When it comes to work-life balance, time is money.
In fact, for the average worker who says they currently have work-life balance, it would take an extra $10,000 in pay per year for them to give up their personal time, according to a survey of 1,061 U.S. workers by career site Joblist.
But for the 35% of workers who say they haven't been able to establish clear personal and professional boundaries, their desire for better flexibility doesn't seem to hold as much weight. These workers who reported not having work-life balance said they'd give up between $1,710 to $2,820 in order to achieve it.
Corie Colliton, Joblist's lead researcher, tells CNBC Make It that workers without balance might not know how much they're missing out on.
"Among the workers who currently enjoy a balanced lifestyle, they'd be hard-pressed to give it up," Colliton says. "This indicates how important flexibility is to professionals who have had the chance to see how it impacts their day-to-day."
Overall, the majority of Americans are optimistic and say that achieving work-life balance is a realistic goal, though broken down by generation, the sentiment is highest among Baby Boomers and lowest among millennials.
Younger workers, part of what some call the "burnout generation," are also more likely to say they haven't achieved work-life balance.
Indeed, research suggests money and work are the biggest factors contributing to millennials' stress, making the idea of work-life balance all the more elusive. According to a survey from Mind Share Partners, a nonprofit that works with companies to improve mental health resources, half of millennial workers have left a job, either voluntarily or involuntarily, partially due to mental health reasons.
The Joblist survey found people who've achieved balance are more likely to make plans after work, track time on work tasks, set aside time for personal reflection and take time off. It can also be reasoned that these workers were able to achieve balance in the first place only after becoming better at managing and establishing boundaries around their time.
"Adopting new habits is never easy, but professionals who are interested in creating more balance in their lives can start small by writing down or thinking about their idea of what balance looks like," Colliton says. "Once priorities are established, try setting goals like leaving the office at 5 p.m. once per week or turning your phone off during dinner. Tracking how you spend time at the office can also be beneficial."
Just over 30% of workers said they'd give up part of their pay for better work-life balance, and the threshold varies by the type of worker.
Managers are willing to take the biggest pay cut in terms of dollar figures, $2,820 on average, to achieve better balance. But the workers willing to give up the largest share of their salary are parents, who said they'd take a 5% pay cut.
Many parents see their salaries change after having a baby, though not necessarily by choice, and the impact isn't equal between men and women. According to research, first-time moms see a 30% drop in pay directly after returning to the office after leave. Researchers suggest traditional gender roles contribute to the drop: Mothers are expected (and more likely) to take time out of the labor force to raise a family, reduce working hours and take a pay cut in order to work for an employer with more family-friendly benefits.
In the U.S., mothers are paid just 71 cents for every dollar paid to fathers, amounting to a loss of $16,000 per year.
Working dads, on the other hand, make roughly 20% more than men without children.
The Joblist survey also illustrates the unequal distribution of home and work responsibilities between parents: Working fathers are twice as likely to work longer hours to avoid bringing work home, compared with working mothers.
Parents can work together to split family responsibilities more evenly, though even more help may come from their bosses.
"A key step employers can take to support working parents is to allow flexibility for both mothers and fathers on the job," Colliton says. "While employers have made some progress in supporting working mothers, they might not be as inclined to give working dads that same flexibility."
Some major companies, such as Netflix and Goldman Sachs, have set a precedent for granting longer parental leave for new dads, though a recent LinkedIn survey found men still face barriers in actually taking advantage of these time-off policies.
One major challenge is that men feel there isn't a company precedent for taking longer parental leave, meaning leaders face the task of setting the tone from the top.
Among the proponents of better paid family leave policies is Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian, who took 16 weeks of paternity leave when his wife, Serena Williams, gave birth to their daughter Alexis in September 2017. He says that if more dads are granted leave and actually encouraged to take it, it will normalize the behavior and can ultimately destigmatize maternity leave for women.
Ohanian has also been vocal about the need to stop glorifying extreme work schedules in general.
"You have this culture of posturing, and this culture that glorifies the most absurd things and ignores things like self-care, and ignores things like therapy, and ignores things like actually taking care of yourself as a physical thing for the sake of work at all costs," Ohanian said at The Wall Street Journal's Future of Everything Festival in May 2019.
"It's a toxic problem."