Is wellbeing and work-life balance more important than getting ahead?


Australians are prioritising wellness over career ambitions this year but plan to be more mindful with their finances, according to new research by American Express.

A new year is the time to rethink what matters most to us and what we want to achieve in the upcoming months.

Amex's global Trendex poll revealed the majority of Australians wanted to improve their wellbeing more than they wanted to progress in their career this year.

aussies prioritising work life balance

In fact, respondents ranked being healthier, having a better quality of life and improving mental health as being far more important than being productive or successful at work.

The survey, conducted in December 2023, reflected the views of 1000 Australians, along with 5783 adults in Canada, the UK, Japan, Mexico and India. All those polled earned at least $50,000 a year and travelled annually.

Re-evaluating priorities

The results suggested many Australians were re-evaluating their priorities and passions when thinking about the year ahead, and placing a greater emphasis on wellbeing, connection and fun. As an example, 59% planned to attend more live sporting events than last year.

When it comes to work, 63% of employed Australians said work-life balance was the strongest driver of job satisfaction, with 61% saying they would take a better work-life balance over a higher salary.

Globally, 71% of respondents said work-life balance was very important, and 44% were planning to prioritise mental health at work more than in previous years. The biggest drivers of job satisfaction globally were work-life balance (64%), pay level (55%) and flexible work options (47%).

The top contributing factors to work-life balance were flexible hours, the ability to work from anywhere and more paid time off.

Mindful money

Improving their personal finances was going to be a priority for just over half of respondents across the globe this year. The top reasons for this focus were to become financially independent and empowered (50%) followed by saving for a vacation (47%).

Just under half of surveyed Australians (43%) planned to focus on personal finance resolutions in 2024. Of those with personal finance goals, half wanted to be more financially independent and empowered (50%), and more than a third (37%) were looking to better spend within their means.

To achieve these goals, 72% planned to grow their savings this year, 51% were striving to budget better and 44% planned to pay off debts to get their finances under control. More than a quarter also planned to start investing in 2024.

Balancing the budget

Cutting back on overall spending needn't mean cutting back on fun - spending where it counts was what mattered. Along with going to more live sporting events, 59% of surveyed Aussies said they were prepared to travel to see home-grown talent take to courts and pitches across Australia, and 53% were likely to splurge on exclusive-access tickets to secure a better seat.

Spending more mindfully was becoming more important too. The Amex research found that sustainable lifestyle habits were top of mind for Aussies, with 53% seeking out brands that carbon offset and 48% planning to book accommodation that put sustainability first.

Corinne Ng, American Express Asia Pacific general manager of Travel and Lifestyle Services said Australians were learning how to adapt to the current financial landscape and make the most of their day-to-day spending.

"Mindful finance is moving a step beyond simply making better financial decisions," Ng says. "It's also about taking control, becoming financially empowered and even considering how your spending may impact others or the environment."

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Joanna Tovia is a freelance journalist. She is the former personal finance editor of The Daily Telegraph and author of Eco-Wise & Wealthy, a book about saving money by going green at home. She has worked as a journalist in the US, UK and Australia writing about money, travel, design and wellbeing. Connect with her on LinkedIn.
Hayley Cruise
February 9, 2024 10.18pm

I have plenty of friends who don't work full time as they want a better work/life balance but still have mortgages.