In an economy where employees are often overworked and many businesses are pulling the plug on raises and extra benefits, some companies are shining stars when it comes to offering their employees cool perks.
Most organizations say that they value their employees and offer generous benefits packages. But we’ve searched around and found employers that offer much more than standard benefits.
Check out our round-up of 14 companies that offer their employees unusual and incredible perks.
Mountain View, CA-based Google doesn't just offer employees a stimulating environment to work and create; they also give them some pretty sweet benefits.
No need for employees to pack a PB and J sandwich for lunch or rush home to cook dinner. Free food for lunch and dinner is just one of the many perks.
Employees also enjoy oil changes and car washes, massages and yoga, a play room, back-up child care assistance, and $12,000 annually in tuition reimbursement.
Most company meetings are b-o-r-i-n-g. Not so if you work at Yahoo! based in Sunnyvale, CA. As part of its Influential Speakers Series, Yahoo! presents Hollywood royalty like Tom Cruise and prolific thinkers like Deepak Chopra, among others.
Employees work hard at Yahoo!, but they are also encouraged to play hard. They can work off stress or have fun at the company's on-site gym equipped with basketball and sand volleyball courts.
Workers also enjoy a social atmosphere with live concerts (think Taylor Swift) and barbecues.
3. Scripps Health
San Diego-based Scripps Health doesn't reserve bonus checks for top management. In fact, in 2010 Scripps Health awarded nearly $4 million in bonuses to employees across the board who met performance objectives.
Employees also enjoy a menu of fringe benefits designed to add personal convenience and value to their lives, including tuition reimbursement, concierge services, on-site massages, and even pet insurance for Fluffy and Spot.
Timberland is a worldwide brand with offices all over the world and headquarters in Stratham, N.H. They encourage their employees to enjoy life outside of work by giving them generous time-off benefits.
Employees can take service sabbaticals equaling 40 hours of paid volunteer work per year. Most employees are also eligible for an annual bonus. And to make that bonus stretch, every employee enjoys a generous discount on Timberland apparel, accessories, and, of course, footwear.
5. Ernst & Young
Talk about progressive! Ernst & Young, a London, UK-based global tax advisory service, offers the same benefits for same-sex partners as for opposite-sex partners -- even in states that don't recognize gay marriage.
The company fosters not only the professional development of its workforce, but also provides perks that benefit each individual personally. Other fringe benefits include concierge services, a working parents' network, and parental leave benefits.
6. SC Johnson & Son
Ever feel too busy to take care of life's errands while trying to master that work/life balance thing?
At Racine, WI-based SC Johnson & Son, the makers of such brands as Glade, Pledge, and Windex, there's an on-site employee concierge to handle all of life’s chores. Concierges send packages and flowers, pick up groceries, shop around for the best deals on car insurance, take your car in for service including oil changes, and even stand in line for concert tickets.
With all of those perks, employees may actually find time to enjoy life outside of work
Tech giants Google and Yahoo! aren't the only companies offering incredible perks. New York, NY-based AOL helps take the stress out of being a working parent by offering fringe family benefits to employees.
To start, new moms receive prenatal instruction on everything from childbirth to newborn care through the company's Well Baby program. New moms get eight fully paid weeks off (adoptive parents get two weeks) in maternity leave. And, when mom/dad returns to work, there's an on-site day care facility that cares for tots.
Many of us have a secret dream to explore Europe, volunteer in Africa, or simply have enough time off to feel rested and relaxed. That's kind of hard to do with only two weeks of annual vacation per year that most companies offer.
Employees at New York, NY-based Deloitte don't have to sacrifice their life's dream for their careers because they enjoy the benefit of sabbatical leave. Deloitte offers four unpaid weeks off to do whatever they wish, and three to six months (yes, months) of partially paid leave to volunteer or pursue a career-enhancing opportunity.
Hallmark, based in Kansas City, MO, is a great place to work if you're a woman.
Each month women leaders offer sage advice to employees during special career-boosting sessions. As of last year, 63 percent of the managers and executives at the company were women.
Hallmark also fosters good employee relations. Employees ride bikes together, play softball together, and even carpool together using 21 company-sponsored vans.
Sticking to a healthy eating plan is tough in some offices where a multitude of parties and meetings tempt workers with fattening and sugary snacks.
Burlington, VT-based Dealer.com, an online auto marketing company, makes eating right easy through the healthy benefits they serve up to employees. Desk-side veggie delivery is available as well as subsidized organic "Dot Calm Cafe" drinks.
To keep employees in tip-top shape, there are on-site tennis and basketball courts, and a full gym with personal trainers. Oh, and they also have a strict no-tie policy dress code.
More than 150,000 people applied to work at Seattle-based coffee-giant Starbucks in 2010.
Baristas, most of whom work part time, enjoy the health insurance benefits the company offers its part-timers -- a rarity for most retail part-time jobs. Employees also report that they love the environment and morale they share with fellow employees.
Corporate employees enjoy additional benefits including an on-site gym, job sharing program, and on-site child care.
12. Umpqua Bank
Building a professional work wardrobe can be costly, especially for conservative industries like banking where more traditional work wear is required.
Employees at Portland, OR-based Umpqua Bank can take advantage of the company's professional dress advance -- to help build a business wardrobe, Umpqua offers associates a clothing advance up to $500.
13. Grasshopper Group
Boston, MA-based Grasshopper Group, a virtual phone system designed for entrepreneurs, offers employees a nice menu of fringe benefits.
Employees enjoy four weeks of paid time off, plus nine holidays per year. Summers are meant to be enjoyed at Grasshopper Group: Every Friday is a paid half day from Memorial Day to Labor Day. When employees are at work, flexible hours are the norm.
Food benefits include a $5 daily lunch allowance, free snacks, and coffee/espresso. And to burn off those calories, a Nintendo Wii room is available to add some fun entertainment to their work day.
Countless workers have made a geographical move to get or keep a job, but jobs don't generally move to follow employees.
St. Louis-based online investing firm, Scottrade, will consider opening a new branch in an area an employee is moving to. According to Fortune magazine, Scottrade has opened 20 offices for employees. In one instance, an employee moved twice, to Georgia and Florida, and Scottrade opened offices in both locations.
In addition, Scottrade employees have never experienced a layoff -- ever.
Employees appreciate employee appreciation
Clearly, these 14 companies make going to work a little easier for their employees.
And by finding generous and innovative ways to thank employees for their hard work and dedication, they pretty much guarantee themselves increased worker morale and retention. It's a win-win situation.
If you're looking for a company that offers incredible benefits, do your research. Many companies actively promote their benefits packages on their web sites.