Work life

Job satisfaction is at an almost forty-year high. Why is that?

Work-life balance = job satisfaction.
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Morning Brew

· 3 min read

Despite tech industry turmoil and an avalanche of viral catchphrases meant to encapsulate the misery of the common employee, last year US workers allegedly enjoyed their jobs more than they have in the past 36 years. Is all that extra tartar sauce finally paying off?

According to the Conference Board’s Job Satisfaction 2023 report, the majority of US workers are feeling good about their jobs—largely because they’ve been afforded the ability to focus on their personal lives. As the report states: “Job satisfaction is at the highest level since our survey began more than three decades ago, largely due to a tight labor market and more flexible work arrangements.”

The survey queried 1,680 US workers about 26 different workplace benefits and scenarios, such as commuting, paid sick leave, family leave, potential for growth, and beyond, producing results that may reflect evolving workplace norms in the aftermath of the so-called Great Resignation, Joshua White, professor of finance at Vanderbilt University, explained to HR Brew.

A pandemic-spawned movement for more work-life balance is bearing fruit, as reflected in the results, White explained: “You can find happiness doing other things like exercise and hobbies, and spending time with your friends and family. That’s what remote work has allowed you to do. And it’s what flexible schedules allow people to do.”

The survey. In 2022, workers reported the highest level of satisfaction on the job since the Conference Board began its survey in 1987. Among the primary drivers of workplace satisfaction was finding a new job, as 65.7% of workers who left a job and found a new one since the Covid-19 pandemic began reported satisfaction, compared with 62.1% of employees who hadn’t switched jobs. The largest gains overall were experienced in work-life balance, which saw a jump of 5.8% compared with 2021.

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Fully hybrid workers are the most satisfied group, and enjoy the most satisfaction in “pay, benefits, and access to training opportunities,” the report found. Women reported less satisfaction than men across each category of the survey, which seems to square with the experiences of many working women during the pandemic, White argued. Overall, women are less satisfied than men over issues such as “recognition, performance reviews, growth potential, and communication channels,” the report found.

Takeaways. Christine Porath, business professor at Georgetown University, suspects the survey shows the effects of the Great Resignation, during which workers cited instances of burnout, especially in more service-oriented professions, driving their decisions to quit jobs.

Mental health is increasingly now prioritized by organizations, she told HR Brew. “There’s a greater focus on these topics now, which there needs to be…I do see a shift.”

When employees are afforded the opportunity to thrive beyond work, they’re more likely to thrive on the job, she explained. “If people are prioritizing things that make them happier, healthier…they bring a stronger, more satisfied, resilient self in the workplace.”

Plus, broader labor market conditions haven’t hurt workers’ earning potential, White explained. “When you have that tight labor market, it allows for a better match and better compensation,” for people switching jobs.

HR is challenging. HR news doesn’t have to be.

News built to help HR pros grow their impact & improve the future of work.