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Aussie workers value flexible work over pay rises, new research finds

Financial obligations are the biggest cause of stress for more than half of Australians (54%), according to new research by Flare.

Flare’s latest National Employee Benefits Index explores how the economy impacts employee sentiment towards the workplace and their role. It surveyed 3,000 Australian employees across all industries.

The Index found mortgage pressures (94%) and shrinkflation (92%) are the leading causes of financial stress followed by transportation fares (86%) and childcare expenses (44%).

With businesses preparing for a possible recession, improving employee engagement and loyalty is increasingly important in retaining talent.

The biggest drivers of employee loyalty are flexible schedule options (45%) and support for reasonable work hours (32%) as employers increasingly enforce return-to-office policies.

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In the six months since the previous Index, businesses paradoxically are tightening their benefits belts, with the Index showing drops over 70 per cent of the most popular benefits. Flexible work arrangements (16%) being the most notable shift.

David Brudenell, Chief Revenue Officer at Flare says: “With job mobility the highest it’s been since 2012, and pre-recessionary sentiment high, keeping employees productive has never been more critical. The National Index shows employee perks and benefits drive productivity and loyalty, but most businesses have the wrong mix of them. Aussies want flexibility above all else – and are loyal to employers that offer it.”

In a time of extreme financial stress, the Index found that large sections of the Australian workforce are also emotionally drained (41%), feel overworked (37%) and aren’t satisfied with their compensation (18%). Nearly one in four are thinking about leaving their current employer (38%).

To counteract tight labour market conditions resulting in role expansions, there was a 24 per cent uptick in financial and retirement planning and public transport benefit offerings over the last six months proving businesses are aiming to coax more out of their workforce.

The Index shows benefits that increase take-home pay have a positive impact, with employees more likely to report feeling more valued by their manager, better aligned to their work, and more excited to go to work. These employees with take-home pay focused benefits are also 21 per cent less likely to cite flexible working hours as a driver of loyalty. “Over half of the employed workforce is financially stressed. With a worsening business outlook, there is a real risk that employees disengage, impacting productivity when business needs it most,” Brudenell said.

“Benefits have the power to help employees thrive, acting as a buffer between economic pressures and emotional stress, but this is dependent on the right benefits, company processes and culture. Encouragingly, the Index shows businesses are beginning to move in the right direction in alleviating employee stresses, but maintaining this momentum will be the real testament in driving employee loyalty as we close out a turbulent year for business operations and retention.”

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