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Charlie Duff

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Editor, HRzone.co.uk

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Happiness more important than money, claim employees

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Getting the right work-life balance, up-skilling and family time is now more important to workers than achieving a high salary, according to new research.

According a survey conducted by a travel company, the recession has made employees rethink their priorities and most now would choose time at home with their families over direct monetary benefits. The results were backed up by the O2 Working Values Report, the results of which suggested the nation is shifting focus towards personal rewards, away from consumerism and money.

More than half of those surveyed by Cruise118 said that they would choose additional holidays over a pay rise to allow for more flexibility and time with their children. Only 21% said that they would be willing to work longer hours in order to achieve a higher annual salary.

Homeworking is more popular than ever, with 58% of employees agreeing that their productivity would increase if they were able to spend more time working away from the office. The majority (78%) cited being flexible to fit around children’s routines and their partner’s working day as a priority.

Spending time with the family, and taking part in more leisure activities were key priorities for 75% of the employees questioned, with escaping the rush hour traffic and saving on travel costs being extremely important to just over 60%.

Findings in O2’s report showed that seven in 10 workers agreed the recession is making British people reconsider what they believe to be important to them and what will make them happy – which 93% consider to be a good thing. The report shows that the vast majority of the 1,201 surveyed see work as a means to an end with more than eight in 10 (83%) saying that people ‘should work to live, not live to work’ – a radical shift from the ‘greed is good’ mentality of the 1980s and the property-fuelled consumerism of the mid-2000s.

The report also reveals that achieving personal happiness and contentment is a top priority for many: 58% say they would proactively choose to earn less money if they could work for a company that ‘provides them with time to pursue their interests’. The results tally with an increase in interest in maintaining a good worklife balance felt over the last 12 months. Almost all those surveyed by O2 (95%) of workers said having a good worklife balance is important today. Of course, worklife balance has always been important, but almost half of those surveyed (48%) also agreed that work-life balance is more important to them now that it was 12 months ago. Only 3% said it was less important.

Cruise118 has implemented a choice of home or office-based working to their sales staff and has seen success. Mal Barritt, director, said: “The recession has meant that many people are looking at their worklife balance and reconsidering their priorities. With the economy being as it is at the moment, it’s particularly important to ensure staff are as happy as possible, and with rising petrol prices, expensive child care and a stressful commute to the office each day, it’s no wonder that many people would rather work from home.”

The company believes that this flexible approach to employment has helped them to increase productivity and attract the best calibre staff. Barritt explained: “Introducing home working and flexible working hours has enabled us to recruit the most talented sales staff irrespective of geographical location or commitments outside work. We pride ourselves on providing an exemplary service to customers, and our approach to employment has definitely helped achieve a more positive, and hardworking staff."

He added: “I would be surprised if we didn’t see many more business offering staff home working options, particularly in this difficult economic climate when this kind of flexibility can help save both the employer and employee money.”

The O2 survey additionally discovered workers are still keen to upskill and keep learning throughout their working lives. Ann Pickering, HR Director at Telefónica O2 UK said: “The onset of recession in the British led to significant changes for many of us. While there is speculation that there’s a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel, the last 12 months will have had a long-lasting effect – and as our report indicates for many that means a reassessment of what is important in life."

She added: "Training is a key focus for O2 and we continue to invest to help our people achieve their professional goals. At the same time we also continue to promote initiatives that allow people to realise their personal goals; we have a Learning Fund that gives O2 employees money to learn a new skill of their choice."

Comparing the survey to 2005, there has been a decrease in employees rating their work as ‘very important’ by 13% – 73% however describe work as important to them. With less monetary incentives it seems workers are finding fulfillment in other areas of their lives. While workers maintaining a good worklife balance is good for business, employees finding work less important to them could indicate a less engaged workforce, which could spell problems in the longer term for organisations.

One Response

  1. Work/life balance

    Interesting article but doesn’t mention that we in the UK work the most hours in a week and have the least holidays compared to the rest of Europe. We may have more holidays etc than say the USA where annual holiday is typically two weeks, but the figures show that people here feel they are probably working too much.

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Charlie Duff

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