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Work-life balance trumps pay: Study

Students about to enter the workforce are more interested in a good work-life balance than they are in money, a new study says.

Students about to enter the workforce are more interested in a good work-life balance than they are in money, a new study says.

The Universum Student Survey 2009, which polled more than 60,000 students in American undergraduate and MBA programs, found that 67 per cent of undergraduates and 58 per cent of MBA students consider work-life balance to be their No. 1 career goal, more important even than compensation.

Those numbers are a three-per-cent increase over last year’s study, showing that work-life balance is actually growing in importance among students.

Careers in the government and with companies like Google, which already provide a wide range of non-financial benefits or are highly vocal about them, scored highest on the list of companies students want to work for when they graduate as well.

Kortney Kutsop, employer branding specialist with Universum, says companies that offer things like in-office gyms, flexible work schedules, tuition reimbursements, pet-at-work programs and negotiable days off are much more likely to hire and retain the next generation of workers.

“Employers are really trying to understand what this generation means by ‘work-life balance.’ It means they don’t want to work 60-100 hours a week. They’ve seen their parents work extremely long hours and not get rewarded for it — they want to work 40 hours and have their employer meet their needs,” Kutsop said.

While Universum hasn’t released a Canadian study, equivalent Universum studies in other countries around the world have seen similar results.

Nancy Icely, vice-president of human resources at banking firm Capital One, says offering employees the option of working from home or during flexible hours has resulted in projects getting finished three hours faster on average.

“What we see is that having a flexible work arrangement achieves a much higher rate of employee satisfaction. We don’t require people to be in the office nine-to-five. People are more productive and more creative in this kind of space,” Icely said.

“It seems this next generation very much want to work to live — they’re much more about having that balance. People value that flexibility to be able to manage their own lives
At the offices of communications firm Design Lab in Toronto, founder and president Alexander Younger lets employees have a paid day off on their birthdays, rewards them with time off if they’ve put in extra time recently and negotiates each employee’s workplace and personal benefits individually. It’s all about attracting “owner” personalities who want to grow the business instead of “renters” who just want a paycheque, he says.

“I just think ‘How would I want to be treated if I worked for a company?’ Non-financial rewards are extremely important to my business. The challenge is having the right people on the team who don’t try to take advantage of the policy,” Younger said.

 

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