thirds (65 percent) of over 55s, prefer having a job they enjoy, even if that means it’s not completely secure (39 percent and 55 percent respectively).

Conversely, for those aged 45 to 54, job security is of greater importance to them than their pay and rewards package (56 percent compared to 52 percent respectively). Having a good or healthy work-life balance is the most important aspect of a job for most workers, it’s not completely universal though. People working in finance and insurance are more likely to prize pay and benefits over work-life balance (60 percent compared to 58 percent respectively). For those in IT and software, job security tops pay and benefits and work-life balance (58 percent compared to 54 percent and 54 percent). And manufacturing workers rate both work-life balance and pay and benefits equally (63 percent).