Happy employees are motivated, loyal and productive – qualities you should encourage in every worker. Employee satisfaction is essential to a company's overall success, which is why it's crucial to offer incentives that excite and inspire staff.
While your first thought might be a salary increase, there are many other ways to reward workers besides financially. Here are 15 impressive perks offered by large and small businesses across the country.
1. A pet-friendly office
Many "pet parents" wish they could have their four-legged friends in the office with them. At Zynga, every day is bring-your-dog-to-work day. The company is the perfect place for canine-lovers, offering pet insurance, a rooftop dog park and treats for your pup. These furry bundles of energy and joy can turn even the most chaotic days around.
2. Gym memberships
More companies are encouraging healthy habits in and out of the office. Threadless, an e-commerce store and online community of artists, offers its employees annual stipends strictly for health/fitness memberships. That way, you get to join a gym of your liking and use the company's payment toward the expense.
3. Free books
Who doesn't like free books? At Penguin Random House, you can participate in their Free Books Program by ordering several books and e-books from a list of more than 100 titles throughout the year – free of charge. Additionally, workers can join book clubs with colleagues to discuss plots and practice team building.
4. Daily ice cream pints
Ben & Jerry's offers countless ice cream options to consumers. What better way to reward employees than with three pints of their famous product – every single day? Workers never leave empty-handed; they're encouraged to take their delicious ice cream home to share with loved ones. A bonus perk? They even have a say in the names of ice cream flavors – and, of course, boasting rights if theirs is chosen.
5. 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 if 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.
6. 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 taking vacation days because there's no "use it or lose it" incentive. 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.
7. Focus on family
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 "baby cash" to help with expenses 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.
8. 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.
Capital One Financial is another company that genuinely cares for their workers' well-being. There are on-site health centers and fitness centers with trainers to assist and guide each person. Capital One wants to ensure their employees are financially, physically and emotionally healthy.
9. Total wellness
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 bi-weekly chair massages and in-house yoga classes aren't enough to de-stress you, just go on the staff yoga retreat.
10. 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.
In 2017, Starbucks expanded the plan with their new Pathway to Admission Program, which gives academically ineligible employees another chance to qualify. Should they need it, ASU support specialists will work help them qualify by identifying which courses they need. They can then take up to 10 freshman-level courses tuition-free, as many times as needed.
11. Midday surfing
It makes sense that a company selling outdoor clothing and equipment would want its employees to stay physically fit. California-based 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.
12. Volunteer hours
Numerous studies have shown that workers increasingly value 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's former CEO Patrick Brandt said civic engagement is a necessity in the modern workplace, and ultimately boosts staff morale.
13. 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 founder 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."
14. 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.
15. 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. Similarly, Fizziology, a social media research firm, offers travel stipends to employees. They call it For Your Inspiration (FYI) Trips, which are encouraged for each worker every year.
Additional reporting by Nicole Fallon.