30% of Nationally Representative Sample of U.S. Residents Would Change Jobs to get the Work Location/Arrangement They Seek

May 31, 2022 | Letters

Authors: Nicole Olynk Widmar, Associate Head and Professor, Purdue University, Department of Agricultural Economics, Dr. Courtney Bir, Department of Agricultural Economics, Oklahoma State University, and Torrie Sheridan, Marketing Manager, Center for Food and Agricultural Business, Purdue University

We have been diving into some of our recently collected data on work-life ‘stuff’ here recently, delving into how we adopted (and then kept?!) Zoom-chic (or perhaps more accurately, slobbish-sheek) looks during the work-from-home movement. Then, we looked at spending on take-out food and travel pre-COVID versus 2021. As part of that study, we asked lots of questions delving into whether individuals valued hybrid work environments over physical (you must be physically present!) work environments. Analysis is still underway as we’re teasing out which roles can be performed from afar versus which cannot, as well as the willingness to trade pay for flexibility alongside attempting to link reasons why (i.e. childcare responsibilities, commuting expenses, etc.).

We thought the Great Resignation took place in 2021, but 2022 is delivering headlines like, “The Great Resignation is still in full swing”, so we are apparently not done yet.

While analysis remains underway on the whys associated with many related questions, we are ready to share responses to a series of key questions that seem to be gaining attention in public discussions (discourse, in many cases).

Specifically, we asked:

1) What would your ideal work location be?

2) Would you consider leaving your current position to obtain your preferred work environment/location?

3) Would you consider taking a reduction in annual salary to obtain flexibility in work location, either at your current position/job or via obtaining a different position? 

Then, only for those who said they WOULD consider taking a reduction, we followed up with a drop down menu of response options to the question, 4) “What is the maximum reduction in annual salary that you would accept in exchange for having your ideal work location, in terms of on-site versus hybrid versus remote work?”

What did we find?

Only 24% of our nationally representative sample indicated their ideal working location would be to work exclusively remotely.

But when investigated for men and women separately, a higher proportion of women preferred remote work and hybrid work than men.

This preference for remote capabilities by women has been documented by others, citing the unequal impacts of the pandemic and associated negative employment consequences.

In response to whether people would leave their current position to obtain their preferred work environment, the split was nearly 1/3 each for yes, maybe, and no amongst those with positions.

When investigated for men versus women, there were more men who were presently working in paid roles to whom the question was applicable. Of those men, the most selected option was “maybe”, whereas for women, the most selected answer was “yes”.

In total, 37% of respondents indicated they would consider taking a reduction in salary to obtain their preferred working location.

More men than women indicated they would take a pay decrease to get their preferred work environment. There are likely a multitude of factors influencing willingness to take a pay cut, including present salary, earning potential in alternative positions, and the employment status of spouses or partners.

Out of n=162 people who said they would consider taking a reduction in salary, the majority responded with a relatively small percentage (especially in light of the fact that this was a self-stated and non-binding response, which would typically yield overstatements of willingness).

Analyses are presently underway to consider the present salary in conjunction with willingness to give up salary for flexibility or chosen work location, but suffice to say this ongoing public discussion on where and how we work is far from over, and it continues to shape how we interact with each other in our work and personal lives.