More than 50% of U.S. workers, would be willing to take a 20% pay cut in exchange for a better “quality of life”, according to a recent survey.
“I do think people are really struggling figuring out what work-life balance is,” says Lynn Bufka, a clinical psychologist affiliated with the American Psychological Association. “And recognizing, certainly in parts of the U.S., that we have a drive to work and perform and succeed. And increasingly, we’re realizing this isn’t good for us.”
Younger adults are even more inclined to give up cash for a better life, according to the survey. Sixty percent of millennials (ages 27-42) and 56% of Gen Z adults (ages up to 26), say they’d accept less money for a better work-life balance.
“These results don’t surprise me,” Julia Toothacre, a résumé and career strategist at ResumeBuilder.com told VOA in an email. “The younger generations have been very vocal about the need for balance in their life. It’s important to note that it doesn’t mean they are less ambitious. It just means they are looking for flexibility, and they aren’t willing to sacrifice their health the way other generations have.”
When it comes to older adults, 45% of Gen Xers (ages 43-59) and 33% of Baby Boomers (ages 60-78), would take the 20% pay cut to achieve a better work-life balance.
It’s a phenomenon that Toothacre has experienced in her work. She says many of her clients want some flexibility in their schedule for life events and appointments.
“I’m definitely seeing some of my clients take a pay cut in order to align their career with other life priorities,” she says. “Work-life balance is very important to my clients. Most of my clients come to me because they aren’t happy in their current career, or they are looking for a more balanced and flexible career path. Flexibility seems to be the overarching need for most people.”
The survey was conducted in August and September 2023 and included 16,086 online interviews with adults in 16 countries, including the United States. Seventy-seven percent of those surveyed say they prioritize a balanced life over advancement at work.
“If our only definition of ourselves is what we do and our work, we are neglecting what are often understood to be very critical aspects of human existence — our social sense of self, our spiritual sense of self,” Bufka says. “These other components of life really bring value and joy to a person’s existence, and when we don’t have a sense of those in our lives, that’s really a challenge for us.”
Then there’s the practical side of work-life balance and the willingness to take time over money.
“Things have to get done in order for a household to function, like groceries have to be procured, food needs to happen on a table,” Bufka says. “And when we’re feeling that we don’t even have time for those kinds of things to happen smoothly, then there’s always going to be a tension between the immediate demands of household and family, and work.”