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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Work-Life Balance

Most Workers Say No Amount of Money Would Make Them Sacrifice Work-Life Balance

How often do you find yourself talking to family and friends about work-life balance? And why does it always feel like you should be working when you’re trying to be present with your loved ones—and when you’re finally in productivity mode, you worry you’re missing big moments with Your People that you’ll never get back?

The American workforce's post-COVID, work-life balance wakeup call became even clearer to The Muse as we read the results of our 2023 annual user survey, published in April. The survey found that as 75% of respondents are planning to look for a new job sometime within the next 12 months, work-life balance is the most important feature in a new job (70% said so!). It topped compensation, learning and growth opportunities, office culture, and perks and benefits.

It made us wonder: How do workers define work-life balance today? Is it splitting time more evenly between work stuff and life stuff? Is it the ability to sprinkle life stuff—like doing the laundry or attending your kid’s ill-timed 4 p.m. recital—into the workday? Or is it more provocative, like being able to take Friday off without a single soul on your payroll taking notice?

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The Muse’s Founder and CEO, Kathryn Minshew, said she’s spoken with some CEOs who seem to interpret a desire for work-life balance as an unwillingness to work hard. While that could be true for some people, Minshew said that, for many candidates, this focus on balance is more about the autonomy or flexibility to be part of the discussion about when they work and how they do it.

We like proof in the form of data at The Muse, so we surveyed our audience again for answers. Here, we’re listing the findings. According to our latest survey of 1,600 U.S. workers, work-life balance is so critical that 83% of respondents said they’d take a slightly lower paying job in order to receive “measurably better” work-life balance. More than half (56%) said there is “no amount of pay increase” that would persuade them to sacrifice work-life balance.

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Overall, the results show a consistency in sentiment around work-life balance, with a few exceptions when looking at age and gender.

  • 45%, or less than half, of respondents said “working harder than your colleagues and making personal sacrifices to achieve work goals is necessary to get ahead in your career.” However, more men (51%) than women (39%), and slightly fewer Gen Z respondents and Millennials (42%) agreed with this.
  • 36%—more than a third of those surveyed—said their personal life supersedes their career goals right now.
  • The most commonly cited definition of work-life balance for all respondents was “having the flexibility and autonomy to pivot to personal needs when they arise during a workday or week,” (51%) followed by “the amount of time I spend at work/job does not interfere with the amount of time spent on my personal life” (23%). More women (54%) than men (45%) defined it this way.

Ultimately, “This survey shows there is a fair amount of agreement on what workers mean by wanting work-life balance,” said Minshew. “It comes down to flexibility, autonomy and the ability to accommodate personal life without sacrificing career goals.”

The Muse's 2023 Work-Life Balance survey was sent to Muse email subscribers in May 2023. Survey results were collected and analyzed by The Muse's Vice President of Data, Catherine Pargeter. 

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