Americans demand better work-life balance

2008

Amid all the predictions of economic doom and gloom for 2008, you might have thought that American workers would be want to be seen spending time in the office. But not a bit of it.

All Americans really want for this year is to be able to spend less time chained to their desks and more with their families and friends.

Two new polls have put better work-life balance high on the priority list for most Americans, despite the bleaker economic outlook leading to fears of less job security this year.

An online poll of 5,000 workers by the careers' website, Beyond.com, found nearly six out of 10 put a healthy work-life balance as their most important workplace goal for 2008.

And in a second poll of 1,200 workers for the Center for State and Local Government Excellence, seven out of 10 said what they wanted most of all from a job was a flexible, family-friendly workplace.

Work-life balance was far and away the top goal in the Beyond.com survey, with "further education" coming in second, but with only 18 per cent of the vote.

Following this was "staying organised" (16 per cent) and "improving workplace relationships" (a tenth).

By comparison, the Center for State and Local Government Excellence poll ranked health insurance (at 84 per cent) as the top issue when it came to choosing a job.

This was followed by "job security and clear policies and procedures" at 82 per cent each and a retirement or pension plan (76 per cent).

Perhaps surprisingly, pay ranked tenth on the list, with 65 per cent of the vote, behind issues such as "getting quick decisions" (69 per cent), "working with talented managers" (68 per cent), having the potential for promotions (two thirds) and even "being creative and intellectually stimulated".

The poll also suggested that Americans believed state and local government jobs offered better benefits and job security and a greater chance to make a contribution to society.

Jobs in the private sector, by comparison, offered better opportunities for innovation, greater chances to work with the best people and better opportunities for promotion.

"More and more, companies are devising ways to help their employees achieve a healthy work-life balance, from telecommuting to on-site fitness programmes and more," said Rich Milgram, chief executive of Beyond.com.