Top Five Unique Work Perks — That Work

work perks, employee engagement, employee satisfaction

According to the Wall Street Journal, work perks are expanding even outside of Silicon Valley. And with good reason: happy employees can lead to a happier bottom line.

Outside the stratosphere of Silicon Valley extreme work perks, smaller and regional companies are finding success with targeted perks:

“More than 11% of waste-management companies provide free snacks and drinks for employees, according to 2013 data from the Society for Human Resource Management, and 16% of insurance companies offer dry-cleaning services.

Employers have begun paying more attention to their workplaces over the past two years, says John Bremen, a managing director with human-resources consulting firm Towers Watson. He has seen squash courts and lap pools at some companies, and at one bank, rest areas for employees complete with sofas and soothing music—something that wouldn’t have occurred a decade ago (WSJ).”

But as they expand their benefits packages and improve their offices, companies are trying to introduce perks that clash with their established culture. “Companies […] often mistakenly focus on the products of an organization’s success—think ping-pong tables and free food—rather than the underlying causes, he adds.”

What works at Google or Zappos won’t work for you — it’s about offering perks that reflect your company culture and significantly improve your employees lives. What builds loyalty? Company culture, not climbing walls.

Unique Employee Work Perks — That Work

5. SummitLLC offers free bike share memberships

DC traffic is terrible and SummitLLC employees were wasting away in gridlock, even on short trips. The firm saw an opportunity for a unique and relevant work perk: free bike share memberships for all employees. Now, only a small percentage of SummitLLC employees own a car and even former transit users have cut their commutes down. Over 60% at their DC office have enrolled in the program, and since offering the same perk at their New York office, 100% of NY employees have enrolled.

3. Patagonia offers surf breaks

Surf looking good today? If you work at Patagonia, you can push away from your desk and head out to catch a wave, right then and there. This might seem like a minor or gimmicky perk but it reflects a company culture of trust, flexibility and adventure. Employees can tell when you’re just saying nice things about your company’s ideals. But Patagonia trusts employees to manage their time, encourages them to better manage their health and well being, and truly believes in the lifestyle part of being a lifestyle brand.

3. Evernote will clean your house twice a month

Concierge services are an increasingly popular work perk. Some companies, like JibJab and Google, are even offering laundry service and free haircuts. But Evernote does them one better, it will send a cleaner to your home, free of charge, twice a month. Free! Housecleaning! Most perks focus on improving time in the office, but Evernote’s house cleaning service makes employee lives better.

2. Timblerand offers six month long paid service sabbaticals

Timberland offers up to six months of paid leave for employees to pursue volunteer work. Not only is this an amazing perk, it’s one that feels genuine, considering Timberland’s existing commitment to community service.

“As of 2012, Timberland has performed more than 800,000 hours of service around the world. ‘We’re a relatively small company with a big impact,’ notes Atlanta McIlwraith, Timberland’s senior manager of community engagement. ‘Last year, 40 percent of the volunteers at Timberland-sponsored service events worldwide were business partners, and we hope to increase that percentage in 2012.'”

1. Netflix offers unlimited parental leave for all employees

Netflix was already leading the pack with its unlimited time-off policy, but on Tuesday, it reaffirmed its commitment to work-life balance with a new first-year parental leave policy. What’s so great about? 1) It applies to all employees, not just top talent. 2) It applies to adoptions, not just births. 3) It doesn’t have to be taken all at once. 4) It’s paid. While it’s true that unlimited time-off policies can lead to employees taking less time, the unusual flexibility of Netflix’s policy is the real win. Want the whole year off? Take it. Want to work every other month? Sure thing.

Organizing parental leave can be a nightmare, and new parents are already stressed enough — and like Patagonia’s surf breaks, Netflix’s leave policies are about trust.
Great employee perks do more than attract top talent: they retain talent, build loyalty, and contribute to a positive workplace culture.

Great perks make a difference in employees’ lives, and make your company a place they’ll want to stay.

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Megan Purdy

Former recruiter, HR pro and Workology editor. Comics, cheese and political economy.

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