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Thursday, August 30, 2012

6 US Companies With Awesome Employee Perks

When job candidates are considering a position, they often compare the benefits and perks package. We’ve all heard about the Googleplex and its gourmet food, dry cleaning and Razr scooters made available to Googlers. But you don’t have to be a search giant to offer admirable perks. In fact, it may even be more cost-effective to offer goods and services instead of cold hard cash, since the latter is taxed twice. The key to great perks is to make them exciting and keep them on-brand. Below, you’ll find how six brands — from small startups to larger companies — reward their employees and maintain happy and efficient workers. While they aren’t all tech or digital companies, they all excel in the digital and social media space, and other startups (and large corporations) could learn a thing or two from them.

1. Clif Bar

Just because a company has been around since 1992 and has nearly 300 employees, doesn’t mean the workplace can’t capture a startup-y vibe. And that’s exactly the case at Clif Bar. Let’s start with the digs: Clif Bar moved to a new HQ building last year, and the 115,000-square-foot space was refurnished with the employees’ well-being and the environment in mind. There are four atriumed gardens that let in natural light and plenty of oxygen; repurposed bikes, kayaks, paddles and surf boards suspend from the ceiling to function as artwork, there’s bike parking and there are “loaner bikes” that can be used for local errands. Want to squeeze in a workout? There’s a 40-foot bouldering wall and a fitness center with a yoga room, dance studio, two massage rooms, shower and locker room facilities and free access to five certified trainers and nutritionists. The gym offers 33 different fitness classes including rock climbing, yoga, boot camp and spin class, and every employee gets 2.5 hours of paid gym time per week.
Some other perks include:
    • Free coffee
    • A $350 stipend to help cover the entry costs for races, events and competitions
    • A dog-friendly office
    • Clif Base Camp, a “competitively priced” daycare center that has capacity for 64 children up to 5 years of age
    • Concierge services, including on-site car washing and detailing, haircuts, laundry and dry cleaning — to support a healthy work-life balance. While not free, these services are convenient and efficient
    • Subsidized massage and chiropractic services on site
    • Alternative Transportation Rewards: Employees who commute on foot, by bike, on public transportation or in carpools can earn up to $960 a year in rewards. Employees earn points that can be redeemed for commuter checks, extra cash, Clif gear, massages and more
    • Cool Commute Incentives, the nation’s first-ever biodiesel incentive program for employees, rewards employees for biking, walking, carpooling, taking public transit and driving a hybrid or bio-diesel vehicle. Employees can get a $6,500 tax incentive for purchasing biodiesel, and up to $500 for the purchase of a commuter bike so long as they commute by bike at least twice per month.
    • Cool Home Incentives: Employees can receive up to $1,000 per year to make eco-home improvements — like installing Energy Star appliances, insulation installation, solar installations or energy-efficient windows — that will reduce waste and the use of fossil fuels and increase the use of renewable energies.
    • Flexible schedule: Clif Bar teammates get eight paid holidays, plus a paid week off between December 25 and January 1. Employees start with 15 days of paid time off, and that increases to 20 days the second year and 25 days the fifth year. Then there’s the 9/80 Schedule, whereby employees can work 80 hours in nine days and then get every other Friday off.
    • Sabbatical: After seven years at Clif Bar, employees can enjoy a six- to eight-week sabbatical.
    • Kali’s Kitchen: Founder Gary Erickson’s grandmother Kali inspired him to bake, and so Kali’s Kitchen works with regional farmers to source organic ingredients for affordable meals (a $6.50 price point is common).
    • Weekly breakfast meeting: Every week the company assembles for a company breakfast — bagels, fresh fruit, eggs, oatmeal, juice, bacon and sausage and more are served — and the team shares news and announcements and a consumer’s “letter of the week.”
    • Employee Stock Ownership Plan, funded entirely by contributions from the company with no required employee contribution. Employees are automatically enrolled and become 100 percent vested after three years with the company or when they reach retirement age, whichever comes first.
    • Retirement: To help employees plan for retirement, the company adds financial literacy classes and a 401(K) savings plan with a dollar-for-dollar matching contribution for the first 5% of pay deferred.
You probably get the point, so we’ll stop there.

2. Sweetgreen

Fresh and fast-food concept Sweetgreen was started by three young Georgetown graduates, so it’s not surprising that the culture the three guys have built resembles that of a fraternity. Though they purvey salads and frozen yogurt, Sweetgreen is evolving into a lifestyle brand, with its yearly Sweetlife Festival, in-store concerts and other initiatives. But the fun isn’t reserved just for the customers.
Sweetgreen’s tenure program — Shades of Green — has blown up into a competition and become a status symbol among employees. Every teammate gets a free shirt, and the longer you’re with Sweetgreen, the darker your shirt. Who knew a free t-shirt could help to shape company culture?
After a teammate has been with Sweetgreen for one year, you also get a pair of green high-top Converse sneakers. At two years, you get a t-shirt and a neon green iPod Nano Touch. After three years, you get a lime-green Sweetgreen bike.
During every shift, a Sweetgreen employee gets a free salad. After a while, Sweetgreen’s People Manager Leslie Barkett says she noticed the sizes of the darker t-shirt orders (for the long-time teammates) were going down, from larges and extra-larges to smalls and mediums. “Looks like our employees aren’t just eating healthier the longer they stay with Sweetgreen — they’re dropping clothing sizes too,” says Barkett.
And every few weeks, an up-and-coming band will pop in to a Sweetgreen location to play a few tunes. Barkett says Toro y Moi, The Givers, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Alex Winston have popped in, making the lunch rush a little less painful for the Sweetgreen team.

3. Burton

You’d probably guess that Burton — the snowboard giant founded by Jake Burton in 1977 — would be a fun place to work. And you’d be right — the active lifestyle it promotes to consumers is also promoted within the company. Here are some of the perks:
      • Dog-friendly office
      • Free season pass on the slopes for all employees
      • If it snows 2 feet or more, the office is closed for employees to go snowboarding
      • Skate park behind the office
      • Mini Stash Jib Park where people can snowboard on park features in the winter
      • The “Fall Bash,” an annual party for Jake Burton’s team, friends and family at his home, complete with a band, food, drinks and more
      • Company Ride Day (see above), an annual day when the entire company gets on snow and rides together, BBQs and has a few beers
      • Demo closet where Burton staff can test new products
      • Discounts on Burton gear
Plus, there are grassroots employee-run groups within the company, including:
      • EPIC, a group of environmentally-minded Burton employees who actively research ways to reduce our environmental impact both personally and as a company
      • The Exchange, a group of Burton employees focused on company culture and transparency within the organization
      • The Women’s Leadership Initiative, which focuses on promoting and progressing a number of women’s initiatives at the company, including careers, family and, of course, snowboarding. WLI looks to secure Burton as the brand and employer of choice of choice for women and also works to get women snowboarders out on the slopes and make sure they have fun while they’re out there.

4. Coloft

Coloft is a shared workspace and community for startups, entrepreneurs and freelancers in Santa Monica and West LA. Founder Cameron Rasouli says “we like to do as much as we can for our members.” Enrolling them in BetterWorks is one way they do.
BetterWorks is a service to give small and medium businesses perks programs, and it’s run through a simple Web interface. The BetterWorks platform connects employees with locally-based vendors offering discounts, such as gyms (see the Colofter above, flaunting his Equinox tag), yoga studios, salons, laundry services and more. Employees simply find what interests them and click through their profile page to place the order, either paying for the discounted service on their own or deducting from an employer-subsidized account. The platform gives employees the choice of what perks they’d like — “We’re not a one-size-fits-all corporate culture after all,” says Nicole Jordan, director of communications at BetterWorks.
Coloft is home to startups like, Hipster, 140 Fire (a Y-combinator startup), BarMax and Airpair. There are 100 members, and about 70 of them are on BetterWorks. Rasouli says the most popular perk seems to be the Equinox membership, as well as the other health club discounts. Typically, Equinox has a $495 initiation fee plus a high monthly fee and a year-long contract; with BetterWorks, there’s no initiation fee, no contract and a much lower monthly fee. “It’s nice to see that the startups here seem to be taking better care of themselves since the health club memberships offered through Betterworks allow them to afford it,” she says. Since everyone at Coloft is working crazy hours, the discounts offered through BetterWorks (from 10 to 28% off) mean everyone can be well-fed and well-fueled (via delivery) all day long.
In addition to the BetterWorks platform, Coloft offers events and seminars focused on certain aspects of startup life (i.e. law, accounting, PR, etc.) and also hosts monthly office hours and classes.
“Our members, most of which are startups, were really excited about Betterworks when we first told them about it as they really benefit from the access to the deep discounts provided,” says Risouli. “We basically are able to give our members full access to Betterworks once they sign up to be a Colofter.”

5. Asana

Asana is a Silicon Valley startup founded by Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz that’s building collaborative task and project management software. Kenny Van Zant, an Asana “business guy,” explained some of the company’s perks to Mashable.
      • In-house yoga: There are group sessions open to all employees and +1s twice a week, and there are 1:1 yoga sessions with a private instructor, including options for massage. (“Asana” is a Sanskrit term for “to sit down,” and it’s the suffix for many yoga poses.)
      • Organic home-cooked meals twice a day. There’s a full-time chef on staff who prepares an organic lunch and dinner every day, customized to individual diet preferences — and this is no small task, since there are vegans, vegetarians, pescatarians and meat-eaters.
      • Sweet workspaces. Asana gives each employee $10,000 to spend on office setup. The most common choice is a sweet motorized desk that allows a person to sit or stand by just hitting a button (because we all know standup desks can save your life).
      • Executive and life coaching. Asana employees can opt for different coaches, depending on what type of skills they are looking to develop.
      • The usual. Yes, Asana also offers medical benefits, but Van Zant is also excited about the “opportunity to work in a company with respectful, rational, chill peers.” And if you’ve ever been a situation where this wasnot the case, then you’d see it as a crucial perk, too.

6. RockYou

RockYou is a social game and advertising company, and its 200 employees’ good ideas are recognized every six weeks with the YouRock Awards, hosted at the company’s all-hands meetings. The YouRock Awards started as a way to promote a bottom-up employee nomination process so people could recognize those whom they work with daily. Driven by peer nominations, RockYou awards teammates for solving a problem, designing a game, demonstrating innovation and exhibiting behaviors aligned with the RockYou values. YouRock nominees spin a wheel to choose an award such as cash, concert tickets, an extra day off or an iPad. All YouRock recipients also receive a golden bobble-head cow trophy, offering them desktop bragging rights.
The open forum in which people can be recognized and recognize others fosters a compassionate and playful company culture.


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