Today's employers place a high premium on keeping workers happy. After all, research shows that happy workers are the most productive.
A strong mission, like-minded co-workers and a great company culture can be rewarding, but there are other, unique perks that can both attract prospective employees and keep your existing ones motivated and engaged. Here are 15 awesome perks offered by large and small businesses across the country.
1. 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.
2. 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, such as Glassdoor and Virgin Group, offer unlimited time off. However, this type of policy usually discourages employees from actually taking vacation days because 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. [See Related Story: 5 Ways to Cultivate Happy Employees]
3. Focus on family
Forget standard maternity leave. Facebook offers some 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 up to $4,000 in "baby cash" after their child is born.
Similarly, fast-food 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.
4. Food for thought
Lots of companies offer employee enrichment programs, but for most, these beneficial lectures and events typically happen only a few times a year. But footwear brand BucketFeet sponsors a monthly Learning Series, an hour-long gathering where employees listen to a guest speaker and ask questions. Co-founder and CEO Raaja Nemani said the team really values these informal sessions, which usually have a clear tie to the company's mission and values.
5. 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 it's the company's commitment to its workers' health that sets it apart: In addition to medical doctors, you'll find physical therapists, chiropractors and massage therapists on the Google campus.
6. Total wellness
It may not have on-staff physicians as Google does, 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.
7. Continuing education
Higher education is undoubtedly valuable to any employee, but it's a privilege that not everyone can afford. Starbucks offers a 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.
8. 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.
9. Volunteer hours
Millennials are known for their social consciousness, and numerous studies have shown that this generation, in particular, values brands and employers that 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 civic engagement is a necessity in the modern workplace, and ultimately boosts staff morale.
10. Event tickets and transportation
Employees of Quicken Loans 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."
11. Game time
Quicken Loans' employees may get 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.
12. 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 weren'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 bimonthly massage.
13. Student loan debt reimbursement
As many recent grads struggle to pay off student loans, some companies are offering an attractive perk: student loan debt reimbursement. For example, PwC offers its employees $1,200 a year strictly toward student loan debt.
14. Freedom (and money) to travel
For every five years employees have been at Epic Systems, they are eligible for a four-week paid sabbatical. In addition, if they choose to travel during this time, the company helps fund the trip for each employee and one guest.
15. Snow days
Snow days aren't just for students: Employees of Burton celebrate "snow days" with their season ski passes, courtesy of the company. Burton is based in Burlington, Vermont, which offers beautiful scenery as well as ski resorts within an hour's drive, so workers are guaranteed some fun on the slopes.
Additional reporting by Nicole Fallon Taylor.