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Anxiety Index®

A four-day workweek, good benefits, and a sense of pride: what American workers want from employers

Marketplace Staff Jun 3, 2019
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A group of business people having a meeting in an office
Grady Reese/Getty Images

Fewer people are concerned about losing their job within the next year, but that doesn’t mean all of us are having a great time when we’re actually in the office.

Nearly half of workers say they’ve been yelled at by a co-worker and 26% of Americans say they’ve faced some kind of discrimination in the workplace, according to the latest results from our ongoing Marketplace-Edison Research Poll.

The poll, which first launched back in September 2015, includes an Economic Anxiety Index that gauges at how people are feeling about their personal financial situation. Basically the higher the number, the more stressed you are.

The Economic Anxiety Index peaked right before the 2016 election at 36, but it’s steadily dropped since then and now stands at a new, record low of 28.

The good news is fewer people are now losing sleep over concerns regarding their personal finance situation, according to the index. And that aligns with how the overall economy is doing: Unemployment hit a 49-year low in April, employers added 263,000 jobs and average hourly pay rose 3.2% year-over-year.

This time around, though, we focused our poll on the place that Americans spend a good chunk of their waking hours actually making their money: the workplace — a place with interpersonal interactions that can be pleasant or messy, and reveal what’s going on underneath all that macroeconomic data.

We looked at the issues that employees are tackling in the workplace and measured what Americans really value in a job. Here are some of our key findings:

What Americans want from their employer

  • A majority of workers (63%) say they would prefer a four-day work week comprised of 10-hour days instead of a five-day work week of eight-hour days.
  • Some elements of a job that women value more than men include a warm, friendly work environment (75% of women vs. 68% of men); flexible scheduling (53% of women vs. 44% of men); and a sense of pride (68% of women compared to 57% of men).
  • 15% of workers say health benefits are the most important reason they work at their current job. Broken down by age group, 21% of workers age 18-34 say health care is the most important reason, compared to 11% of workers age 35 or older.
    47% of Americans have a retirement plan though an employer, like a 401(k), with 89% thinking they’re managing very or somewhat well. However, 43% of men say they’re managing their retirement plan “very well” compared to 34% of women.

Dan Gann, an employee at Vivint Solar and one the respondents to the Marketplace-Edison Poll, said he had been a schoolteacher for 33 years before entering a new industry. There are some benefits, but he doesn’t get long blocks of time off anymore.

“I’m making more now than I did as a schoolteacher after 33 years,” he said. “The downside is I work all year long, whereas I used to have summer to do other things.”

Bills, bills, bills

  • A majority of full or part-time workers (61%) have gotten a raise in the past year.
  • But a majority (63%) have never actually asked for a raise.
  • Nearly a quarter of workers (24%) have discussed their pay with co-workers. Workers age 18-34 are more likely to have discussed pay than workers age 35 or older (32% to 20%).
  • Men and women are equally likely to have asked for a raise, but 82% of men say they end up receiving the raise they asked for — compared to 74% of women.

Some of the Marketplace-Edison Poll respondents told us they’ve been promoted at work, but that hasn’t always translated into a great paycheck.

“What’s really working against me right now is actually the fact that I technically took a promotion but, in doing so, I lost about $500 in income,” said Janelle Cooper, a resident of Norfolk, Virginia and an employee at a mortgage subservicer.

“The call volumes are basically what get you your bonuses. But in taking that promotion to be off the phones, it’s really stressed me to the point where I was physically getting sick,” she said.

Workplace challenges and discrimination

  • 48% of workers have been yelled at by a co-worker and 35% have yelled at someone they work with.
  • 26% of Americans say they’ve faced some kind of discrimination in the workplace, with African-American workers the most likely at 41%, followed by 31% of Hispanic workers and 23% of white workers.
  • More than 25% of Americans have felt their health or safety was at risk while at work, with Hispanic workers the most likely at 39%, followed by 28% of African-American workers and 26% of white workers.
  • 19% of Americans report having personally experienced sexual harassment at work.

Student loans

  • 15% of Americans are currently paying student loans, with 38% of them saying they don’t think it was worth it.
  • However, this breaks down differently across gender lines: 74% of men say that they were worth it compared to 51% of women.
  • One-third of those who are paying student loans say they are very fearful they will be unable to make a student loan payment.

Read more about our methodology here, and check out the full poll results here and here.

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