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7:00pm EDT February 28, 2007

When Spherion set out to survey the U.S. work force on a variety of workplace topics throughout the year, we had no idea of the answers we’d receive,” says Steve Wajda, district director for Spherion Staffing Services. “The American worker has proven to have strong opinions about everything from dating coworkers to blogging about their employers to listening to iPods at work. Some of those opinions were surprising, some were not — but all help us to better understand what makes the workplace work.”

Smart Business asked Wajda to share some of the more interesting responses to the Spherion workplace surveys. Following are highlights.

Dating...in the workplace?

More than four of every 10 workers (42 percent) said that, if they were single, they would consider dating a coworker, but a third (34 percent) said they would not. Could be because almost 40 percent think it would jeopardize their job security or their chances for advancement.

Meanwhile, not even half of workers (44 percent) trust their Human Resources departments to keep private the details of a problem they may have.

How pronounced is the desire for a work/life balance?

Almost 80 percent reported that their employers do not offer most of the programs that can help employees achieve a better balance between work and personal lives. There were no programs for telecommuting (79 percent), job-sharing (79 percent), sabbaticals (77 percent) or paid time off to perform community service (82 percent). And only 57 percent said their employers offer flexible working hours.

The result? Forty-two percent of workers are not satisfied with the work/life balance programs their employers offer, and a third (33 percent) aren’t happy with their ability to maintain an acceptable work/life balance.

Despite the absence of these desired company programs, most workers (74 percent) are happy with their own bosses.

More than half (52 percent) would refer their friends to work at their company — and 23 percent would receive a bonus from their employer in appreciation for the referral.

What is the current condition of workplace ethics?

More than one-third of workers (34 percent) report witnessing unethical activities in their workplace, but more than half (53 percent) say they are not likely to report or are undecided about reporting such activities.

Almost three-quarters (71 percent) feel it’s wrong to take supplies from their work-place for personal use and have not done so (69 percent).

Almost half (49 percent) say they don’t think it’s acceptable to use their work computers to shop for holiday gifts online or to purchase them online at work — and they walk the talk with more than half (54 percent) saying they don’t do their online shopping at work.

Did the survey reveal any trends involving dress, music, vacations or social activities at work?

The majority of workers (67 percent) planned to take a summer vacation in 2006 — and a true vacation at that, with the same number reporting that their employers do not expect them to check e-mails while on vacation.

Forty-two percent said that a relaxed summer dress code was important to them, and 45 percent got their wish as employers allowed relaxed dress codes during the summer months.

Almost a third of workers (32 percent) listen to iPods, MP3 players or similar devices at work with 79 percent saying it improves their job satisfaction and/or their productivity.

While only 5 percent of employees blog about their employers and only 6 percent read blogs about them, social networking sites are gaining traction. Almost one-fifth of workers (19 percent) would post their resume on MySpace, Facebook or Friendster for employers to see. A third (33 percent) admitted they would remove certain existing content on their sites if they knew employers could see it.

Workers also told us that 58 percent of their employers hold an annual holiday party, but it’s only important to 57 percent of workers and only 46 percent feel obligated to attend. This endangered party animal may be giving way to gestures that employees appreciate more — such as a little extra free time off, year-end cash bonuses or gift certificates and some of those other work/life balance programs employees said they’d like to have.

Is the work force becoming more mobile?

At the end of the year, 21 percent of workers said they changed jobs voluntarily last year, which is consistent with previous surveys. Considering the high cost of employee turnover, this trend has significant implications for employers, which will be explored in a future article.

STEVE WAJDA is district director for Spherion Staffing Services in the Tampa Bay area. Reach him at (813) 623-6399 or at SteveWajda@spherion.com.