Small Business Builder: Time Off, Not Bonuses

ByABC News
December 21, 2001, 6:20 PM

Dec. 26 -- Like roast turkey and candy canes, the holiday bonus has long been a December tradition one that many American workers cherish above chestnuts roasting on an open fire.

Times change. This year, the turkey might be tofu, the candy canes sugar-free, and the bonus well, the bonus could be bare bones, or no bones at all. Instead, other employee rewards are gaining popularity, from shopping days to free package shipping.

Santa's More Selective

Bonuses have been on the wane for several years, according to some studies on employers' holiday generosity to their workers but the studies are bewildering.

Some surveys ask about "bonuses or gifts," lumping the thousand-dollar check, the three-dollar stocking-stuffer and the after-hours dinner-and-dancing or family party with a visit from Santa. Not all surveys separate performance-based incentives from across-the-board gifts.

And the numbers don't always reflect business size. While most big companies have dropped the word "bonus" from the corporate lexicon, small firms are much more likely to continue the holiday-bonus tradition.

In general, though, performance-based bonus plans those tied to the company's bottom line seem to be gaining, with up to 70 percent of employers offering them in some regions. Only about 35 percent of U.S. employers are likely to offer across-the-board holiday bonuses this year.

You can blame the economy or the terrorists, but the decline of the conventional bonus started years ago and persisted even through rock-bottom unemployment, when businesses were falling all over themselves and each other to attract and keep good workers. Why?

Seven Reasons to Think About Time Off

People vs. Productivity. With fewer available workers and greater competitive pressures, companies sought to boost productivity by vesting employees in the company's profitability offering stock options and other performance-based incentives.

Worker Mobility. The "loyal employee -