Flexible working is the most valued benefit for employees, proving far more popular than material perks such as bonuses, according to a new survey carried out in the UK by PricewaterhouseCoopers.
PwC quizzed more than 1,000 professionals in the UK and found that flexible working arrangements were rated the most important benefit by almost half (47 per cent) of those questioned, with the second most popular benefit - performance-related bonuses - cited by just one in five (19 per cent).
Flexible working was given fairly equal priority by men and women, with 41% and 54% respectively ranking this benefit the most valuable.
Better work-life balance was seen as more achievable in the long term (by 42% respondents) than vastly increased responsibility and salary (39%).
Michael Rendell, head of human resource services, PwC said: "Two years of recession have changed people's attitude towards work. With companies mindful of taking on new employees, existing staff have been expected to do more with less. Our survey indicates that employees may be feeling the pressure, with large numbers hoping for a better work- life balance in the future, and half saying they would rather work for themselves.
"Companies that can adapt to the UK's growing flexible working culture will be best placed to sustain morale and retain top talent when the job market becomes more buoyant," he added.
But as a 2009 study by UK-based consultancy Morgan Redwood found, the benefits of flexible working can be more tangible. Companies which actively promote good work-life balance were found to have annual net annual earnings per employee of £32,769 compared to £26,557 for other organisations.
The difference arises because better work-life balance results in reduced absenteeism, improved wellbeing and thus greater productivity.