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60 Minutes/Vanity Fair poll: Modern Workplace

Welcome to the 60 Minutes/Vanity Fair poll for December 2016. This month’s poll explores the Modern Workplace, an area that is changing and evolving rapidly. As more and more tech-savvy young workers join our knowledge-based economy, they are demanding more flexibility, a better life/work balance and a variety of perks such as free food, game rooms, paid-parental leave and stress-reducing options such as telecommuting or nap rooms. 

Companies are responding to these demands but they also reap some benefits. Free food keeps people at the office and working longer, and open-floor plan design not only reduces occupancy costs but also increases dynamism which improves collaboration and creativity leading to better ideas. The rapid changes and advances in technology also have pros and cons. While it makes employees more productive it also creates increased distractions from the sheer volume of platforms that they must monitor. This in turn can lead to the stress created when people compulsively check their devices even when they are not working. Vast improvements and efficiencies in manufacturing and industrial technologies have also reduced the need for workers many of whom make up the new silent majority that just sent a loud message to Washington that they are feeling forgotten or under appreciated. They don’t want any of those aforementioned fancy perks in their workplace, they just want to have a workplace.

What is the worst thing about your current job? We look forward to your answer to this question and many others, and now the results...


Which of the following is most important to consider when looking for a new job: 28 percent of Americans said they are looking for opportunity, 24 percent said they want flexibility and nine percent chose responsibility. But not surprisingly, when all the votes were counted, more than a third of Americans simply said “show me the money.”


Here we go again. A third of Americans said the best way to keep an employee motivated is by letting them have pride in their work, 17 percent said by receiving frequent praise from their boss and only three percent said they were motivated by the thought of being out of a job. But yes, you guessed it, the winner and still champion with 45 percent is by receiving annual bonuses and pay raises. Cash is King.


From a list of business practices that have gone out of style, 62 percent would most like to bring back guaranteed annual raises followed by handshake deals at 21 percent, martini lunches 7 percent and flirting with co-workers 4 percent. Are you catching on to a trend here? Most Americans work for the money, the more they earn the better. Why do you think they call it work?


Forty-six percent of Americans think that in general, it is fair for a CEO to earn 10 times more than the average pay of a company worker. Fifteen percent said 20 times more, 14 percent said 50 times more and 5 percent said 100 times more. Six percent chose the approximate average (based on data from Bloomberg of Fortune 500 CEO’s) of 200 times the amount of average pay. To put that in perspective, in 1950 the ratio was about 20-to-1 and in 1980 it was around 42-1.


Today’s workplace is a far cry from your grandfather’s workplace and three out of 10 Americans said the perk from the list that would be hardest to explain to grandpa would be mental health days, followed by pods to nap in 28 percent, employee motivation retreats 19 percent and paternity leave 15 percent. Gramps might look puzzled as you try to explain to him why you need a pod to take a nap in at work, but you probably have a lot more common ground with him than you think.


In general 37 percent of Americans said they thought the media engaged in the greatest amount of unethical behavior followed by drugs/pharmaceuticals 30 percent, banking 19 percent and technology 7 percent. More than half (53 percent) of those identifying as Republican chose the media while Democrats were split between drug makers (35 percent) and bankers (29 percent). As is often the case, Independents closely mirrored the national averages of the country as a whole.


So what do Americans think are the worst things about their current jobs? Consistent with previous questions we are unhappy about low pay and benefits 13 percent, long hours 12 percent, co-workers 9 percent, management 6 percent, job security 5 percent and workload 5 percent. Here’s one ray of sunlight 11 percent said “nothing” they like their job. Some of our favorite direct quotes referred to common complaints about “having to wake up early”,” look at a screen all day”,  “meeting strangers” and “getting old”. Others complained about co-workers and sexual harassment  and someone lamented “I can’t come in any time I want”. Some observations were very specific and gave a good hint as to what profession they had such as, “having to preach every Sunday”, “the chance of being blown up on a deployment” and this doozy, “work with teenagers all day... they have hormones”. Finally we return to complaints about compensation such as “haven’t had a raise in 10 years”, “competing with low paying jobs overseas” and this final one that sums it all up very economically, “the pay”.

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