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Could taking a pay cut make you happier?

Kate Allen, Executive Chair and Marketing Director, Allen Associates

Things have come to a head. You’re tired, demotivated and every day is a struggle. No matter how hard you try, it never seems to be good enough. No amount of positivity can counteract the blues that are brought on by the never-ending stress at work.

Perhaps it’s constant political conflict that makes for a poor environment? Maybe it’s a manager who provides little support or direction? Maybe you’re fed up of getting scapegoated one second and praised the next? If you’re really unlucky, it’s all of these and more. Regardless, the only thing keeping you going is the comfortable salary that lands in your bank account every month.

Having fallen out of love with your current Employer, you take to job boards in the hope of a saving grace; an opportunity that will pull you from your work woes, to career satisfaction. A week later, you receive a call from a recruiter you reached out to: they’ve found the perfect job at an exciting company that meets all your needs.

All but one, that is.

It may not seem like much, but the salary does not meet your expectations or even match your current take-home. Taking a pay cut could significantly impact your monthly finances, but staying in the same role could see your mental health take a hit. Suddenly, you’re faced with a dilemma: boost your happiness and lower your income or ride out your current predicament and keep the same salary until something else comes along.

Friends and family may have differing advice depending on their own personal motivators, but ultimately, none of them can tell you what will make you happier. That’s up to you alone to decide. If you’re considering taking a pay cut, it should be for the right reasons:

1. You need a better work-life balance

Flexible working has been greatly facilitated by the onset of the digital revolution, but that doesn’t mean every Employer is rushing to build it into their job offers. In fact, many still swear by the rigid 9-5 structure that sees Employees deskbound for eight hours a day.

If this sounds familiar and you’re seeking more flexibility to accommodate for personal commitments such as education or parenthood, accepting a role that allows for remote working but doesn’t pay as well will likely improve your overall happiness.

2. You’re making a career change

If you’ve made the decision to switch lanes and start a new career, a pay cut is to be expected. But don’t worry – it’s not terminal. The more you learn and develop, the more valuable you will become to the company. Before long, you’ll be climbing your way back up the career ladder. Depending on your success in the role and overall performance, your salary will soon return to its former glory.

But remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day. If you are changing careers in search of job satisfaction, the attractive salary might have to wait a few years. Of course, if you’re able to focus on long-term ambitions rather than short-term goals, this shouldn’t be a problem.

3. You seek career advancement

There’s nothing worse than stagnating in the same role with no end in sight. However, if you’re relying on your existing salary to support you, taking a pay cut to take on more responsibility seems nonsensical. Yet, many opt for this approach in search of more experience and often, they’re right to do so.

If you can afford a temporary dip in your monthly earnings, working for a start-up with fewer resources but big ideas can give you the opportunity to put your skills to the test and bulk up your CV. Having spent time in this role, your next job could come with a much more attractive offer.

4. You’re escaping a toxic environment

Whether it’s a bumper car ride of big egos or there’s more negativity in your workplace than a teenager’s diary, a toxic culture can quickly start to drain talented Employees of any motivation. If the thought of interacting with your colleagues alone is enough to make beads of sweat collect on your forehead, get out of there at all costs.

Yes, a pay cut in the short term could see you eating into your savings. Maybe you won’t be able to afford a holiday this year. However, if the new opportunity represents a chance to rediscover job satisfaction and happiness in the workplace, you should already know the answer to your dilemma.

Have you taken a pay cut? Tell us about your experiences, we would love to hear from you.

Over the last 20 years, we have grown as a business to become one of the leading independent Recruitment agencies in Oxfordshire, and in 2018 have opened our first London office, to service Clients in the capital.

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