Salary or Work-Life Balance: NZ preferences for every industry

Published 13 June 2023 | 2 min read

The Toll of Burnout

Imagine this scenario: Sarah, a highly skilled professional working in the accounting industry, dedicated long hours to her job, neglecting her personal life and well-being. She tirelessly chased promotions and salary increments, assuming they were the keys to success and happiness. However, after months of relentless work, Sarah found herself exhausted and burnt out. She realised that the relentless pursuit of money had taken a severe toll on her mental and physical health.

As Sarah's burnout escalated, she saw a decline in her productivity and overall job satisfaction. The long hours and high-stress environment made her question her priorities. She couldn't help but wonder if sacrificing her work-life balance for a higher salary was truly worth it. Sarah's experience reflects a common struggle faced by professionals across various industries, where the pursuit of financial gain often overshadows personal well-being.

However, there is an intriguing perspective to consider. SEEK's data reveals that work-life balance surpasses salary as the most crucial factor for candidates in many industries, including New Zealand. It's not surprising, given the increasing flexibility employees have witnessed in recent years. The desire for work-life balance stems from different drivers, such as flexible working hours, the option to work from home, time in lieu, and additional leave. For example, 28% of candidates consider the ability to work remotely as a "must-have," and 56% would be delighted if their employer offered time in lieu.

Salary & compensation vs Work-life balance - New Zealand Industry Results

Accounting, Consulting and Legal

  • Salary & compensation = 31.6%
  • Work-life balance = 23.8%

Administration & Office Support

  • Salary & compensation = 22.7%
  • Work-life balance = 25.2%

Arts, People, Marketing and Communications

  • Salary & compensation = 27%
  • Work-life balance = 23.5%

Call Centre & Customer Service

  • Salary & compensation = 19.6%
  • Work-life balance = 24.8%

Community Services & Development

  • Salary & compensation = 21.4%
  • Work-life balance = 27%

Data, Science and Technology

  • Salary & compensation = 28.4%
  • Work-life balance = 24.7%

Design, Architecture and Engineering

  • Salary & compensation = 25.2%
  • Work-life balance = 23.8%

Education & Training

  • Salary & compensation = 22.4%
  • Work-life balance = 28.3%

Government & Defence

  • Salary & compensation = 28.5%
  • Work-life balance = 20.3%

Healthcare & Medical

  • Salary & compensation = 22.4%
  • Work-life balance = 25.2%

Hospitality, Tourism, Recreation

  • Salary & compensation = 18.2%
  • Work-life balance = 24.5%

Information & Communications Technology

  • Salary & compensation = 30%
  • Work-life balance = 22.3%

Insurance, Superannuation, Banking and Finance

  • Salary & compensation = 29.8%
  • Work-life balance = 23.9%

Manufacturing, Transport & Logistics

  • Salary & compensation = 25.6%
  • Work-life balance = 22.9%

Retail & Consumer Products

  • Salary & compensation = 23.5%
  • Work-life balance = 23.5%

Sales (including Real Estate and Property)

  • Salary & compensation = 30.6%
  • Work-life balance = 21.1%

Trades (including Construction, Mining and Farming)

  • Salary & compensation = 23.8%
  • Work-life balance = 24.3%


Source: SEEK's Laws of Attraction


The Benefits of Work-Life Balance

Focusing solely on salary often leads to negative outcomes. Professionals like Sarah, who neglect their personal lives and well-being, ultimately suffer from burnout and decreased productivity. On the other hand, prioritising work-life balance brings numerous benefits. When employees have the freedom to maintain a healthy equilibrium between work and personal life, they experience higher job satisfaction, improved mental well-being, and increased productivity. A positive work-life balance creates an environment conducive to creativity, collaboration, and overall success.

Achieving a Positive Future

Now, the question arises: How can small-to-medium New Zealand business owners and decision-makers achieve a positive future by prioritising work-life balance?

1. Are You Highlighting Work-Life Balance in Your Job Ads?

By emphasising work-life balance drivers such as flexible working hours, remote work options, time in lieu, and additional leave in your job ads and employee value proposition, you can attract top talent seeking a healthier work-life blend.

2. Does Your Salary Reflect Competitiveness?

While work-life balance is crucial, it doesn't diminish the significance of salary. Including salary information in job ads helps candidates determine if their skills align with the position and attract suitable applicants. More than 70% of candidates find it frustrating when salary isn't included, and SEEK data shows a 45.7% increase in applications when visible salary is provided.

3. Fine-Tune Your Message to Attract the Right Candidates

Understanding what matters most to potential candidates in your industry allows you to fine-tune your recruitment message effectively. By striking a balance between competitive compensation and work-life balance offerings, you can optimise your hiring process and attract the best-suited individuals.

In conclusion, salary remains a key driver for candidates across industries in New Zealand. However, work-life balance holds even greater value for professionals in certain sectors. Recognising the significance of work-life balance, understanding candidate preferences, and aligning your recruitment strategies accordingly will help you create a harmonious workplace where employees can thrive both personally and professionally. Remember, success is not just measured by financial gains but also by the happiness and well-being of your workforce.

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