What Workers Want in an Employer

No job is perfect —but if there was such a thing as the perfect job, here's what it would look like.

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Andrew G. Rosen
Perfection is an illusion. Once we give up on the notion of faultlessness, we learn that life is all about balance and compromise. Whether it's negotiating with a loved one or navigating a career filled with ups and downs, we owe it to ourselves to create a checklist and make sure that our life is filled with more pros than cons. Otherwise, it might be time to quit your job.

If the dream job is out there, it would look something like this:

Interview. Rather than wooing workers by explaining the job through rose-colored glasses, employers would put transparency first, detailing both the pros and cons of the job and organization, ensuring that the match suits both parties. If both sides express interest, potential employees would meet members of the staff and view their workspace before taking the job. These are important yet often overlooked factors in job happiness. The most important detail, the salary range, would be offered at the beginning of the interview or even before you show up.

[See 8 Things You Should Know About Job References.]

The work. It’s challenging. Creative. Evolving. Relevant. Like-minded people would collaborate, but unique voices would be heard and respected. The work would touch lives, maybe even make a difference. Employee roles would be well defined and every individual would understand their responsibilities. Jobs where you have all of the responsibility and none of the authority wouldn’t exist.

Dress code. Adults should understand what it means to dress professionally. We want employers who understand that wearing a suit is so last decade, but permitting workers to wear shorts and t-shirts is taking it too far in the other direction. If we wanted uniforms, we’d join the Armed Services, deliver packages, or enroll in parochial school.

Office space. No one likes cubicles, and that includes open office bullpen settings. We all want offices. In reality, we need them. Aside from a factory or call center, workers—at least the kind you’d want to hire—would be more productive if they had work space to call their own. Also, the general work area would be bright and well-oxygenated, with a window view when possible.

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Zero elitism. The perfect employer does not offer reserved parking for the owner, nor exclusionary break rooms for management. So how would we handle status items such as the aforementioned offices-for-everyone concept? Simple. Create work areas that are the same size. If that’s not possible, create a rotating system where workers get regular use of private office space.

Time off. We all want time away from the office; that’s how we stay mentally fresh and balanced. But we don’t want an unlimited number of days either. (It’s a trap, trust me.) The days-off policy would be well defined, allotting employees enough days for every occasion, whether they’re sick with the flu, vacationing in Australia, or simply need a day off to handle personal affairs. The number of days would be generous and consistently enforced. Also, days off wouldn’t be a request, but a statement. In other words, as long as you tell the boss in advance, you don’t need permission to not show up.

Raises and incentives. No one wants a pizza party, nor a desk trinket. Workers want money; like it or not, that’s what incentivizes performance. Workers long for companies where a three-percent-cost-of-living raise is the minimum expected, not something to be celebrated. Raises would be merit based, and longevity irrelevant. Performance evaluations would be a collaborative process, created by the supervisor with employee input. They wouldn’t be a waste of time, but a process that sets goals and holds both parties accountable.

Flexibility. If you don’t feel well or your baby is sick, you’d have the option to occasionally work from home. If you need to come in two hours late, you would be trusted to make up that time up at a later date. Work hours wouldn’t be arbitrarily chosen and militantly enforced; the nine-to-five grind is s last century. Remote work doesn’t have to be the rule, but the perfect employer should be willing to make exceptions.

Meetings. Conference room gatherings occur only when they need to. Since people at this perfect employer would communicate regularly, meetings would be called only when there’s a reason.

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Lunch. One hour for lunch. Anything less is only suitable for an eight-year-old. Eating at your desk wouldn’t be an option. Not only do you, the eater, get shortchanged, but the workforce doesn’t need to be subjected to your onion sandwich. If you do eat at your desk, close your office door (you’d have one!) so you can enjoy the time.

Security policy. There wouldn’t be a need to limit employee’s Internet use by scaring them into thinking the company’s tracking their every move. Let your employees breathe, and they will reward you.

Defining the prefect employer is an individual task; there’s no one-size-fits-all approach.

What traits do you think make up the perfect employer?

Andrew G. Rosen is the founder and editor of Jobacle.com, a career advice blog. He is also the author of How to Quit Your Job.