When balmy weather beckons, Xilinx senior manager Mike Nelson goes outside and soaks up the sunshine for hours. And nobody seems to mind. "The whole campus is wireless," said Nelson...

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When balmy weather beckons, Xilinx senior manager Mike Nelson goes outside and soaks up the sunshine for hours. And nobody seems to mind.

“The whole campus is wireless,” said Nelson, who works for the San Jose, Calif., chip maker. “I’ve even done work some nice days last summer sitting out on the grass. Anywhere you go, you can surf the Internet — even during meetings, if you want to.”

Despite the economic downturn, Silicon Valley is apparently still not such a bad place to work — if you know where to go.

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Nine Bay Area companies secured spots on Fortune’s 2005 list of 100 Best Companies to Work For for everything from weekly on-site farmers markets to stock options for all new hires.

Two companies cracked the top 10 — Genentech came in No. 4, and Xilinx ranked No. 5.

Fortune magazine evaluated 356 companies across the country based on their culture and policies, relying heavily on the opinions of 350 randomly surveyed employees at each company.

Silicon Valley companies have consistently made the list, even in recent years of heavy layoffs and general malaise. But it’s not always the same companies.

Intel, which was No. 46 last year, is nowhere to be seen. Hyperion Solutions, a Santa Clara software company that also vanished from the list, will “be looking at what we can do better this year,” said a spokesman.

Hyperion, which ranked 88 on the 2004 list, hopes it will make next year’s list with its initiative giving employees $5,000 toward the purchase of a fuel-efficient car.

Hewlett-Packard, which last attained the honor in 2001, went through serious introspection when it failed to make the list last year.

A memo listing the reasons for HP’s fall from grace circulated among board members and employees, and the company said it really wanted to get on the list this year.

No go.

Electronic Arts also missed, after making it in 2003. It faced bad publicity after an animator in its Redwood City studio filed a class-action lawsuit alleging the video-game maker drives its workers to exhaustion without paying overtime.

Several of Silicon Valley’s best workplaces stood out for making it easier for employees to take care of their health.

Intuit of Mountain View encourages physical fitness by donating $1 to charities for each pound an employee sheds. The software company also makes it easier for workers to care for their teeth by sending mobile dental clinics to its larger campuses.

Adobe Systems allows employees to use its 24-hour campus fitness center, which was expanded a year ago to include an aerobics studio and treadmills with TVs.

Cisco Systems distinguished itself with its “nerd lunches,” which attract up to 200 engineers who want to dish about tech topics as they eat.

In celebration of the Academy Awards, the San Jose company’s cafes served up food with an Oscar theme, like The Last Samurai Szechuan Shrimp and Cold Mountain Meatloaf Dinner.

Xilinx, which is practically a fixture on the list after making it for several years running, gives all employees stock options when they’re hired.

Nelson, the senior manager, said that was part of the reason he joined. Since then, he has discovered he loves the stimulating and smart work environment.

One in five Xilinx employees holds a patent. Nelson earned his first patent after joining the company four years ago.

“It’s really been an environment where they promote you to express your creativity, peruse new thoughts and ideas and do interesting things, which is a great way to find happiness,” said Nelson, 47. “Being filthy rich would be nice, but being professionally fulfilled is what drew me here.”