Paycheck satisfaction can translate to better work-life balance, new research shows.
A study co-authored by University of Illinois labor and employment relations professor Amit Kramer found that workers who are more content with their salaries report lower levels of work-family conflict.
The problem lies in attaining that satisfaction. Kramer said workers often look beyond what their pay allows them to do and focus instead on social reference points like how much their peers are paid — which often leads to dissatisfaction.
"It becomes 'my pay' compared to others; 'my pay' compared to the effort I invest; 'my pay' compared to the things I give up and miss in life for the opportunity cost of working," he said.
While employers may assume that actual pay is the top incentive for employees, Kramer said the social aspects of pay and the things workers perceive they're sacrificing for pay are stronger, or act as additional incentives and disincentives.
The study found that even highly compensated employees report high work-family conflict because they too can perceive pay inequity among colleagues.
While some might believe that a raise would improve an employee’s satisfaction with their salary, the research shows that is not necessarily the case.
"I'm not sure that the effect of a pay raise lasts very long," Kramer said. "It might have a short-term effect on pay satisfaction, but individuals are likely to regress to their initial pay satisfaction level over time."
Kramer said there are a number of things employers can be doing to boost pay satisfaction among their employees.
"If employees perceive work as a sacrifice they have to make, then the work environment itself is not ideal," he said. "If employers can understand the trade-offs employees perceive to be doing — sacrificing family for work, for example — then they can offer different work arrangements and policies that compensate for that. "
Kramer encourages businesses to consider flexible work arrangements, paid vacation days and compressed workweeks.
"In a time when the boundaries between work, life and family are so blurred with the increased use of technology that allows many employees to work everywhere, anytime, I think employers should consider offering flexible work arrangements to employees who can perform their work off-site and off-schedule," he said. "That type of a flexible policy that would allow all employees — not just those with families — to better balance work, family and life demands as they see fit."
The research, co-authored by Devasheesh Bhave, of Concordia University, and Theresa Glomb, of the University of Minnesota, is scheduled to be published in the Journal of Organizational Behavior.