Career choice: Would you be happier working behind a desk or not?

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Desk and non-desk workers

Some people love the feeling of getting to the office in the morning, sitting down with a cup of coffee and starting up their computers for the day ahead. But for others, a day filled with moving around, traveling, delivering, going outside or staying active indoors is what makes their workday so enjoyable.

Which one sounds more like you? According to a new CareerBuilder survey, workers who either do or don’t typically work behind desks have plenty of reasons to love and loathe their work environments. “Everyone has a different definition of the ideal work experience,” says Rosemary Haefner, vice president of human resources at CareerBuilder. “For some, it’s being in the thick of the action in the office. For others, it’s the flexibility of not working behind a desk. There are advantages and disadvantages to both scenarios. With any job, it’s important to find a work environment that is suited to your work style and interests and where you can thrive.”

Read on to learn more about the pros and cons to each workplace, and maybe get a better picture of each role and if you’re in the right one for you.

Job satisfaction and compensation
If another day at the office sounds like a total bore to you, it can sometimes be what desk workers are thinking, too. While workers in desk and non-desk jobs were equally likely to report being happy in their current roles (76 percent), workers in desk jobs were more likely to report complaints about their work environment.

And when stress comes along, your environment may help or hinder how you cope. Workers in desk and non-desk jobs were equally likely to experience high stress levels at work (30 percent and 29 percent, respectively), but workers in non-desk jobs had a somewhat higher tendency toward burnout. Sixty-one percent of workers in non-desk jobs said they have felt burned out at work compared to 57 percent of workers in desk jobs.

But if money’s the primary focus in your career, you may be better off behind a desk. People who work in desk jobs reported earning higher salaries and felt more content with their paychecks.Those working in desk jobs were twice as likely to earn six figures annually, while those working in non-desk jobs were twice as likely to earn less than $35,000. Half of workers in desk jobs earn $50,000 or more compared to one-third of workers in non-desk jobs. Seventy-one percent of workers in desk jobs said that they currently earn or are close to earning their desired salary compared to 61 percent of workers in non-desk jobs.

Earn less than $35,000

  • Workers in desk jobs – 20 percent
  • Workers in non-desk jobs – 40 percent

Earn $50,000 or more

  • Workers in desk jobs – 50 percent
  • Workers in non-desk jobs – 32 percent

Earn $100,000 or more

  • Workers in desk jobs – 13 percent
  • Workers in non-desk jobs – 7 percent

What desk workers think of their jobs
If you’re considering your career options, take note of what desk workers enjoy in their roles. When asked to identify some of the perks of their work environment, workers in desk jobs pointed to:

  • Access to technology/Internet – 72 percent
  • Having a job that is not physically demanding – 60 percent
  • Having a routine – 59 percent
  • Ability to communicate with company leaders and peers more easily – 33 percent
  • Opportunity to build closer relationships with company leaders and peers – 25 percent
  • Ability to stay in the loop on new developments in the company – 22 percent

But also be aware of their criticisms — when asked to identify shortcomings of their work environment, workers in desk jobs cited the following:

  • Not enough physical activity – 56 percent
  • Staring at a computer screen most of the day – 56 percent
  • Stuck inside most of the day – 51 percent
  • Doing the same work every day, not enough variety – 24 percent
  • More distractions/disruptions from co-workers – 23 percent

What non-desk workers think of their jobs
Workers in non-desk jobs have their own reasons to love their work. When asked to identify some of the perks of their work environment, workers in non-desk jobs pointed to:

  • Ability to stay more physically active – 68 percent
  • Variety in their workday – 54 percent
  • Not being stuck in front of a computer all day – 51 percent
  • Having more flexibility – 41 percent
  • Not having to get dressed up to go to work – 39 percent
  • Not having to deal with office politics – 33 percent

Non-desk workers also had their own cons. When asked to identify shortcomings of their work environment, workers in non-desk jobs cited the following:

  • Exhausted from working on my feet all day – 35 percent
  • More prone to injury or illness – 24 percent
  • Less recognition for my efforts – 17 percent
  • Not as informed about new company developments – 15 percent
  • Less chance for upward mobility – 11 percent
  • Less face-to-face interaction with leaders and peers – 9 percent

Weighing the pros and cons of each role and gaining experience and information can ensure that you find the right work environment for you — a smart career move for any worker.

2 Comments
  1. It’s interesting that non-office workers are often overlooked for recognition. This is indicative of lack of communication from the top down. Generally, if a product is involved, non desk workers can be the logistics professionals that elevate sales [revenue], ensuring product delivery in a timely fashion which elevates customer satisfaction for repeat clientele & referrals [ again, revenue], and possibly customer contact professionals – which are the face of the organization from a customer standpoint. As a Communications Professional, unfortunately, this appears to be a common phenomenon in organizations today as evidenced by the statistics above.

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