When Adam Ma, 38, landed his most recent job as an associate director of product development at Wayfair, a few months ago, he found precisely what he was looking for in a new job. And it wasn’t ping-pong tables and free popcorn.
“First, more compensation. With inflation, everything is super expensive right now,” he told Yahoo Money. “Second–flexibility. Flexibility of going to the office, not going to the office. It’s fully my decision when and if I go.”
While some big firms such as Apple, Google, and Microsoft have slowed their pace of hiring on recession fears, there’s still a sizable number of open positions. The U.S. economy added 372,000 jobs in June, according to the monthly jobs report. There are still nearly two job openings for every unemployed worker, according to the latest federal data.
“There is no sign of a recession in the labor market at the moment. It's still green,” Andrew Flowers, a labor economist at Appcast and research director at Recruitonomics told Yahoo Money. “It's still very much a tight labor market, very much a worker's market.”
And that means employers continue to entice workers with a smorgasbord of perks, but — just like for Ma — flexible work and salary remain the top considerations.
Smorgasbord of perks
Ramped-up benefits include generous health coverage for fertility treatments–such as in-vitro fertilization and egg freezing, help with student loans, career development coaching, financial planning assistance, increased caregiving support, virtual assistant services, mental health days, and paid days off to volunteer.
For instance, earlier this year Google boosted benefits by increasing paid time off for workers who give birth to 24 weeks from 18. All parents will get 18 weeks of parental leave, up from 12. All employees will have access to eight weeks of caregiver leave—double its previous allowance—and receive more vacation time—a minimum of 20 days, up from 15.
Abbott, a Chicago-based global healthcare technology company, makes a 5% contribution to employees’ retirement accounts when they put the 2% of their eligible income that would have gone to qualify for their 401(k) match toward their student loans through its Freedom 2 Save program.
Schneider Electric is offering U.S. workers pet stipends, they can spend on dog-walking, pet-sitting or some other form of day care for their pets though firms like Care.com. Some employers such as Google, Mars Inc., Salesforce, WorkDay and Zynga have swung wide open doors for employees’ dogs to come along to the office. New York-based Constellation, a marketing firm, touts flexible work arrangements and in-office massage chairs for staff, which cost $10,000 each.
“We also have free Pilates and a full-time in-house Pilates teacher with reformer machines in our office,” Diana Lee, Constellation’s chief executive officer, told Yahoo Money. The company has even offered free Botox treatments.
But employers must balance what workers consider nice-to-have’s from must-have’s to win talent.
“With the job market still tight, employers understand when creating total compensation packages to vie for candidates, it's critical to consider what is most valuable to them in terms of benefits, work environment, and overall compensation, and then meet them there,” Sara Sutton, CEO and founder of FlexJobs, told Yahoo Money. “With remote work being consistently one of the most in-demand benefits or working arrangements, and with it being so cost-effective for a company to offer, it is largely a win-win strategy for both the job-seeker and the employer.”
Remote work is a top consideration
Workers equate remote work to more than a 7% pay raise, according to a paper published by researchers at Stanford University, the University of Chicago and Instituto Tecnologico Autonomo de Mexico. Nearly half of all workers are willing to accept a lower salary to work remotely, according to a report by Job Seeker Nation, in a survey of 1,500 workers.
On the employer side, a new paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) authored by five economists from the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta found that many companies were all in on the notion of offering remote work perks as a substitute for higher pay.
A significant four in ten (38%) of the nearly 600 companies surveyed said they expanded opportunities for remote work over the last year “to keep employees happy and to moderate wage-growth pressures,” according to the report. A similar percentage of companies say they anticipate doing the same over the next year.
The economists found the trade-off more common for large companies (those with more than 250 employees) and companies in finance and insurance, real estate, information, and professional and business services.
A significant 70% of employers now offer flexible work benefits, according to the latest SHRM Employee Benefits survey, up from less than half in 2019. The survey was conducted from January 11 to February 28, 2022, and covered responses from 3,129 organizations.
Employers are far more likely to offer remote work now than before the pandemic, with 9.4% of postings on Indeed advertised as remote in May 2022 compared with 2.7% in 2019, a 6.7 percentage point increase, according to new Indeed Hiring Lab data released last month.
“The return to worksites may be picking up, but remote options are here to stay,” Indeed’s economist Nick Bunker told Yahoo Money. “Job seeker interest in remote work continues to be high, with the overall share of searches for such jobs on Indeed still well above pre-pandemic levels.”
For Sheyla Ramos 34, who lives in Apollo Beach, Fla. the job hunt for her new position as a human resources manager at a higher education digital platform came down to two things: “Higher compensation was a factor, but it was the allure of paid time off and a hybrid work model with two to three days a week working from home” that sealed the deal for her, she told Yahoo Money. “I have two little kids, ages 1 and 4, so those were important for me. And I appreciated that they saw value in me and were able to compensate me for what I wanted and deserved.”
Salary and health benefits also remain popular wants
When Gallup researchers asked 13,085 U.S. employees what was most important to them when deciding whether to accept a job offered by a new employer, the most important factors for acceptance were pay and well-being.
While flexibility keeps coming out as top of the list for what workers are seeking, “first and foremost is still salary and health benefits,” Bradley Schurman, founder and CEO of The Super Age, a global strategic research and advisory firm, told Yahoo Money.
“As our society gets older and older, flexible work and additional health benefits, primarily around issues like menopause and offering caregiving leave for taking care of parents are emerging now. It's also important to remember that this is happening very quickly. Businesses are being responsive, in large part because of the year on year decrease in the number of new younger workers entering the workforce. This is something that isn't going away.”
The top reasons workers took a new job were base pay, work-life balance, opportunities for advancement, benefits and greater autonomy, according to the recent Grant Thornton’s “State of Work in America” survey of just under 5,200 people.
For instance, over one-third (34%) said their new job offered a better ability to balance work and personal commitments — while 40% said they left their job for a company that offered them a raise of 10% or greater. Within that group, 13% said they received a salary increase of 20% or more, Tim Glowa, a principal at Grant Thornton, told Yahoo Money.
“It certainly is a very hot market for talent, and employees recognize that they're in the driver's seat, at least for the time being, and they're demanding higher salaries, better growth opportunities, better advancement opportunities, better benefit packages,” he said.
Kerry is a Senior Columnist and Senior Reporter at Yahoo Money. Follow her on Twitter @kerryhannon