Washington state employers aren’t required to offer health benefits. Or paid time off. Or free apartments. So why do companies like Brown Paper Tickets offer such awesome perks?
Brown Paper Tickets has a pretty impressive slate of benefits for its 91 employees. Full-timers get 100-percent paid health insurance, including medical, dental and vision. Then, there’s the life insurance and the employee assistance program and the free snacks and lunches.
But those aren’t the only perks the Seattle-based online ticketing company provides. All employees get six weeks of vacation from day one — no waiting period. And if you need a place to stay during your vacation, the company loans out its apartments in New York City and Edinburgh, Scotland, for free. There’s also a Seattle apartment, which employees often use for visiting relatives.
Washington state employers aren’t required to offer health benefits. They’re also not required to give workers paid time off. And they’re certainly not required to loan out apartments for free. So why do companies like Brown Paper Tickets offer such awesome perks?
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If you’re in the tech world and you don’t have a game console or a Ping-Pong table in your office, you’re not a contender for these candidates, says Eric Schudiske, the public relations and social-media manager at Geocaching. People want to immerse themselves in a company’s culture, and “work hard, play hard” is pervasive in high tech, he adds.
Creating a unique culture is another reason why companies offer quirky perks. In addition to health benefits and 401(k) matching, Seattle-based Geocaching offers unlimited reimbursement for ski lift tickets, as well as the Ping-Pong table and an Xbox.
“We want our people to get outside, explore and have adventures and then come back to Geocaching headquarters and inspire our players to get outside and explore, using geocaching,” says Schudiske.
Along those same lines, the company also provides a gear closet filled with outdoor supplies, including tents, sleeping pads, snow shoes and inflatable kayaks. The closet is a free resource for employees who want to check out a new sport or hobby, says Schudiske.
These perks cost money, of course. Brown Paper Tickets estimates that it spends about $900,000 on employee benefits every year, not counting the apartments. But in addition to attracting good people and creating an interesting company culture, cool and unusual benefits help with employee retention.
“One of the largest costs you have, especially in a smaller company, is hiring and training and bringing someone up to speed,” Schudiske says. “So, if our benefits allow people to be thrilled to come to work, these benefits pay for themselves.”
Some companies offer unique benefits because its core values demand it. At Slalom Consulting, “do right, always” is fundamental to the company’s ethos. And the company has long felt that extending benefits and opportunities to all employees, regardless of sexual orientation, was the right thing to do.
Last month, the Human Rights Campaign honored the Seattle-based company for its commitment to diversity and inclusivity. Slalom joins Bank of America, General Mills and Boeing as one of 366 companies to earn a perfect score on the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index.
It’s the second year Slalom has been included in the index, which ranks corporate policies and practices concerning LGBT employees. But it’s the first time Slalom has gotten a score of 100. To earn it, the company removed exclusions from its health benefits around transgender care.
“Our value proposition is: Come here, do great things, work with great people and have a lot of fun,” says Dave Gartenberg, chief human resources officer at Slalom. “And supporting that, you do need to have the right benefits in place. We should do it because it’s the right thing to do for our people.”