Survey: 55 percent of workers place greater importance on flexible or remote work options

Two years after the coronavirus pandemic forced widespread office closures, companies are reopening their doors and priorities have shifted for many employees.

Many workers have grown accustomed to the flexibility of a hybrid or remote work environment and are asking their employers to make it a permanent fixture in the workplace, according to a new Bankrate survey, with some even citing it as a greater priority than higher pay.

Some 55 percent of workers say that the ability to work from home or have a more flexible schedule is more important to them now than it was before the pandemic, according to Bankrate’s February 2022 Job Seeker Survey. That’s compared to 52 percent of respondents who cited higher pay as being of more importance.

The survey was based on responses from nearly 2,500 adults, 1,416 of which were either employed or searching for a job.

“Between the high number of job openings, elevated inflation as well as lessons and opportunities resulting from the pandemic, many workers are restless,” says Mark Hamrick, Bankrate senior economic analyst and Washington bureau chief. “It is remarkable that so many Americans place a higher priority on the conditions of their employment over pay, not that compensation is unimportant by any means.”

Key takeaways

Americans continue to prioritize higher pay (52%), flexible working hours (43%) and the ability to work remotely (34%) in their careers

More than half of Americans (55%) say that they have felt underpaid compared to peers with similar experiences or qualifications

Despite efforts to implement changes in their current roles, 51% of Americans reported being very likely or somewhat likely to be looking for a new job in the next 12 months

Flexibility hours and remote options are key to a successful return to office

Here’s a look at some key workplace priorities, according to our survey. Respondents could select more than one answer:

  • 52% cite higher pay
  • 43% cite flexible working hours
  • 34% cite ability to work from home/remotely
  • 34% cite job security
  • 29% cite more time off/vacation time
  • 28% cite more fulfillment/more rewarding work
  • 17% cite better and/or more inclusive work culture
  • Meanwhile, 14 percent of respondents said that none of these were major priorities for them.

Notably, flexible or remote work is cited as a higher priority for Americans now, particularly younger workers, compared to before the COVID-19 pandemic. Some 55 percent of respondents selected this as the most important aspect of their employment compared to higher pay. This has presented a new set of challenges for employers who hope to bring their workers back into the office and are now forced to adjust their work model.

Between men and women, 47 percent of women were more likely to prioritize flexible work hours, compared to just 39 percent of men. As for fully remote work options, 37 percent of women wanted the ability to work remotely compared to 31 percent of men.

Job security also remains top of mind for many Americans across varying income levels. Of those earning less than $40,000 each year, 36 percent of respondents indicated that this would be a top priority. This is only slightly higher compared to those who earned between $40,000 to $79,999 a year (32 percent) and those earning over $80,000 a year (31 percent).

Hamrick suggests that workers might not need to worry about job security for now. “As long as the unemployment rate remains as low,” he says, “workers will maintain a high level of job security. And with that, they have a high degree of confidence that they can find work more to their liking. This provides an opportunity for better work/life balance and higher pay, which should translate to progress with their personal finances.”

Higher pay isn’t just about more money — it’s about fair pay, too

More flexible working styles may be a new preference for Americans, but higher pay is still high on the list of priorities. Of those surveyed, 52 percent of respondents identified this as something that is more important to them now than it was prior to the Covid-19 pandemic.Notably, it was Gen Zers (54 percent), as well as Black (61 percent) and Hispanic (50 percent) workers, who were more likely to say higher pay is more important to them now.

But it’s not just higher pay that Americans are concerned about — many workers are being more transparent about whether they feel they’re being paid fairly. When comparing themselves to peers with the same work experience or qualifications, 55 percent of workers felt that they were underpaid, with 60 percent of Black employees, 56 percent of white employees, and 49 percent of Hispanics indicating that they have felt underpaid.

A 2021 Bankrate survey found that marginalized groups were typically impacted the most by inequitable pay models, finding that more than half of Americans hadn’t received a pay raise or promotion in the past year. Hispanic workers were least likely to see a raise, with 19 percent getting higher pay, compared to 30 percent of White workers and 31 percent of Black workers.

Baby boomers were more likely to feel that they were underpaid at 62 percent, followed by millennials at 57 percent and Generation Xers at 54 percent. Only 45 percent of Gen Zers felt that they were being underpaid.

Some of this could be attributed to an increase in more transparent conversations about compensation within the workplace. Baby boomers were the least likely to discuss pay with others who could help them assess their own pay, such as coworkers (12 percent) and professional contacts like recruiters, career counselors and industry peers (12 percent). This doesn’t hold true for younger workers. The survey found that 26 percent of Gen Zers had shared their salary with a co-worker and 25 percent had disclosed their pay with professional contacts.

More than half of Americans likely to look for a new job in the next 12 months

With all of this in mind, it’s no wonder that more than half of American workers are considering leaving their current job for a new role. Experts suggest that this can be a viable solution for some.

“While it is reasonable to ask an employer about the prospects for additional compensation, or better working conditions, it is sometimes simply more effective to seek a new job to achieve these goals,” Hamrick says.

In the last 12 months, 35 percent of workers reported asking for changes to their current role and 33 percent chose to move on from their role.

Even with these requests, 51 percent of Americans said they are likely to look for a new job in the next 12 months. This includes 55 percent who had not attended high school or had only earned a high school diploma, 56 percent who had attended fewer than two years of college, 44 percent who were college graduates and 38 percent who held post-graduate degrees.

Methodology commissioned YouGov Plc to conduct the survey. All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2,449 adults, among whom 1,416 were either employed or looking for work. Fieldwork was undertaken on February 16-18, 2022. The survey was carried out online and meets rigorous quality standards. It employed a non-probability-based sample using both quotas upfront during collection and then a weighting scheme on the back end designed and proven to provide nationally representative results.