employee benefitsOh your company just put in a brand new popcorn maker in the break room? Well that’s nice. Meanwhile, employees at Google are being provided with square meals every day. A new foosball table you say? While you strain your wrists in order to advance a tiny plastic ball, employees at Patagonia are in the middle of hanging ten in the California surf.

In order to attract top talent, companies are beginning to offer some pretty outlandish benefits. The unintended byproduct of this practice is that everyone else who doesn’t work for these companies gazes more longingly out their office windows, wishing that Mark Zuckerberg riding a magic carpet would show up to whisk them away to Silicon Valley. (I know I’m not alone in this.)

No Set Work Day

The phrase “9 to 5” has some pretty depressing connotations. Entering a nondescript office building where a sea of mile high cubicles and a supervisor tapping their watch awaits. You’re three minutes early, so you’re late. However, “9 to 5” also makes you think of Dolly Parton being endearing and putting people in their places, which is nice.

Netflix has done away with 9 to 5. In fact, they’ve done away with set hours all together. Employees are allowed to come in whenever and for however long they want to. Netflix focuses on the work produced by their employees and not the hours put in. In addition to not keeping track of work hours, Netflix also doesn’t keep track of vacation days. Again, as long as quality work is getting done, employees can take as many days off as they want. CEO and co-founder Reed Hastings says he sets the example by taking frequent vacations.

New Family Care

Having kids is a concern for many in the working class. Will having kids put your employment at risk? Not at Facebook. Doing away with basic maternity leave, Facebook allows new moms and dads to take four months of paid leave. On top of that they reimburse day care and adoption expenses. And because why not, they throw in $4,000 of “baby cash” when your child is born. The only thing that would make this paternity package better is if Oprah hand-delivered the cash, yelling joyfully the whole time.

Surf Breaks

Yup, surf breaks. Employees at the California headquarters of outdoor clothing company Patagonia walk in the building and one of the first things they see is the surf report for the day. Surfboards are provided and employees are encouraged to use them during their workday. Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard’s memoir is titled “Let My People Go Surfing” and that’s what they do, sometimes for an hour or more. In addition to surfboards, Patagonia also provides yoga, volleyball, and bikes.

Luggage Parties

Once a year Freeborn & Peters, a Chicago-based law firm, holds a luggage party for their employees. Anyone wanting to participate brings a fully-packed suitcase into the office. The four randomly chosen winners are immediately whisked away by limo to the airport then to Vegas for an all-expenses paid weekend trip.

Nap Rooms

Time off from work is all well and good, but what about time off during work. Nearly everyone at one time or another has made a joke to their supervisor about needing a nap on the job. Well, companies like Zappos.com, an online apparel retailer, took those jokes seriously. Not only has Zappos established dedicated napping areas, they’ve listened to employee opinions regarding sleeping vessels. At first Zappos offered nap pods but later found out employees preferred couches.

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. While the regular line-up of employee benefits provide peace of mind, they don’t directly affect your on-the-job satisfaction. It’s totally reasonable to be a squeaky wheel when it comes to being curious about whether or not your employer really cares about your happiness and job satisfaction.


Author Bio:  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.