5 Unique Employee Benefits



By: Reed Parker

In order to attract the best, most talented employees, some well-established companies are offering pretty outlandish employee benefits. For the vast majority of us who do not work for these companies, all we can do is gaze longingly out the window (assuming we have a window out which to gaze), waiting for Mark Zuckerberg flying a balloon to show up and whisk us away to Silicon Valley.

According to Ohio University’s online MBA program, the happiest companies are the fastest growing. The companies that provide the following benefits have really taken this fact to heart, focusing on making their employees feel valued and doing so in unique ways. This is a pretty short list, but anymore than this might give the readers who are dissatisfied employees an overdose of jealousy.

No Set Work Day

The concept of the “9 to 5” work day has some rigid and fairly sad connotations. It conjures up an image of an impossibly nondescript office building that holds a maze of towering cubicles. You’ve arrived a few minutes early, therefore you are late. The only good thing “9 to 5” conjures up in your mind is Dolly Parton being sassy to her jerk of a boss.

Netflix has rejected the idea of “9 to 5” altogether. Their employees come in whenever and for however long they want to. Their employee value is measured by the work done and not by the amount of hours put in. Additionally, Netflix doesn’t track vacation hours. Employees are allowed to take as many vacation days as they want so long as their work is being completed. Reed Hastings, Netflix CEO and co-founder, sets an example by taking frequent vacations.

New Family Care

The costs associated with child care are a concern for many in the working class. How will your employer react if you want to start a new family? Employees of Facebook need not fret. Facebook allows new moms and dads to take four months of paid leave. They also reimburse day care, adoption expenses, and just for kicks, give the family $4,000 of “baby cash” when the child is born. What would really impress me is if Oprah hand delivered the cash and was yelling excitedly the whole time.

Surf Breaks

Employees at the California headquarters of Patagonia, an outdoor clothing company, are given the day’s surf report as soon as they walk in the door. Patagonia supplies surfboards and employees are encouraged take a surf break during the day. Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard wrote a memoir and titled it “Let My People Go Surfing.” That’s exactly what they do, sometimes for an hour or more. As if surfing wasn’t enough, Patagonia also provides yoga, volleyball, and bikes to their employees.

Luggage Parties

Chicago-based law firm Freeborn & Peters holds a luggage party once a year for their employees. Four randomly chosen winners are immediately whisked away by limo to the airport then to Vegas for an all-expenses paid weekend trip. Any employee who wants to enter the contest needs only to bring their luggage to work that day.

Nap Rooms

Taking a nap after work is often a necessity, but how about during? Every employee has joked about wanting a nap on the job and there’s always a small bit of them that hope to be taken seriously. Zappos.com, an apparel retailer, picked up on the serious bit of those jokes. They’ve established dedicated napping areas, and even listened to employee opinions about what type of sleeping vessel is better. Zappos first provided futuristic napping pods, but then replaced them with good old fashioned couches after employees weighed in.

This commitment to employee satisfaction demonstrated by these companies has proven to produce results. For example, Patagonia has tripled their profits since 2008 and their employee turnover rate is one of the lowest of any company. Zappos has been frequently hailed as a model of strong company culture and awesome customer service. Additionally, in less than ten years of existence they made it to $1 billion in sales.

It’s clearly unrealistic to expect these types of practices from a small to midsize company, but maybe similar work benefits would work on a smaller scale. They could be based on the resources close to you. For example, what if your business is close to a bowling alley? Offering employees a one hour, paid bowling break once a week could improve morale. The Facebook maternity benefits are obviously a major undertaking, but what if your company offered a small stipend to new parents or provided them with a crib.

A good place to start is to put yourself in the shoes of your employees and ask yourself “what’s something that seems small, but would be considered a nice gesture and would make your employees feel more appreciated?”

About the Author

Reed Parker is a freelance writer whose interests include business, psychology, marketing, and bad jokes. He once stayed up all night trying to find the sun. Then it dawned on him. You can find Reed on Twitter @reedparker87.

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