Toiling for the man is much more pleasant when your job offers thoughtful touches like employee pubs, surf breaks, and cat daycare.
Earlier this week, we learned about the “pre-cation,” a new recruiting perk used by successful startups to lasso the best and brightest in their industries. On signing the dotted line, draftees are immediately sent on a weeks-long paid vacation, the better to rest up and hit the ground running on that first day at the office.
As the era of human physical labor winds to a close, some of us (who haven’t already been replaced by algorithms or mechanical arms) can take comfort in the cushy work environments and delightful extras our handlers use to keep us inside the office, away from the frivolous distractions of the outside world. But if you think wearing your Crocs to casual Friday or receiving a birthday card signed by your work friends constitutes a pretty decent motivational perk, it’s time to think again—here are 15 of the best and most thoughtful job perks from companies around the world, so you know exactly what to drop in the “suggestions” box on your next trip to the office water cooler.
\n1. A Month At Large
It’s a shame when you love your work, but hate going to work. “Man, this job would be great,” you tell yourself, “if only I could do it from a beach in Tahiti.” After completing a year of service to the company, lucky employees of Software Advice get to spend a month working from anywhere in the world they choose.
2. Getting Flemish
After five years at the New Belgium brewing company in Colorado, workers are taken on a group trip to Belgium to experience the frite-loving, hard-drinking monarchal culture that inspired the company’s creation. Employees don’t have to get the Tintin tattoo at the end, but if you don’t, your co-workers will never really respect you again.
3. Non-Profit Motive
At Patagonia, you can relive the carefree, youthful intern lifestyle all over again, with all of the fun and none of the poverty. The company’s employee internship program allows workers paid time off to pitch in at an environmental non-profit of their choice.
\n4. Tea and Sympathy
At Xero, an online accounting firm in New Zealand, the staff takes a daily group walk to a local coffee shop. Bosses encourage employees to use this time to mingle and get to know each other, thereby strengthening their bond as a team, and finally giving Cathy from sales a chance to chat up Carlos the handsome controller.
5. Present Perfect
Sartre once said that “hell is other people,” but most people don’t know that the full quote is actually “hell is other people who are not, at this moment, giving you some kind of present.” In considering these words of wisdom, YuppieChef, a Cape Town start up, makes their workplace a little less hellish by giving employees a budget for their co-workers’ birthdays, and by encouraging them to "desk-bomb" the birthday girl or boy’s workspace with gifts.
6. The Burrito Bonus
Sometimes it seems like no matter where you work, there’s never anywhere good to go for lunch. So at Vistaprint, twice a month a selection of local food trucks rolls into the parking lot of their Lexington, Massachusetts’ offices, spatulas at the ready and deep fryers bubbling. The company draws from an alternating roster of mobile eateries to stop by their headquarters, and foots the bill for all lunches delivered to their hungry worker bees.
\n7. The Tidal Waiver
There was a time when you had to infiltrate a gang of bank-robbing beach bros to get paid to surf. But now, employees of the Quiksilver apparel company, who can often be seen wearing their “baggies” and “huarache sandals, too,” are encouraged to make time for surf sessions during their workday.
8. Free Range Workforce
If you’ve ever worked on a chain gang or at a chain restaurant, you know what it’s like to be refused personal autonomy and treated like a child who can’t govern his or her own life. Netflix’s “freedom and responsibility” policy advocates for treating their employees “like adults,” and trusting them to manage their own schedules—no one keeps tracks of employees’ vacation days, or when they are in or out of the office.
9. High Life/Work Balance
At the end of a hard day slaving in the lager pits, workers at Miller Brewing’s Milwaukee and Chicago headquarters can head to the employee pub, where they are plied with with free beer, and everybody knows their names.
10. Post-Natal Noodles
After having a bun in the oven for nine months, the last thing you want to do is slave over a hot stove. So at Google, new parents get more than maternity leave: the company gives up to $500 in reimbursements specifically for take-out food.
11. Travel Agency
U.K.-based Virgin Atlantic offers all employees, airline affiliated or not, up to 30 return flights per year at a preferential rate—a privilege they can also extend to family and friends that are travelling with them. No word yet on whether Virgin Galactic’s astro-stewards will be able to take loved ones on weekend jaunts into orbit.
12. Face Time-and-a-Half
Apparently, we can add email to the list of American inventions despised by the French. French company Atos, the largest IT firm in Europe, banned all inter-company email. CEO Thierry Breton says "he'd rather people visit, call, or even text message him rather than send emails,” which he believes "cannot replace the spoken word."
\n13. Pet Equity
Those of us who are not lucky enough to work at a petting zoo often have to spend entire excruciating days with only the irritating, overwrought company of other humans. But at Mars’ pet-care division, employees are actually encouraged to bring their four-legged friends to work; there’s a glassed in “cat room,” and about half of the 475 workers bring a dog several days a week.
14. Green for Green
Clif Bar’s fibrous, protein-rich employees get up to $1,000 a year to improve their homes’ energy efficiency in any way they want. Rumor has it they can take the bonus either in cash or Clif Bars, which coincidentally share many of the properties of heavyweight, energy-saving, thermal insulation.
15. Structural Benefits
When you work for Habitat for Humanity, at the end of the day, you’ve built someone a house.