Which perk do employees covet most?
A nationwide survey of workers uncovers that the perk of vacation outweighs better benefits, and upper management doesn't have a true handle on what their employees want.
The staffing firm Accountemps asked chief financial officers which perk their employees would covet the most. The majority -- 41 percent -- said better benefits, such as an enhanced healthcare plan. However, the most popular response among workers, at 30 percent, was "more vacation days."
"I think everyone is doing so much more at work, so the time away from work and this whole work-life balance that we all want, I think becomes more important," said Dora Onyschak, branch manager for Accountemps in Woodbridge. "Employees need to recharge, whoever it is."
Twenty-six percent of workers in the survey put better benefits at the top of their wish list. Nineteen percent wished for more scheduling flexibility, such as telecommuting. The remaining respondents pointed to more training opportunities and "other" perks, such as subsidized transportation.
Carl Van Horn, head of the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University, said vacation time may be the most sought-after perk because these days, everyone is plugged in around the clock.
"Most people are connected all the time by their electronic devices, so even when they're at home or even when they're on vacation, they're never really, completely on vacation away from their job," Van Horn said.
But, he said, vacation is a perk that certain employees may be able to negotiate, especially if the workers bring a unique set of skills to the table and have some leverage.
According to Onyschak, vacation is a perk that costs much less than others, such as healthcare, so negotiation is a possibility.
In the same survey, 19 percent of CFOs predicted vacation would be the most popular perk among workers.
Lewis Maltby, director of the National Workrights Institute in Princeton, said he's not surprised by the disconnect between employees and employers.
"Bosses never want to talk to employees," Maltby said. "The only way to misunderstand someone else that badly is by not talking to them or not listening to them."
In management's defense, though, Maltby said employees may be cautious about voicing their opinions.