Nearly 10 years ago, I had the opportunity to visit Facebook when their campus was a just group of structures in Palo Alto, before it grew into the massive complex in Menlo Park. What amazed me back then were the Facebook employee benefits.
We're no longer talking about a foosball table and a drink fridge – we’re talking substantial perks.
1. Unlimited Paid Time Off
How many weeks of vacation do you have? Two? Three?
Lendio, a Utah-based small-business lender, gives its employees unlimited paid time off. The idea behind this benefit is that an employer trusts its employees to manage their own time and complete their work – never mind how long of a break they take. The company, in turn, is rewarded with greater productivity and loyalty. This reduces employee turnover – something that often costs companies a lot of money.
More and more companies today borrow pages from the Silicon Valley playbook and offer unusually generous employee benefits.
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2. Longer Parental Leave
The Family and Medical Leave Act mandates that an employer allows a parent to take 12 weeks of unpaid parental leave if he or she's been there for over a year. Many companies are letting parents go on even longer paternity and maternity leaves. The good ones even continue to pay them.
In 2016, Etsy – an online marketplace for handmade and vintage items – updated their policy to 26 weeks of fully paid parental leave. Netflix offers up to 12 months of paid parental leave to its employees. Its parental leave program is slightly more complicated because of the various business units, but 12 months is the most time for any listed U.S. company.
3. On-Site Childcare
On-site childcare is an unusual employee benefit because of how difficult it is to implement. Unlike a soda fridge, the logistics of offering childcare is extremely complicated. You need to follow a lot of rules and regulations to operate a daycare, not to mention make sure that insurance policies are in place. And on top of that, you still need the space and staffing to pull it off.
Some companies offer discounted childcare, while others offer a subsidy to use outside childcare. Still others simply offer backup childcare if your primary caregiver is unavailable.
Clothing company Patagonia has operated an on-site childcare center at their headquarters for 33 years!
For the last five years, 100 percent of their moms return to work after maternity leave. The center takes care of babies and toddlers, and even provides after-school care for school-aged children who can be bused there directly after their classes.
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4. Paid Sabbaticals
Sabbaticals are popular in the academic world, but not nearly as popular in the private sector. There are, however, a few companies that will allow employees to take several weeks off. In some cases, they companies continue to pay their employees. In others, it's a mix of full- and part-time pay.
Zillow allows its employees to take a six-week sabbatical if they've been there for at least six years, and can do so again every six years after that. The first three weeks are paid, but the next three are unpaid.
Other companies put constraints on how you can use that time. Patagonia has an environmental internship program that allows employees up to two months of paid time away as long as they spend that time working for an environmental group.
If you're an employee of Airbnb, you can get a $2,000 annual stipend to travel anywhere in the world!
5. Continuing Education
When I worked at Northrop Grumman Corporation, they offered to pay for higher education as long as I committed to working at the company for at least two years after graduation.
Starbucks offers a “College Achievement Plan” to any eligible U.S. employee who works more than 20 hours a week. It's a collaboration with Arizona State University and its online program. There is also a Pathway to Admission program that expands on the College Achievement Plan and gives employees an opportunity to qualify for admission to Arizona State University (ASU).
Sometimes, it’s a mix of both company-provided benefits and your own personal strategies that help eliminate the student debt. I graduated with $30,000-plus in student loans that I slowly paid off through diligent saving and budgeting tools.
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6. Student Loan Reimbursement
If you're an employee of PricewaterhouseCoopers, you could get a $1,200-per-year benefit as part of their Student Loan Paydown program. It's “just” $100 a month, but that extra payment can go a long way towards eliminating your student loan debt.
All of Those Other Awesome Employee Benefits
Countless start-ups now offer a whole host of perks that don't show up on your paycheck, but can improve your quality of life. These employee benefits may include free food and drinks (both alcoholic and not), car washes, massages, chiropractic care, gym memberships, personal training, and more, as well as free company products and swag. If that company is an airline like Southwest, that means occasional free flights for your friends and family, too. If it’s the Walt Disney Company, it may mean theme park admissions.