Both types of workers equally likely to experience high stress levels

What are the advantages and disadvantages of working in a desk job vs. a non-desk job? Which workers are happier, are less stressed or earn more? Which are more likely to gain weight? A new nationwide study has the answers. The survey was conducted online by Harris Poll on behalf of CareerBuilder from February 10 to March 4, 2014, and included a representative sample across industries and company sizes of 2,095 people who typically work behind a desk and 1,102 people who don't typically work behind a desk.

Key Findings

  1. Workers in desk jobs and non-desk jobs were equally likely to report being happy in their current roles (76%), but workers in desk jobs were more likely to report complaints about their work environment. Many workers in desk jobs said their positions enable them to stay in the loop and build closer relationships with company leaders and peers, while workers in non-desk jobs said their positions give them greater variety and flexibility in their workday. Thirty-eight percent of workers in non-desk jobs said they had no complaints about their work environment compared to 14% of workers in desk jobs.
  2. Workers in desk jobs were more likely to report being overweight. Fifty-eight percent of workers in desk jobs categorize themselves as overweight compared to 51% of workers in non-desk jobs. Forty-six percent of workers in desk jobs have gained weight in their current position compared to 30% of workers in non-desk jobs.
  3. 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% of workers in non-desk jobs.
  4. Workers in desk jobs and non-desk jobs were equally likely to experience high stress levels at work (30% and 29%, 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% of workers in desk jobs.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Working in a Desk Job

When asked to identify some of the perks of their work environment, workers in desk jobs pointed to:

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

When asked to identify shortcomings of their work environment, workers in desk jobs cited the following:

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

Advantages and Disadvantages of Working in a Non-Desk Job

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%
  • Variety in their workday: 54%
  • Not being stuck in front of a computer all day: 51%
  • Having more flexibility: 41%
  • Not having to get dressed up to go to work: 39%
  • Not having to deal with office politics: 33%

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%
  • More prone to injury or illness: 24%
  • Less recognition for my efforts: 17%
  • Not as informed about new company developments: 15%
  • Less chance for upward mobility: 11%
  • Less face-to-face interaction with leaders and peers: 9%