The Great Workplace Divide – What employees want and what employers think they want


Men and women. Young and old. Progressive and conservative. Having people with different perspectives of life is what makes it interesting. After all, life would be pretty dull if we all thought the same.

In the workplace the classic division is between employers and employees. But just how big a divide is there?  

Many employers pride themselves on their ability to motivate and empathise with their team members, but often struggle with the biggest question of all - what do employees want?

The obvious answer is more money.  And this is correct, so at least there is one thing both groups agree on. But what if money was taken off the table and employees had to wish for something other than more salary?

To see how deep the workplace divide really is, we asked the classic ‘genie in a bottle’ question to both groups. Employees were asked what, other than money, topped their wish list. Employers were asked what they believed their employees would wish for.

Five hundred employees took part in the survey together with 150 C-level employers.

While the responses of the two groups were close, there are some clear differences.

The top wish selected by 36 percent of employees was to have more days off. Not afternoons or a morning off, but a full day to spend with their family, attending to personal commitments or pursuing an interest.

Flexible work arrangements are the second most popular wish, desired by 32 per cent of employees. A third choice, preferred by 20 per cent of employees was to receive better professional development.  Other perks such as childcare, laundry services and access to fitness facilities all ranked low on the list of things employees most desire at work.

So how does this compare to the top three wishes employers think their employees want?

A high 54 percent of C-Level executives believe their employees’ most desired wish is for flexible work arrangements. Only 18 percent nominated more leave days. Perhaps most surprising is that 12 percent thought professional development opportunities were more important to their employees then having additional time off!

The Workplace Wishlist – Top 3 Responses

  Employees C-Level Executives
More holidays and annual leave 36% 18%
More flexible work arrangements 32% 54%
More training or professional development opportunities 20% 12%


So why the difference?  Why don’t employers see that employees desire additional days off more than any other thing?

Perhaps it is because the employer’s list is more grounded in the realm of possibility. Flexible work arrangements are something many employers have the power to deliver. Additional leave is a much bigger ask. 

While everyone would like more days off, very few companies will increase the amount of annual leave above that which was agreed to when the employee started with the company. So while the desire among employees for more days off is strong, it is a wish that is unlikely to come true.

So will the desire of employees for more days off ever be met? The answer is yes, but not because employers are handing out additional leave entitlements. The need for more time away from work is resulting in a growing number of professionals choosing to work on a part-time or a contract basis. Many are opting for consulting roles where they determine the time and place of their work rather than being tied to a desk during office hours. 

Others are choosing to work on long-term contracts and can take time off between assignments to pursue their personal goals. In this way many professionals are able to achieve the right mix of career and family, work and play, effort and relaxation.  

Work-life balance is important and flexible work arrangements, part-time and contract roles all go a long way towards helping employees manage their personal and professional responsibilities.

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