Unique Work Environments, Philosophies, and Perks
ideas that have set some workplaces apart from the pack
KRM INFORMATION SERVICES
“We run our company on a set of values and we’re really serious about them,” KRM president and CEO Rick Olson told me, immediately segueing into a statistic. Forty-five percent of the people that leave KRM do so because they’re asked to. They find those people don’t fit with KRM’s philosophy and principles, which to most may seem radical, but you can’t argue with success. “We find this all makes things more productive, and if they truly believe in it, it makes a healthy workplace environment,” Olson added. One of Olson’s KRMites, or people in their employ, is former Stout psych professor Dr. Don Baughman. He coordinates 14 hours of healthy communication training for every new employee. “It’s the best return on investment I’ve ever made,” Olson says. KRMites are profiled by life approaches and communication styles (big-picture extrovert, emotional thinker, etc.). This lets them all know how to communicate, relate to, and understand each other. “We spend a lot of time learning, but in the long term it saves a lot of time and energy,” Olson said of conflict resolution. “We actually coach them into being blunt and noisy about the things that are most difficult to talk about.” KRM also takes pride in a work-life balance that allows employees to work from home in emergencies without docking pay or days off, and their open book management in which employees own 20 percent of the company’s stock and always know the financial status of the company. Though KRM specializes in helping companies put on seminars and webinars, Rick said “great communication is essential to any business.”
BIG DOT OF HAPPINESS
This web-based company from Menomonie is known for party planning and supplies. “We get to help people celebrate incredible life events. We take that very seriously and sincerely,” said Brenda Knutson, the customer service manager. But they inject just as much fun into their workplace culture. “We want everyone to love coming to work,” she added. Their philosophy, dubbed The Big Dot Way of Life, is immediately obvious in their office aesthetic: curved walls, bright colors, and themed rooms made unique by the employees inhabiting them. Employees are also encouraged to answer the phones emphatically and uniquely – “It’s a phenomenal Friday, this is _____” – and are given odd job titles such as Datafier of Dots (Brenda’s). As companies get larger, they often lose these touches of occupational character, but the owners of Big Dot are committed to keep things this way. They even go so far as to occasionally blindfold employees, pack them on a bus, and take them on excursions (recent ones includes the mall and Action City). “Everything is crazy and fun with us, because that’s what we’re about,” Brenda said. “We just have a blast.”
- Chesapeake Energy Among their team-building experiments have been scuba diving trips to Mexico and employee gardening (their garden takes up a whole city block).
- Ernst & Young Even though this company has branches in states that do not recognize same-sex marriage, they offer the same benefits package as opposite-sex married employees.
- F5 Networks Known for their “Beer Friday” events and massive game room, this company also offers a $100 monthly stipend to employees for alternative transportation costs.
- Google There’s a ton of perks, from laundry to stress relief, but perhaps the most out of the ordinary involve food. Lunch, dinner, and snacks for Google employees are free at any of their 16 in-house cafés, and new parents get up to $500 for takeout meals during the first three months of parenthood.
- Integrated Design Solutions Sometimes employees at this local design firm need to let off some steam, and what better than to play Rock Em Sock Em Robots, or basketball, or Nerf gun battle (some of the several in-house options)?
- Intel They offer a sabbatical program that involves eight paid weeks every seven years.
- MillerCoors A few years ago the Milwaukee brewery created an in-house bar for employees to relax and toss back some free beer after hours, and now they’re Chicago headquarters has a 16th story rooftop version.
- Netflix There’s no such thing as requesting vacation time off because there’s no set number of days, and no one keeps track of the number of days they do take off. And, reportedly, very few people take advantage of this freedom.
- Patagonia They encourage employees to take breaks outdoors so much that they even have a “boardroom” for storing surfboards.
- Qualcomm They strive to keep their employees happy and active, with options like baseball games, surfing lessons, kayak tours, whitewater rafting, bonfires, and bowling.
- Royal Credit Union This local company’s headquarters features a coffeeshop break room, nursing room for new moms, fitness center, and raisable desks for employees preferring to stand.
- SAS They’ve got two full-time artists on staff, who not only create new pieces for display throughout the building, but also pay for their own salaries by selling old paintings.
- SC Johnson Not only do they give employees lifetime memberships to the fitness center, but also has a concierge service that will handle your mail, grocery shopping, oil changes, and even standing in line for concert tickets.
- Scottrade When an employee must leave because they’re moving to another city, this company considers opening a branch in that area. They’ve already done it more than 20 times, including twice for one employee.
- Silicon Logic Engineering This local company foots the bill for employee lunches on Fridays, and rings the “Beer Thirty” bell on Friday afternoons for some wind-down time, made easier in their atrium complete with foosball and a ping-pong table.
- Umpqua Bank Employees get 40 hours of paid time every year to volunteer in the community.
- Zappos At the end of employees’ four-week training period, they are given what has come to be known as “The Offer.” That’s $1,000, plus the hourly wages so far, to quit right then and there. But the benefits of working there are so strong, very few actually accept “The Offer.”