Of all the perks employees could get this season, a holiday party scrapes the bottom of the list. Times are still tight right now, and Americans would way prefer a cash bonus, a raise, or paid time off over a few hours of drunken catharsis and a slab of mediocre fruitcake.
A recent online survey by the jobs and careers community Glassdoor, and conducted by Harris Interactive, asked over 2,500 employed adults what perks they would like, from a list of 11.
Seventy-two percent of respondents gave a thumbs up to a cash bonus, and 62 percent would appreciate a raise. In contrast, just 4 percent of employees said they'd like a holiday party, even if it had an open bar.
"It might not be sexy. It might not look good in the newsletter. And there might not be good photos to post up on Monday," says Rusty Rueff, Glassdoor's career and workplace expert. "But I think employees are saying something to us: Just take care of the basics."
The third most popular perk was paid time off. The kind that doesn't count against vacation. At 32 percent, Rueff says he's never seen paid time off rank so high.
American productivity has been rising at a steady clip through the economic recovery, but unemployment has remained high. By simple math, this means employees must be doing a lot more work. Mother Jones magazine called this "The Great Speedup." And AOL Jobs has reported on the immense physical and emotional strain it can cause.
"'I'm doing maybe three jobs,' says Rueff, imagining the mindset of the average American worker. "'If you could just give me a breather, and don't make it go against my vacation time.'"
The responses also churned up some interesting gender differences. Sixteen percent of men said company stock would be a good a holiday gift, but only 6 percent of women agreed. Eighteen percent of women, on the other hand, said the option to work from home would be a great perk, compared to just 11 percent of men.
And while both sexes expressed interest in a grocery gift card (it would probably be well-used this time of year), that interest was stronger for women: 29 percent to 18 percent.
"The man may feel that his responsibility to the household is to make sure his job, his compensation, his pay, is maximized as much as it can be," explains Rueff.
"Women may look at that question as a broader responsibility set. 'I also have to make sure that whatever happens at home this holiday comes off flawlessly. That the gifts are being bought, that the holiday table is full with the right kinds of things.'"
Slightly fewer women than men are also eligible for bonuses this year (69 percent to 74 percent). And of those who could get that extra cash, women were over twice as unsure about the amount they would receive (17 percent to 7 percent).
"Men are always more confident around the projection of what they're going to make -- there's bravado around that," says Rueff. "Women play it to the bottom of the curve as opposed to the top, and they get delighted when it's at the top. It shows up over and over."
But very few Americans are confident right now: about their pay, their jobs, their security. At least not confident enough to trade in cash for a few festive workplace memories.
"You can call it the new normal. You can call it tectonic plates shifting. But we are in a different time," says Rueff. "You can't go back and and say that all the things we did in the past work now."
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