Positive work culture drives well-being, most workers say, while Gen Z values flexibility

Although financial compensation is still a major driver of employee wellbeing, workers say other job elements — such as culture, flexibility, location and perks — contribute to their “emotional paycheck,” according to an April 3 report from Wiley Workplace Intelligence.

For instance, older workers value a positive organizational culture, and younger Gen Z workers value work time flexibility.

“Younger Gen Z workers appear to prize autonomy, a work-life balance, and the ability to customize their work time to fit their own needs and lifestyles,” Mark Scullard, senior director of product innovation at Wiley, said in a statement. “Our findings suggest, however, that as employees gain more experience and their responsibilities and priorities evolve, they may become more aware of the impact an organization’s culture can have on their wellbeing.”

In a survey of 2,013 workers across North America, most ranked a positive organizational culture as their top priority for non-financial compensation. Among ages 35-44, 32% said they value work culture, as compared to 22% who said they value location flexibility. Among ages 55-64, the percentage who said they value work culture climbed even higher to 40%, as compared to 22% who said they value location flexibility.

For younger Gen Z adults between ages 18-24, work time flexibility appears to be more important, with 34% valuing flexibility and 22% valuing a positive organizational culture. After that, personal time off comes in as a close third priority.

Overall, culture also tops a competitive salary for most employees, according to the report. Given a choice between culture and money, 73% said a positive organizational culture is most important, while 27% said working for a company that pays well is most important.

Without a positive work culture, many deskless workers have said they may leave their jobs, according to a Boston Consulting Group report. They cited emotional concerns such as burnout — particularly among Gen Z workers who said they desired fair treatment and a feeling that they are respected, valued and appreciated.

Employers can create a healthier work environment by implementing organizational policies that foster job flexibility and security, according to a study by Boston University researchers. Greater job flexibility and security were associated with workers being less likely to report serious psychological distress or anxiety, as well as fewer days worked while feeling ill, the researchers found.

Fostering psychological safety in the workplace can also help to reduce attrition and improve happiness and motivation, according to a Boston Consulting Group report. Empathetic leaders drive psychological safety by showing respect for workers’ perspectives, emotions and life situations, the report found.