We've come a long way since 1974, but in terms of salary and purchasing power, the United States has stagnated since then, with reports showing that the real average wage in the U.S. has roughly the same purchasing power it did in 1974. Despite most Americans feeling confident about the state of the current economy, increasing living expenses unmatched by increasing wages leave them questioning where the economy will go in the next few years. But jobs come with more than just a paycheck.
While company benefits can vary and depend on employment status or tenure, some benefits are mandated by federal law. Overtime, disability, and unemployment benefits are just a few that every company is required to provide, while benefits like health insurance (for smaller companies), paid vacation leave, and fitness memberships are perks that not every employee receives.
As companies change their job perks in hopes of standing apart from the rest, which benefits do employees value the most? Which are they willing to give up? We surveyed 1,003 currently employed people and asked about their current benefits, which ones they don't find necessary, and which ones they don't have but certainly want. Keep reading to see what we found.
Paid time off was a luxury roughly 73 percent of our respondents said they had (with a set number of days), but it's a benefit not required by law. Also known as personal time off (PTO), employees can use their allotted days for anything they want; missing work due to illness, vacation, or even just taking a mental health day are all covered by employers who offer PTO. Policies can differ for every company, but the amount of paid days off typically increases the longer an employee stays with a company.
While paid time off really pays off in the long run, employees who don't receive this job benefit aren't really missing it. Only 12.1 percent of employees said they wish they had that benefit added to their package. Instead, 52.4 percent wished they had unlimited paid time off. While this may seem counterproductive for employers and extremely beneficial for employees, there are pros and cons of unlimited PTO. Trust may play a huge factor in offering this benefit, and research has shown employees don't abuse the extra perk and actually end up taking less time off.
Few employees had fully company-paid medical insurance, and even fewer had fully company-paid dental insurance, but these perks were wanted by over half of employees who didn't currently have them. Health insurance has been a long-lasting debate in America, with no clear answer on where it will go. Around 155 million people relied on their employer or a family member's employer for health care coverage in 2016, which is why this employee benefit was the most sought after.
Health care coverage may sound like the most obvious of wishes, but over 53 percent of respondents also wished they had a four-day workweek. While only 9.3 percent of employees said they currently had this perk, it's a benefit more workers in the United States may be reaping the rewards of soon. Branching off a New Zealand company's success, American companies have begun considering the possibility of dropping a day from employees' schedules.
Perks by Position
Employment status and tenure certainly impact salary, but does that lead to desiring different employee perks? Entry-level employees, intermediate employees, middle management, and senior management all agreed that in-office perks were the most desired benefit. Entry-level and intermediate employees were slightly more likely to crave in-office perks than middle management and senior management/executive-level workers, but all job positions rated perks like free coffee and snacks as the benefit they wanted the most.
However, when it came to additional compensation opportunities, entry-level employees wanted them the most. While 63.2 percent of entry-level employees wanted extra opportunities to earn more money, only 49.1 percent of employees in middle management desired the same. Interestingly, the percentage of employees wanting the perk increased when jumping to senior management – 52.1 percent of employees in this tier wanted extra compensation opportunities despite being the highest paid. Entry-level employees were also more likely than higher job positions to want discounts through their employer, suggesting that salary may play a role in benefit desires.
Entry-level workers were also the most likely to want their employer to offer student loan reimbursement. Millennials have been flooding the workforce, and considering how much experience is needed for senior-level positions, many millennials are likely occupying entry-level or intermediate positions. Making less money (on top of drowning in student loan debt) explains why lower-level positions wish for reimbursement benefits more than their senior counterparts.
Millennials were also the generation most likely to want in-office perks from their employer. While this is a broad category and can cover a variety of benefits, some companies offer pet-friendly work environments, massages, yoga classes, on-site health services, and office parties. Creating a positive work environment for employees has been shown to not only foster employee engagement but also to increase revenue for the company.
Employees also found relief from their daily work duties with paid time off. While both groups wanted time off, the older generations were slightly more likely than millennials to want time-off benefits. Millennials have been pegged as more obsessed with getting ahead than taking the necessary time to relax, but time off was still a benefit they wanted, with 70.9 percent of millennials who didn't have time off desiring it.
How Benefit Preferences Differ by Gender
When it came to gender differences in desired benefits, women were more likely than men to want time off and scheduling benefits if they didn't already have them. A flexible schedule can be appealing to women, who are still typically responsible for child care duties regardless of their work status, as more freedom with scheduling can help them meet family obligations.
There was also a difference when it came to continuing education opportunities: While 23.4 percent of men wished their company offered that benefit, 28.4 percent of women wanted it. This may be due to women's fight to bridge the gap between the number of male and female executives. Women continue to hold fewer high-level positions despite the call for more women in leadership roles. By continuing their education on their employer's dime, they may be attempting to move up and create a more equal and representative environment.
Should It Stay or Can It Go?
Now that we know which job perks employees said they are missing, which benefits do they not have and don't want anyway? More than 73 percent of employees didn't care to have company retreats and charitable donation matching programs added to their benefits package. Game rooms and pet-friendly offices were also pretty undesirable for employees – 68.9 percent and 68 percent didn't have or want those perks, respectively.
As of late, companies providing game rooms or places for employees to recharge mid-shift are on the trendier side of job benefits. Despite the lack of want by employees, companies have become more pet-friendly in hopes that it will reduce their workers' stress and even increase office sociability.
Benefit of More Money
Having more work benefits would increase job satisfaction in the majority of employees (72.1 percent), but what would they give up if they had to choose? Almost 57 percent of employees would give up any and all offered benefits if it meant their salary increased. Of course, a higher salary means a greater ability to afford some of the perks they'd be giving up, but which perks are employees more likely to surrender for a little extra money or paid time off?
Giving Up Perks
For a $5,000 salary increase, the majority would happily say goodbye to office birthday celebrations, company memorabilia, free snacks, and even free coffee. These same four benefits also topped the charts for employees willing to give them up for an extra week of paid time off.
Almost 76 percent said they would rather have an extra week of PTO than company memorabilia, and 61 percent would even give up discounts at other businesses. Surprisingly, 55.2 percent of employees would swap paid time off to volunteer for an extra week of PTO. It seems employees really value their personal time, so much so they'd rather get paid to do what they want instead of having to volunteer.
Everything Your Company Needs
Running a business is hard work, and keeping employees happy seems to be getting harder and harder. Nowadays, the basic benefits package mandated by the government just doesn't seem to cut it. But it may not be all about the trendy perks making headlines. Employees' wants are pretty practical – instead of focusing on adding game rooms and scheduling office nap times, company-paid health care coverage is sure to leave employees more satisfied at work. When it comes down to it, the majority is willing to forgo some benefits for a slight bump in their salary.
Simple changes can make a huge difference in creating a comfortable and satisfying work environment. Making sure your business has all of the best industrial tools and supplies without breaking the company budget is our mission at Zoro. With over 2 million products and fast, free shipping, we have everything your company needs. To browse our products and learn more, visit us online today.
We surveyed 1,003 people who are currently employed about the job benefits and perks that are most important to them. 51.7 percent of our respondents were men, and 48.3 percent were women. The average age of respondents was 35.7 with a standard deviation of 10.
Respondents were asked to report which benefits they currently had at their job. Then, they were asked to report the benefits they didn't have but desired.
Parts of this project looked at desired job perks by different demographics, including job position, generation, and gender. For these breakdowns, the full list of benefits/perks respondents were given to choose from was consolidated into broad groups. The group "in-office perks" consisted of:
- Free coffee
- Free snacks
- Office gym
- Catered meals
- Game room
- Pet-friendly office
- Nap breaks
- Birthday celebrations
- Company memorabilia
The group "time off" consisted of:
- Paid time off (set number of days)
- Flexible paid time off
- Paid time off to volunteer
- Unlimited paid time off
The group "scheduling" consisted of:
- Flexible schedule
- Work-from-home/remote days
- Four-day workweek
The group "transportation" consisted of:
- Transportation allowance
- Company car
The group "additional compensation opportunities" consisted of:
- 401(k)/retirement savings program
- Performance bonuses
- Stock options/equity
The group "discounts" consisted of:
- Employee discounts at other businesses
- Gym memberships/discounts
Parts of this project looked at which perks employees didn't have and desired the least. This was calculated by taking the percentage who reported having each benefit/perk and adding that to the percentage of people who said they wanted each one but didn't currently have. That sum was subtracted from 100 to get the percentage of people who didn't have the perk and didn't want it.
All respondents were asked to classify their current job position as one of the following:
- Entry level
- Middle management
- Senior management
- Executive level
In our final visualization of the data, senior management and executive level were combined into one group.
Parts of this project looked at generational breakdowns of the data. Respondents were given the following generations to choose from:
- Greatest Generation (Born 1927 or earlier)
- Silent Generation (Born 1928 to 1945)
- Baby Boomers (Born 1946 to 1964)
- Generation X (Born 1965 to 1980)
- Millennials (Born 1981 to 1997)
- Generation Z (Born 1998 to 2017)
Baby boomers and Generation X were combined in our final visualization of the data under the label "older generations." Generation Z, the greatest generation, and the silent generation were excluded from our final visualization due to low sample sizes in those groups.
All of the data represented in this project were acquired using self-reporting. Common problems with self-reported data include, among other things, exaggeration, selective memory, and self-selection bias. The latter, in particular, could have been a factor in this project. For example, the number of respondents who reported having paid parental leave or didn't have paid parental leave but wanted it was low. This could potentially be caused by low numbers of parents or those expecting their first child while taking the survey.
Fair Use Statement
Feel free to share this study for noncommercial purposes as fodder for discussion in the break room at work. Your co-workers might have different benefit priorities than you. Before you debate the merits of different perks, be sure to link back here so that people can review our entire study. It also gives our contributors credit for their efforts.
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