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Published 14 July 2022

Work Perks: What Are Employees Really After?

Attracting new employees at times when hiring is competitive can be difficult. With that in mind, NerdWallet conducted an exclusive survey of 2,000 employed UK adults (who aren’t business owners), and asked them about work perks, their priorities when looking for a job and a four-day working week.

In a tricky hiring landscape (67% of respondents to NerdWallet’s survey stated they had no plans to change jobs) businesses need to make themselves stand out. One way to do so is to flood a job description with a list of perks and benefits offered by the company, from fresh fruit in the office to paid travel expenses.

But what are employees really looking for in a new job? And which work perks are the most popular when trying to recruit staff? Read on to find out the results of the survey.

How much do work perks matter to employees?

Before getting into what perks employees are looking for, it is worth asking: do perks matter at all?

Close to half (48%) of those surveyed stated that work perks aren’t relevant if the pay is good enough. This is echoed by the 71% of respondents who said salary was a priority when looking for a new job.

However, that is only part of the story:

  • 46% of employees said there needs to be a balance between pay and perks.
  • 23% agreed that a lack of work perks is cause to look for a new job.
  • 22% of respondents said that perks are a priority when it comes to seeking new employment.

So while salary is, understandably, going to be the driving force behind many job changes, there is evidence not only of a strong awareness of work perks, but frustration if a company isn’t seen to be offering enough benefits.

Of course, not all work perks are created equal. What do people actually want?

» MORE: Questions to ask in an interview

Working from home – perk or standard practice?

When asked what company perks mattered most to them, 40% of all respondents selected working from home or hybrid working, closely followed by flexible working hours on 36%. This is backed up by flexible working options being second only to salary in terms of priorities when looking for a new job, at 48%.

Although flexible working may always have been an ideal job seekers were searching for, it isn’t a leap to suggest that the Covid-19 pandemic, and the shifts it has brought about in our working patterns, has enshrined those options at the top of the list.

But when does a perk stop being a perk, and instead become an expected standard practice? With the normalisation of hybrid working in many industries, companies may struggle to stand out from the crowd if their only ‘perk’ is the offer of flexibility. So, what else can businesses do to attract employees?

What are employees looking for in a new job?

Alongside salary and flexible working hours, commuting time was the most important factor when searching for a new job, at 43%. This was then followed by company culture at 24% and perks at 22%.

Although there is an overlap between company culture and perks, 35% of respondents stated that the benefits that matter most to them affect their life outside day-to-day work, compared to the 9% who said it was the perks that have an impact on their life at work.

This weighting is further reflected in how employees ranked their most important work perks. After working from home or hybrid working and flexible working hours, other perks to make it into the top five were:

  • more than statutory holidays or sick leave (22%)
  • paid travel expenses (21%)
  • medical or life insurance (16%)

As for those workplace-based perks, 11% valued team social events, with 10% highlighting refreshments in the office. It is perhaps telling that one of the stereotypical ideas of work ‘perks’ – office entertainment such as table tennis and arcade games – was of interest to just 1% of employees surveyed.

» MORE: Are work perks worth it?

The ultimate perk – a four-day working week?

As part of this survey, NerdWallet also asked respondents how they felt about a four-day working week. Like the prioritisation of hybrid and flexible working options mentioned above, the results reflected the same instinct to correct the work/life balance.

Of the 1,310 respondents who work five days a week or more, almost three quarters (72%) were either in favour or strongly in favour of a four-day working week.

Workers in the UK were also fairly confident that their productivity wouldn’t take a hit, with 63% of those polled stating they could do their job, to their current level, across four days. At the same time, 62% said they wouldn’t be willing to take a pay cut in order to work a shortened week.

What businesses should pay attention to is that 53% of employees felt their employer was unlikely to implement a four-day working week, with just over a third (38%) unsure of where their organisation stood on the issue.

Based on these findings, embracing the four-day working week – currently being trialled by more than 3,300 workers across 70 companies in the UK – could replace the adoption of hybrid working as the next frontier in the battle to attract new employees.

» MORE: The biggest business challenges facing UK SMEs in 2022/23

Image source: Getty Images

About the Author

Connor Campbell

Connor is a lead writer and spokesperson for NerdWallet. Previously at Spreadex, his market commentary has been quoted in the likes of the BBC, The Guardian, Evening Standard, Reuters and…

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