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Workers Prefer More Job Benefits Over A Pay Raise

Most reporting about American workers’ job satisfaction focuses on their paychecks, specifically the current widespread frustration with a decade of slow wage growth.

But there are some job benefits that workers want more than money. In fact, they’d give up a pay raise in exchange for these perks, according to a new study by researchers from several prominent institutions, including Harvard Medical School and UCLA.

The most desirable benefit among study participants is paid time off. Workers who currently receive no paid leave would forego a 23% raise in exchange for 20 days off with pay. The same group would give up a 16.4% pay hike for ten vacation days.

Workers would also pay to lighten their workload – literally. Trading “heavy” physical labor for “moderate” physical exertion was valued the same as a 14.9% pay raise. Participants would give up a 12% raise to sit at a desk instead of doing heavy labor.

Flexibility is also highly valued by workers, who would forego a 9% pay increase in exchange for the ability to set their own work hours and 4.1% for the option to telecommute. Along those same lines, survey participants said they would give up a 3.8% raise if their bosses would allow the worker to decide how to complete assignments rather than dictating how the tasks should be done.

While this information may be new to academics, it seems the business community was already well aware that employees will trade pay for benefits. While wage growth has hovered at a moderate 2.8% during the economic recovery, benefits — including paid time off, flexible schedules, insurance, and sick leave — have increased in recent years as a percentage of overall worker compensation, according to the Labor Department.

I understand workers’ frustration with slow wage growth. It makes them feel they aren’t fully participating in the recovery. But I’m glad to learn that many employees are receiving non-monetary benefits from their employers; benefits they seem to value, according to this report.

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