As a small business owner, there are three things you need to know about the state of employment  and what an employee wants.

By Myranda Mondry


  1. There are currently about 1 million more open jobs than there are unemployed workers.
  2. More employees are quitting their jobs for better career opportunities.
  3. Hiring is on an upward trend despite the unbalanced job market.

In short, businesses are hungry to hire qualified workers, and employees have more options than ever. In a world where employees have their pick, what causes them to weigh their options?

For some, a “better” opportunity might mean more money and better benefits. After all, according to a 2018 Small Business Pay and Benefits Report, 45% of employees say they would turn down a job offer that didn’t include important benefits like healthcare and a 401(k). For others, a better opportunity might be more flexibility, a perk that 76% of employees want.

So when it comes to increasing employee loyalty and longevity, what do workers crave more—flexible work hours or traditional benefits?

53% of employees say flexible work hours are important

Surveyed employees say flexible work schedules would motivate them to work harder—more so than annual raises or discretionary bonuses. In fact, 53% of employees say a flexible work schedule is among the highest valued benefits.

With this in mind, it’s no surprise that flexible work schedules are gaining importance. Despite the prevalence of full-time job opportunities, 22 million U.S. employees are choosing part-time work.

These part-timers enjoy the benefit of more free time to spend on other projects, activities, or family obligations. They’re part of a new generation of workers who want to dip their toes in a few jobs at once. They’re working parents hoping to prioritize time with their children (and save on daycare costs). They’re students working their way through classes as well as the job market.

Unfortunately, many of these part-time workers are missing out on essential benefits.

61% of employees say healthcare is an essential benefit

Part-time workers—or those who put in fewer than 35 hours a week—might not be eligible for the same health and wellness benefits granted to their full-time counterparts.

A 2019 analysis of industry trends found that workers in the following five industries clock fewer than 35 hours, on average, each week:

  1. Restaurants
  2. Creative services
  3. Events management
  4. Landscaping
  5. Retail

It’s typical for restaurants and retail stores to hire part-time workers to cover a variety of shifts and duties. As for creative services (i.e. graphic designers) and event managers, this could indicate a trend among “new” part-time workers. That is, younger workers who are educated or specialized but choose part-time work to try out a few jobs at once.

These workers might be choosing these jobs for their flexible work schedules, but some experts suggest “choosing” to work part-time might not be a choice at all, but an obligation. For these workers (and, let’s face it, all part-time workers), missing out on full-time benefits to care for an ailing or elderly family member, a child, or even their own health could be a major detriment.

While flexibility is important and sometimes necessary, workers still crave comfortable wages and traditional benefits—things they might only qualify for on a full-time schedule.

And according to the Pay and Benefits Report, 61% of employees say healthcare is an important benefit. Another 48% say dental care is a valuable benefit—more so than paid time off or the ability to work from home.

Offer employees the perks they crave—without breaking the bank

So what do workers want most—flexibility or benefits? The answer is both. Unfortunately, that’s not always possible. Workers seeking flexibility are often forced into part-time roles, and employers on a budget tend to look for part-time workers to keep benefits costs low.

In this case, it’s true what they say: The grass is always greener on the other side. For part-timers, a job offer with a better benefits package could be enticing. And for full-time workers, a job offer with greater flexibility or the option to telecommute might be enough to make them jump ship.

Business owners might not be in a position to offer employees the best of both worlds, but there are inexpensive ways to sweeten the deal.

Consider giving full-time workers the option to work from home or telecommute on certain days. If that’s not possible, consider increasing the amount of paid time off (including sick leave and family leave) workers can accrue. At the very least, engage with workers and give them opportunities to have a hand in building their schedules.

Part-time workers might be working two or more jobs at once. Offering fringe benefits or perks that other employers don’t could be enough to hold employee loyalty if a choice has to be made. Things like increased time off, tickets to local events, free food, and employee discounts might just sway the odds in your favor.

Myranda Mondry is a copywriter and researcher for TSheets by QuickBooks, an employee time tracking and scheduling software that’s used by businesses worldwide. Based in the up-and-coming tech community of Boise, Idaho, she has a journalism degree from Boise State University and a serious passion for helping small businesses succeed. In her spare time, she can usually be found curled up with a good book or hiking Boise’s famous foothills.

Employee stock photo by Bogoljubb/Shutterstock