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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Work-Life Balance

11 Unique (and Awesome!) Ways That Real Companies Take Care of Their Employees

It’s accepted far and wide that job perks are awesome. In fact, they’re at the top of the list of awesome things, right next to cat videos and ice cream. How much do we like perks? A new study by Glassdoor found that over half of the people interviewed said perks were among their top considerations when choosing a job and four out of five employees preferred new benefits over a pay raise.

Fortunately, companies seem to be getting the hint and rolling out more and more inventive and impressive perks. Read on to learn some of the especially unique ways employers are making their employees’ lives better.

1. Paying for Their Vacation

As a company all about helping people see more of the world, it’s no surprise that the best perk at Airbnb has to do with travel. Employees get an annual stipend of $2,000 to use on Airbnbs around the world. Not only does this cut costs when employees take some much-needed time off, but it also allows employees to get first-hand experience using the product they’re working so hard to build.

2. Feeding Them All Day, Every Day

Asana offers its employees three free meals daily. And yes, this perk might make you question how long your hours will be, but you have to admit that not having to worry about packing lunch or making breakfast is pretty enticing. Money saved through eating at work can then be spent elsewhere, time saved planning meals can be used to enjoy out-of-office hours more, and suddenly it’s clear how a simple perk can be worth much more than its face value.

3. Giving New Parents Time to Be Home

Netflix prioritizes time when families need it most: The company offers unlimited maternity and paternity leave for a whole year after a child is born or adopted. Netflix Chief Talent Officer Tawni Cranz says in a company blog post, “We want employees to have the flexibility and confidence to balance the needs of their growing families without worrying about work or finances.”

4. Helping Them Help The Environment (and Lower Their Bills)

Cox Enterprises’ impressive Employee Solar Program offers employees $500 to go towards the installation of solar panels on their home, along with a $500 discount on the installation from SolarCity. “Clean renewable energy is the future, and Cox’s program is helping me lower my carbon footprint!” shares employee Steve Seremeth.

And it doesn’t hurt that once solar panels are installed, electric bills go down. According to employee Neil Bentley, “The installation program was the best deal in town, and we have had three years of trouble free energy.” If companies can help their employees achieve “trouble free” anything, that’s a major win.

Learn more about the perks of working for Cox Enterprises!

5. Encouraging Volunteerism with Days Off

Salesforce wants to be sure that employees get to do work that’s meaningful for them both in and out of the office. That’s why employees get seven days of paid volunteer time off a year. The company also gives $10,000 grants to each of the top 100 volunteers to donate to a nonprofit of their choice. Ultimately, this allows all Salesforce employees to give back a little more than they might be able to on their own.

6. Making Weddings Affordable

Boxed Wholesale CEO Chieh Huang had a thought when he started his company: “I want a culture where people actually enjoy going to work and going after a goal,” he shared with Quartz. As part of his mission to cultivate work culture, Boxed pays employees up to $20K of their wedding costs. Now, that shouldn’t be the only reason to get married, but it’s pretty persuasive—especially since the average United States wedding costs approximately $31,213.

7. Bringing Back Snow Days

Burton Snowboards takes tailoring perks to company interests to the max. That’s why the company’s employees get a free season pass to hit the slopes every year, flexible hours to be able to get a couple runs down the mountain in before work, and a company “ride day” where everyone can enjoy the “the camaraderie and community in snowboarding.” The company has even been known to close its offices when it snows two feet or more in 24 hours. Jake Burton, the company’s founder and chairman, shared with Snowboarding Magazine, “Nothing makes me happier than giving the people who work here the opportunity to experience the essence of a sport that they are making accessible and fun for so many others.”

8. Reminding Everyone to Read

Book lovers and word nerds, rejoice. At Twilio, once employees pass a work milestone (build and present an app for the company) they get a Kindle and $30 a month to purchase books. Reading can reduce stress and improve memory, among other benefits, so encouraging employees to read is encouraging them to do something splendid for themselves.

9. Helping Them Become More Themselves

Many employers want to support all types of personal and professional growth, but Accenture took it one step further for its U.S.-based transgender employees. The company is dedicated to helping employees going through gender reassignment by ensuring that its health benefits include coverage for hormone therapy, transgender-specific surgeries, and mental health counseling.

10. Sending People on Adventures

REI gives employees two paid days off a year (called "Yay Days") for employees to use doing something fun outside. And that’s a mandate—so don’t try to catch up on chores on those days instead! The company also offers a Challenge Grant, which allows employees to set a personal outdoor adventure goal and apply to have REI to fund it. For example, one staffer used the grant to go solo backpacking for four days.

11. Keeping the Love for Learning Alive

Like many employers out there, Evernote hosts classes through its “Evernote Academy.” But unlike many employers, it’s not just about career-oriented classes (though they have those, too): Fun classes such as macaroon baking and barista training are offered, too. This shows the company’s understanding that employees have interests outside of work—and its dedication to helping its staff be lifelong learners, regardless of the subject.

Hard work is fulfilling, energizing, and enjoyable, at its best. It can also be taxing, stressful, and frustrating. On those days, in particular, glancing at your much-lower-than-before energy bill or planning your next Yay Day can seriously perk you up (pun intended). It should be every company’s aim to help its employees thrive, not just survive, and perks are a way to make that happen.

Photo of happy person courtesy of Hero Images/Getty Images.