Most satisfied employees work longer
Plus other key findings on American workers' attitudes toward vacation time, telecommuting, and stress -- from an exclusive survey by MONEY Magazine and
By Rob Kelley, staff writer

NEW YORK ( - People who are satisfied on the job have the best perks in areas you might expect, but they actually put in longer hours than less satisfied employees, according to a new survey.

In a survey of 26,000 workers, MONEY Magazine and asked just how satisfied people were at their jobs -- and how stressed their work makes them.

Workers who expressed satisfaction at work had substantially better conditions across the board, with easier unscheduled time off, schedule flexibility and better telecommuting options.

Feelings of stress were closely related to longer commutes, less flexibility and more hours worked.

The most stressed workers said too much work, their boss's behavior and long hours were the top causes of discontent. Among the least stressed, lack of ability to advance was the biggest cause for concern.

The survey found that American workers were doing well when it comes to fringe benefits. 49 percent of workers get an employee discount, and 30 percent get to use a work computer at home. 14 percent reported on-site conveniences like dry cleaning and day care.

The average age of respondents in the survey was slightly less than 40, and employees averaged 8.4 years in their current role.

Satisfaction vs. Stress

There are a lot of workers who are both stressed and extremely satisfied. 40 percent of respondents in the most satisfied category said they were above the median in feeling stress, according to the study. But that number jumped to over half of respondents in less satisfied categories.

At the bottom of the satisfaction scale, 61 percent of workers said that they were stressed on the job.

But as you might expect, the most satisfied workers had the highest percentage of low-stress jobs, far more than any other category.


Commute lengths weren't as correlated to stress and satisfaction as most other categories.

The most satisfied workers did have the shortest commutes -- 85 percent reported under an hour. But that category had almost as many commutes of over 2 hours as others.

Least stressed workers had slightly more commutes under an hour than other categories -- at 87 percent.

Hours worked

The hours category showed a real shocker -- that extremely satisfied employees are putting in a lot more time at work than others. The most satisfied reported averaged 56 hours a week -- 11 hours more than the least satisfied group. Almost without exception, as satisfaction rose, workers reported putting in longer hours.

The most stressed employees worked about 56 hours a week too, but in the least stressed category, the average was 62 hours.

The overall average for the survey showed Americans putting in 49 hours per week.

Time off

Satisfied workers had a much easier time getting time off from their jobs. 82 percent said it was easy to take time off without advance warning, which rose to 83 percent for scheduled time off.

Only 40 percent of unhappy workers said it was easy to get unscheduled time, rising to 50 percent for scheduled time. A sizable portion of the least satisfied respondents, 21 percent, said that getting time off with short notice was always a problem.

Unscheduled time was extremely tied to stress, with 81 percent on unstressed employees getting time easily, while only 5 percent of stressed workers said the same.


Overall, 16 percent of respondents said they could telecommute any time they pleased, 28 percent could do so with their manager's approval and 55 percent were not allowed to.

Satisfied workers had more work-from-home options than other respondents, with only 38 percent saying telecommuting was never an option. Unhappy workers were least able to telecommute, with 70 percent reporting it was not an option.

The most stressed workers were also least able to telecommute, with only a third saying it was an option for them at work.


60 percent of workers said they had some flexibility in their schedule and 17 percent said they had absolute control. But 23 percent said their schedules absolutely could not be changed.

The most satisfied workers reported the highest numbers for working whenever they wanted, and the least in having set hours at only 5 percent. Meanwhile 42 percent of unhappy workers said their schedules were set in stone.

Low-stress workers were most able to work whenever they wanted so long as their assignments were completed. High-stress jobs tended to have more set hours.

Vacation time

As might be expected, satisfied workers easily took the cake with vacation days, averaging over 27 a year. On the other end, the unsatisfied got around 21 days.

Unstressed workers were truly coasting during the year, averaging 38 vacation days. Highly stressed came in around 21 days.

Health coverage

The survey also asked who was footing the employee's health bill. 66 percent said they split the cost of either standard or premium coverage with their employer. 22 percent had full coverage from their company, and 7 percent were footing their own bill entirely.

 Top of page

Follow the news that matters to you. Create your own alert to be notified on topics you're interested in.

Or, visit Popular Alerts for suggestions.
Manage alerts | What is this?