HR Buzz: Hardest-Working Cities, Vacation Hunters, Auto-401(k)s

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By Martin Berman-Gorvine

What you need to know this week about workplace trends, surveys, and reports.

Working Hard by the Golden Gate

Are employees in your city hard-working or hardly working?

WalletHub claims to have some answers in its latest survey. San Francisco and Fremont, Calif., come in first and second in terms of hard-working; Jersey City, N.J., is third, and our nation’s capital, Washington, D.C., comes in ahead of New York City, although the Big Apple has the longest average working week at 40.3 hours.

The survey looked at five “direct” factors—average workweek hours, employment rate, share of workers leaving vacation time unused, share of engaged workers, and rate of idleness among 16-to-24-year-olds—and four “indirect” factors such as average commute time. The three least hardest working cities out of the country’s 116 largest, according to the survey, are in order Columbia, S.C.; Charleston, W.Va.; and Cheyenne, Wyo. The last-mentioned city, with 14.6 weekly working hours on average, comes in last in that category.

Salary First, Then Vacation

The foremost concern job seekers express after what they will be paid, is how much paid time off they’ll get.

Such are the findings of a survey by Menlo Park, Calif.-based staffing firm Accountemps, which pegged the PTO/vacation time question in first place among 26 percent of respondents. It was closely followed by 24 percent who named corporate culture their foremost concern after salary, and 21 percent who named career advancement potential.

The level of importance of PTO rises steadily with advancing age, being the top interest of 29 percent of those 55 and older, 27 percent of those age 35 to 54, and 22 percent of those age 18 to 34. The inverse is true of interest in career advancement potential, the top concern of three in 10 of the 18-to-34 age group, 22 percent of the 35-to-54 age group, and just one in 10 of those and 55 and up.

An independent research firm collected the responses for Accountemps among more than 2,700 workers in 27 major U.S. cities.

Employers Nudge Retirement Savings Forward

There’s been a significant increase in the proportion of employers that automatically enroll their new employees in 401(k) retirement plans.

Almost three quarters (73 percent) now do so, according to a survey by consultancy Willis Towers Watson, up from 52 percent in 2009. There’s been a similarly dramatic jump in the proportion of employers that offer Roth IRA-type features in their 401(k) plans, now standing at 70 percent compared with 46 percent in 2012.

The company did the survey last November among 349 large and midsize U.S. companies that sponsor a defined contribution retirement plan.

The Happy Life of the Freelancer

Freelancers aren’t hankering to return to the 9-to-5 office routine, and many find more satisfaction with their style of work than with traditional employment.

Some 97 percent of freelancers wouldn’t go back to being traditional employees, according to a survey by accounting and invoicing software provider FreshBooks. The former are also much likelier to express career satisfaction than the latter, at a rate of 71 percent versus 61 percent. Those who are planning to leave traditional employment for the freelance world say they’re doing so to change careers or gain more control over their careers (43 percent for each of those two responses), for financial reasons (33 percent), for family reasons (32 percent), and for health reasons (15 percent).

FreshBooks conducted the survey last November, in collaboration with Research Now, among more than 2,700 full-time workers, including employees, freelancers, and small business owners.

Annual Reviews No Longer Universal

The widely hated system of employee performance reviews isn’t going away anytime soon, but there is a measurable decrease in the numbers of employers using it and a countervailing increase in the number using more frequent performance check-ins.

Last year 91 percent of employers used formal performance reviews or appraisals, but that was a decline from 94 percent the year before, according to a survey of 867 WorldatWork members, which was done with underwriting support from consultancy Korn Ferry Hay Group and released Feb. 27. The proportion of WorldatWork members (who typically work at the managerial level or higher in the headquarters of a large company in North America) reporting that their companies use formal performance ratings fell from 85 percent to 80 percent.

At the same time, the proportion using more frequent performance check-ins rose from 42 percent to 50 percent, according to WorldatWork, an HR association based in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Check back every Thursday to get your latest HR Buzz.

To contact the reporter on this story: Martin Berman-Gorvine in Washington at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jo-el J. Meyer at

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