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To remain remote, employees are ready to give up benefits, PTO, & salary

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Remote work was an unknown when it started en masse in March 2020.

Marred by Zoom difficulties, the first few weeks were rocky and unsettling for executives and employees alike. But people soon began to enjoy working from home.

Productivity actually increased, and workers had more time to pick up new hobbies or rediscover old ones, while also improving their finances and mental health.

Now as normalcy returns, many employers want their employees to leave their kitchen tables (or couches) and get back to their desks in the office.

But employees aren't so ready to give up their new favorite benefit; Bloomberg reported workers are quitting their jobs instead of giving up remote work.

Tony Grenier, CEO of Grenier Media, learned this the hard way:

I sent a memo to all my employees last month that we will be doing complete work at the office, starting in July. However, I already received some resignation letters from several employees. Now, our company is facing a lack of employees due to that.

Just how much do employees value working from home?

If they had to choose, would they rather have the ability to work remotely or the best employee benefits like health insurance and a 401(k) plan? Would they take a pay cut to retain remote work? Would they give up their PTO?

Breeze surveyed 1,000 Americans to find out.

The results

We asked 1,000 adult Americans who are employed or looking for work at a job that can be completed entirely remotely what they would give up if that employer offered them the option of working remotely full-time.

Here's how they answered:

  • 65% would take a 5% pay cut
  • 38% would take a 10% pay cut
  • 24% would take a 15% pay cut
  • 18% would take a 20% pay cut
  • 15% would take a 25% pay cut
  • 39% would give up health insurance benefits
  • 50% would give up vision insurance benefits
  • 44% would give up dental insurance benefits
  • 45% would give up disability insurance benefits
  • 44% would give up life insurance benefits
  • 46% would give up 25% of their paid time off (PTO)
  • 23% would give up 50% of their PTO
  • 17% would give up 75% of their PTO
  • 15% would give up 100% of their PTO
  • 36% would give up their 401(k) or other retirement plan
  • 53% would work an extra 10 hours per week
  • 48% would give up their student loan repayment assistance benefit
  • 44% would give up paid parental leave
  • 47% would give up mental health benefits
  • 64% would give up fitness benefits
  • 55% would give up social media for the next year
  • 34% would give up their right to vote in all future local & national elections for life
  • 52% would give up Netflix or their favorite streaming service for the next year
  • 52% would give up Amazon for the next year

Note: If you'd like to see the raw data or data broken down by state, gender, race, age, etc., please email me at [email protected]

The results by generation

From zoomers to boomers, millennials to Generation X, every generation walks to the beat of their own drum.

Which generation was more likely to part ways with some of the best employee benefits in order to retain full-time remote work?

Here's how different generations value remote work:

Surprisingly, Gen Xers were often the most likely generation to take pay cuts, part ways with some of the best job benefits, or get rid of PTO in exchange for the ability to work remotely full-time.

For example, 21% of Gen Xers would take a 25% pay cut compared to 14% of millennials, 10% of zoomers, and 7% of boomers. When the sacrifice was 100% of PTO, those respective percentages were 19%, 14%, 11%, and 6%. When it was giving up Amazon for one year, the percentages were 55%, 52%, 49%, and 48%.

Why might this be? Gen Xers are between the prime parenting ages of 41 and 56, so remote work gives them better flexibility to juggle being a parent and an employee simultaneously.

Scott Penick, a 41-year old father of four and full-time attorney, moved from New Jersey to South Carolina when the pandemic began. He took a pay cut of roughly $50,000 but sees the flexibility of remote work as priceless:

Along with my wife and four kids, at 41 years old I moved back into the house I grew up in, where my mom still lives. It can be really humbling at times, but the flexibility and time with family are priceless.

Before we buy our own home, we hope to travel and rent AirBnBs for extended periods of time around the country. I can do that, because I am 100% remote.

It was not surprising to see baby boomers as the generation that was usually the least likely to swap benefits and perks for remote work. Perhaps baby boomers had a tougher time adjusting to the virtual nature of work-from-home when they have known the face-to-face office culture for so long.

Then there are other more explainable instances. For example, baby boomers were the least likely to part ways with health insurance benefits as they are older and more prone to medical issues. They were the least likely to give up PTO or work an additional 10 hours per week because why would they at this stage in their careers?

It was interesting to see millennials and zoomers usually in the middle between Generation X and baby boomers. One might have thought these younger, tech-savvy generations would have kept remote work and avoided returning to the office at all costs.

Yet, they were less likely than Gen Xers to give up salary, which could be because they are trying to build net worth, pay off student debt, and save for large purchases like a home. Zoomers were also the least likely of all generations to give up mental health benefits, while millennials were the least likely to relinquish life insurance benefits.

And while it wasn't surprising to see Generation Z as the least likely to give up Netflix or social media for one year, it was shocking to see them — the youngest generation — as the most likely to give up their vote for the rest of their lives.

Moving forward

The coronavirus pandemic triggered a great shift to remote work. How will employees and employers move forward?

Willing to part ways with salary, PTO, health insurance benefits, or social media, the data from our survey proves workers place an extremely high value on remote work.

It's clear employers will need to incorporate remote work to some degree — not only to attract the best candidates, but also to retain current employees.

John Simmons, a C-level executive at InboxAlly, realized this when his company sent an email to employees asking them to return to the office:

We noticed that this [returning to the office] would be an issue with almost half of our staff when we sent out an email asking them to return to the office. One person was even willing to quit and offered to stay on as a freelancer.

We reacted quickly to this and created an anonymous survey asking our employees how to tackle this issue. What we found was that people were really looking for the freedom to choose when and where they would be working from. So as a compromise, we now have one day a week where everyone is compelled to come to the office and this day is mainly for meetings. Four days of the week, people get to choose if they want to come to the office or work from home.

This simple change was happily accepted by everyone.

Moving forward, a hybrid solution like the one proposed by InboxAlly will likely be the proper course for most companies. This way, the team-building and face-to-face interactions that come with office culture can still take place, but workers can still retain a certain amount of flexibility and work-life balance by staying home when they decide to.

However, employers should not expect employees to give up salary, the best job benefits, or PTO in exchange for remote work.

Jessica Ulloa, a Community Manager at MyPerfectResume, offered her thoughts on that:

There's a wrong perception that working from home is like being on vacation, which is not true. I am still an employee who works 8 hours a day and delivers great results.

The fact that I have more flexibility to do my work doesn't mean I put in less effort, so I don't believe that it would be fair to take a pay cut, give up PTO, or any other benefit.

When it comes to the future of the workplace, remote work should be treated as a reality, not a privilege or perk.

Disability insurance benefits in the workplace

When respondents were asked if they would give up disability insurance benefits at their current or next prospective employer in exchange for full-time remote work, 56% said they would not while 45% would.

Disability insurance is not exactly the most common employee benefit, so it was a bit surprising to see the majority of working Americans would not part ways with it in exchange for working from home.

For a monthly premium (most of which is typically picked up by the employer), group disability insurance will replace some of the income employees lose when they cannot work due to an injury or illness. If this data is any indicator, group disability insurance is an employee benefit that has become quite popular.

For employees that become too sick or hurt to work, disability insurance acts as a reliable safety net if income cannot be earned. And for those who are their own boss, there is disability insurance for self-employed people that can be purchased individually.

In fact, no matter what your employment or coverage situation is, an individual disability insurance policy is smart to have. Group disability insurance plans typically place a cap on benefits, which means the payout may not be sufficient for some. An individual policy can be used to supplement group coverage offered by your employer or fill the gap if your employer doesn’t offer it at all.

Plus, any individual disability insurance benefits you receive will be tax-free (group benefits are taxed) and the policy is portable — you can take it from job to job, unlike group coverage which you lose if you leave the employer that offers it. Think of it as personal income protection.

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Methodology

All data found within this report derives from a survey commissioned by Breeze and conducted online by survey platform Pollfish. In total, 1,000 adult Americans were surveyed. To qualify for the survey, each respondent had to have been currently employed or looking for work at a job that can be completed entirely remotely. The appropriate respondents were found via Pollfish’s age filtering feature, in addition to a screener question. This survey was conducted over a two-day span, starting on July 20th, 2021, and ending on July 21st, 2021. All respondents were asked to answer all questions truthfully and to the best of their abilities.

Full survey results

Notes: Some answers won't add up to exactly 100% due to rounding.

If you'd like to see the raw data or data broken down by state, gender, race, age, etc., please email me at [email protected]

1. Would you take a 5% pay cut at your current or next prospective employer if they gave you the option of working remotely full-time?

  • 65% answered "yes"
  • 35% answered "no"

2. Would you take a 10% pay cut at your current or next prospective employer if they gave you the option of working remotely full-time?

  • 38% answered "yes"
  • 62% answered "no"

3. Would you take a 15% pay cut at your current or next prospective employer if they gave you the option of working remotely full-time?

  • 24% answered "yes"
  • 76% answered "no"

4. Would you take a 20% pay cut at your current or next prospective employer if they gave you the option of working remotely full-time?

  • 18% answered "yes"
  • 82% answered "no"

5. Would you take a 25% pay cut at your current or next prospective employer if they gave you the option of working remotely full-time?

  • 15% answered "yes"
  • 85% answered "no"

6. Would you give up health insurance benefits at your current or next prospective employer if they gave you the option of working remotely full-time?

  • 39% answered "yes"
  • 61% answered "no"

7. Would you give up vision insurance benefits at your current or next prospective employer if they gave you the option of working remotely full-time?

  • 50% answered "yes"
  • 50% answered "no"

8. Would you give up dental insurance benefits at your current or next prospective employer if they gave you the option of working remotely full-time?

  • 44% answered "yes"
  • 56% answered "no"

9. Would you give up disability insurance benefits at your current or next prospective employer if they gave you the option of working remotely full-time?

  • 45% answered "yes"
  • 56% answered "no"

10. Would you give up life insurance benefits at your current or next prospective employer if they gave you the option of working remotely full-time?

  • 44% answered "yes"
  • 56% answered "no"

11. Would you give up 25% of your paid-time off (PTO) at your current or next prospective employer if they gave you the option of working remotely full-time?

  • 46% answered "yes"
  • 54% answered "no"

12. Would you give up 50% of your paid-time off (PTO) at your current or next prospective employer if they gave you the option of working remotely full-time?

  • 23% answered "yes"
  • 77% answered "no"

13. Would you give up 75% of your paid-time off (PTO) at your current or next prospective employer if they gave you the option of working remotely full-time?

  • 17% answered "yes"
  • 83% answered "no"

14. Would you give up 100% of your paid-time off (PTO) at your current or next prospective employer if they gave you the option of working remotely full-time?

  • 15% answered "yes"
  • 85% answered "no"

15. Would you give up your 401(k) (or other retirement plan) at your current or next prospective employer if they gave you the option of working remotely full-time?

  • 36% answered "yes"
  • 64% answered "no"

16. Would you work an extra 10 hours per week at your current or next prospective employer if they gave you the option of working remotely full-time?

  • 53% answered "yes"
  • 47% answered "no"

17. Would you give up your student loan repayment assistance benefit at your current or next prospective employer if they gave you the option of working remotely full-time?

  • 48% answered "yes"
  • 52% answered "no"

18. Would you give up paid parental leave at your current or next prospective employer if they gave you the option of working remotely full-time?

  • 44% answered "yes"
  • 56% answered "no"

19. Would you give up mental health benefits at your current or next prospective employer if they gave you the option of working remotely full-time?

  • 47% answered "yes"
  • 53% answered "no"

20. Would you give up fitness benefits at your current or next prospective employer if they gave you the option of working remotely full-time?

  • 64% answered "yes"
  • 36% answered "no"

21. Would you give up social media for the next year if it meant your current or next prospective employer gave you the option of working remotely full-time?

  • 55% answered "yes"
  • 45% answered "no"

22. Would you give up your right to vote in all future local and national elections for the rest of your life if it meant your current or next prospective employer gave you the option of working remotely full-time?

  • 34% answered "yes"
  • 66% answered "no"

23. Would you give up Netflix (or your favorite streaming service) for the next year if it meant your current or next prospective employer gave you the option of working remotely full-time?

  • 52% answered "yes"
  • 48% answered "no"

24. Would you give up Amazon for the next year if it meant your current or next prospective employer gave you the option of working remotely full-time?

  • 52% answered "yes"
  • 48% answered "no"
Research
Published July 27, 2021