AnnaMarie Houlis
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Money isn't everything, and science suggests that American workers would even be willing to forgo a massive pay raise in exchange for other, non-monetary benefits.

While it's no surprise that workers want more flexibility and telecommuting options among other benefits, science says that they might want those benefits even more than a bigger paycheck. A 2013 survey from Catalyst found that 83 percent of women who had access to flexible arrangements said they aspired to a senior executive- or CEO-level position, while just 54 percent of women without such programs could say the same. A more recent report from FlexJobs, Working Parents in 2017: What They Want at Work, showed that more than four out of five parents value work-life balance more than salary, too. In fact, 70 percent of those surveyed even said they’d thought about leaving a job because it didn’t offer flexibility.

Now, researchers from Harvard Medical School, the Rand Corp. and the University of California at Los Angeles found that 40 percent of their survey's respondents would even prefer a relatively lower-wage job with flexible hours and telecommuting over one without those perks, even if they pay well.

Switching from a job with non-wage perks to one with the aforementioned perks is equivalent to an overall 56.1 percent wage increase, the research suggests. Specifically, setting one's own hours is equivalent to a nine percent pay raise, and autonomy at work is worth 3.8 percent of the wage relative to a position with well-defined job responsibilities. Meanwhile, respondents value a 10-day break as worth 16.4 percent of wages and a 20-day break as 23 percent of wages.

Perhaps that's why the Federal Reserve noted in its recent Beige Book survey of regional economic conditions that a number of businesses have “implemented non-wage strategies” (think: signing bonuses, boasting flexible schedules and offering more vacation) to attract and retain talent.

While worker wages in the U.S. are rising, according to federal data — crossing the three percent mark for the first time in nine years — this new research sheds light on some less-measurable perks affecting job satisfaction. 

PNC predicts that wage growth will reach 3.3 percent next year, especially as the number of job openings has exceeded the number of job seekers since March. This means that employers have had to work harder to attract talent — but this new research suggests that, perhaps, employers would be more successful in their recruitment and retention efforts if they started offering both better pay and better benefits.

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AnnaMarie Houlis is a feminist, a freelance journalist and an adventure aficionado with an affinity for impulsive solo travel. She spends her days writing about women’s empowerment from around the world. You can follow her work on her blog, HerReport.org, and follow her journeys on Instagram @her_report, Twitter @herreport and Facebook.

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