As an employer, you want to make sure your employees are happy. After all, your people are the ones who keep your business going. Your organization's workers may be pleased with their telecommuting options and free snacks, but some companies go above and beyond to make sure their employees really love their jobs. Here are 12 unusual but awesome benefits offered by large and small businesses across the country.
No official work hours. What 9 to 5? At Netflix's California headquarters, vacation days and work hours aren't tracked. The company only measures what people get done; so as long as employees do their work, it doesn't matter when or for how long they're in the office. But Netflix's staff members know better than to slack off — abusing this policy gets you a one-way ticket out the door.
Tons of time off. When you work hard, it's nice to have an employer that lets you play hard, too. Some big-name companies like Glassdoor and Virgin Group offer unlimited time off, but this type of policy usually discourages employees from actually taking vacation days, since there's no incentive to "use it or lose it." Boston-based Metis Communications does put a cap on its employees' paid time off, but the amount is incredibly generous — on top of the standard three weeks of vacation time (four, if you've been there four years or more), staff members get their birthdays off, a bonus vacation week during the last week of December and, after five years of employment, summer Friday vacation days. [5 Ways to Cultivate Happy Employees]
Focus on family. Forget standard maternity leave. Facebook offers some pretty incredible perks for parents and parents-to-be. New moms and dads get four months of paid parental leave, reimbursement for day care and adoption fees, and $4,000 in "baby cash" after their child is born.
Similarly, fast casual restaurant chain Capriotti's Sandwich Shop allows its on-staff parents to take time off, no questions asked, to attend their children's events and activities.
Food for thought. Lots of companies offer employee enrichment programs, but for most, these beneficial lectures and events typically only happen a few times a year. Footwear brand BucketFeet sponsors a monthly Learning Series, an hour-long gathering where employees listen to and ask questions of a guest speaker. Co-founder and CEO Raaja Nemani said that the team really values these informal sessions, which usually have a clear tie to the company's mission and values.
On-site health services. Everyone seems to want to work for Google, and for good reason: It's the king of amazing employee benefits. There are lists dedicated to all of Google's perks, but the company's commitment to its workers' health is truly commendable. In addition to medical doctors, you'll also find physical therapists, chiropractors and massage therapists on the Google campus.
Total wellness. It may not have on-staff physicians like Google, but the Institute for Integrative Nutrition does a pretty good job of making sure its employees have what they need for physical and mental wellness. A professional chef prepares a healthy organic lunch for the staff every day (breakfast and snacks are also provided), and fresh flowers are placed on everyone's desk. If biweekly chair massages and in-house yoga classes aren't enough to de-stress you, just go on the staff yoga retreat.
Continuing education. Higher education is undoubtedly valuable to any employee, but it's a privilege that not everyone can afford. Last year, Starbucks announced its College Achievement Plan, a program that allows all eligible U.S. employees (those who work 20 hours or more per week) to earn a bachelor's degree through Arizona State University's online program, with full tuition coverage.
While smaller companies may not be able to afford four-year degrees for their staff, they still find ways to invest in their employees' personal development. For example, Los Angeles-based Konnect PR offers financial assistance for employee classes and other educational interests.
Midday surfing. It makes sense that a company selling outdoor clothing and equipment would want its employees to stay physically fit. Based in California, Patagonia provides company bikes, volleyball courts and on-site yoga for its workers. Employees are also encouraged to catch a wave or two in the middle of the workday: The reception desk posts daily surf reports and makes companywide announcements on especially good surf days.
Volunteer hours. Millennials are known for their social consciousness, and numerous studies have shown that this generation in particular values brands and employers who emphasize doing good in the world. That's why companies like The Goddard School, Jennifer Adams Worldwide and Zimbra give their employees paid time off and/or flexible work hours to engage in volunteer projects. In another Business News Daily article, Zimbra CEO Patrick Brandt said that civic engagement is a necessity in the modern workplace, and ultimately boosts the morale of a company's staff.
Event tickets and transportation. Employees of Quicken Loans in Michigan don't get into all events for free — just the ones happening at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland. Quicken CEO Dan Gilbert owns the Cleveland Cavaliers, so workers get transportation and tickets to home games. They can also snag seats for the various concerts, comedy shows and other events happening at "The Q."
Game time. Quicken employees may be content to attend basketball games, but Zynga staff members actually get to play on the company's full-size courts. The San Francisco-based gaming company (perhaps unsurprisingly) also has in-house relaxation lounges with classic arcade games and Nintendo, Xbox 360 and PS3 gaming systems for its workers to enjoy.
Extra credit. At Weebly, every employee gets a company credit card, presumably for anything the company's workers might need during the workday (with no set hours, just like Netflix's policy). As if that isn't enough, the Web-hosting company also provides a $50 monthly credit to Exec, a housecleaning and errand-running service, for when its workers are too busy enjoying their free meals, gym membership or bi-monthly massage.
Originally published on Sept. 19, 2013. Updated April 24, 2015.