The unprecedented optimism being felt by small business owners and consumers is also lifting the spirits of blue collar workers, according to a new survey which found that American laborers are enjoying rising wages and improved job prospects, while their white-collar peers struggle with stagnant wages and growing rates of work-related dissatisfaction.
Of course, anybody who has spent long hours behind a desk probably wouldn’t be surprised to hear that one of the biggest factors behind the high rates of work-related dissatisfaction among white collar workers is the fact that most of them spend nearly two-thirds of their day in a sedentary position. In contrast, blue-collar workers enjoy high levels of mobility.
Our findings do suggest, however, that white-collar work remains associated with sedentary office culture. Those who deemed themselves white-collar professionals said they spent more than two-thirds of their workdays at a desk on average. Conversely, the most common industries for self-identified blue-collar workers were the wholesale and retail, manufacturing and hospitality fields—work typically performed on one’s feet.
With that said, blue-collar workers struggle with anxieties related to their long-term career trajectory at significantly higher rates than white collar workers. Blue-collar workers also report higher rates of feeling disrespected while at work.
How does the job satisfaction of blue- and white-collar professionals compare? Whereas more than two-thirds of each cohort reported feeling happy at work, white-collar workers were slightly more likely to report as much. Likewise, blue-collar workers were more likely to express unhappiness about their professional lives. These findings resonate with global data gauging worker happiness, suggesting that individuals in labor-intensive positions experience positive emotions less frequently across the world.
There may be many viable explanations for this happiness gap, but it seems unlikely to result from co-worker conflict. White-collar workers were only slightly more likely to express that they “liked” their colleagues. Our data do suggest, however, that poor treatment at work could contribute to the relative unhappiness of blue-collar workers. Indeed, blue-collar workers were substantially more likely to report being mistreated or disrespected at their jobs. Several studies have concluded that workers who feel respected in their roles experience better health and well-being. Could blue-collar workers’ happiness depend more on others’ civility than the actual nature of their work?
In a sign that President Trump’s economic policies are helping lift all Americans – not just the wealthy – both white- and blue-collar workers are largely “optimistic about the future,” with 72% of blue collar workers and 76% of white collar workers answering in the affirmative.
Half of respondents feel they could easily find another job (which is hardly surprising given that the number of job openings is at its highest level in years). However, blue-collar workers may have seen their prospects rise thanks to a surge in blue-collar jobs.
But despite these material gains in wages and wealth, most blue-collar workers still feel that they’re underpaid (to be sure, this is hardly a new phenomenon).
But moving on from purely economic concerns, the study raised a few interesting (albeit unsurprising) points during a section that examined blue- and white-collar workers emotional well-being and perceptions of one another. For starters, most blue- and white-collar workers feel “happy”…
But when it comes to perception, there are some notable gaps. Blue-collar workers perceive their white-collar peers to be educated, but they also perceive them to be arrogant jerks.
This may come as a surprise to members of the professional class who often unconsciously patronize blue-collar workers. But to anyone who has ever been screamed at by an agitated middle-aged housewife while, say, working as a cashier at a fast-food restaurant, the factors behind this bias should be crystal clear.
Why do blue-collar individuals typically perceive white-collar individuals more harshly? One possible explanation lies in our data about the mistreatment and disrespect that blue-collar workers experience at work. White-collar professionals may have great admiration for blue-collar workers, but that matters little if they treat them poorly in reality. As managers and customers, are white-collar individuals doing enough to demonstrate respect?
In summary, this survey shows that after decades of declines, the fortunes for the American worker are finally starting to improve. But we’re sure Democrats would argue that Obama deserves the credit for this, instead of Trump and his explicitly pro-business and pro-worker policies.