Paid sick days, flex time and free lunches have become rather cliché in the world of popular employee benefits. Forward-thinking employers have invented new ways to boost staff morale, productivity and happiness. Here are unique, sometimes wacky, employee perks from around the world.
Macaroon Making Classes
Where: Redwood City, California
Lifestyle-cum-tech brand Evernote, which has a glut of free and paid-for productivity tools — note taking, archiving, scanning — in its app stack, targets busy professionals who crave creative life hacks. The California-based brand is just as inventive when it comes to employee perks, offering an assortment of free classes through the Evernote Academy, an in-house learning program that promotes team building and a cohesive work culture. "Our employees are ever-learning," the company recently wrote on its Twitter account. "Evernote Academy offers team-building classes like macaroon baking." For the less sweet-toothed, Evernote organizes woodworking and pumpkin decorating sessions.
Where: Manchester, United Kingdom
Google may be famous for its funky furniture — space-age chairs, bean bags, nap pods — but UK-based web hosting company UKFast goes one better. CEO Lawrence Jones has installed a steam room at his Manchester office so employees can unwind and sweat out stress. “We’re creating an environment that rivals that of the biggest London-based tech giants," he said. After relaxing in the steam room — which lowers blood pressure and calms the body, according to research — staff can work out in the on-site gym or play a video game.
Who: Ceridian Canada
Where: Throughout Canada
Health care insurance is the No. 1 must-have benefit for workers in the United States but seldom does an employer dole out pet care too. Over the border, Ceridian Canada offers an animal insurance plan that covers up to 80 percent of veterinary bills. The human resources firm is one of the few companies to offer such a program. "We try to ensure that our employees have access to quality benefits that provide protection for all members of the family, including the four-legged ones," said Reg Kehler, the company's manager of benefits.
Marilyn Monroe Day
Who: Filtered Media
Where: Sydney, Australia
Australia already has 10 paid public holidays — more than Canada, Germany and Sweden — but one Sydney-based startup has invented three more for good measure. Filtered Media offers its 13 staff members an extra day's leave so they can commemorate Marilyn Monroe's birthday on June 1. Employees also get two paid YOLO — "you only live once" — days, taking the total to 16. "Work is a place we spend a bulk of our lives, so it must be respectful and flexible," says the company's co-founder Mark Jones. Filtered Media's paid time-off policy could catch on: Studies show a correlation between employee happiness and work vacation time.
Free Flu Injections
Who: Hetzner South Africa
Where: Durbanville, South Africa
Web hosting company Hetzner South Africa, based in Durbanville, gives staff free annual flu injections, which normally cost up to $25. The company also provides a subsidized sport and exercise program and medical aid options. Only 39 percent of employees who work in South Africa's formal sector have access to workplace medical benefits — the number drops to 3 percent for workers in the informal sector — making Hetzner's program the exception rather than the rule.
While celebrating the birthday of a Hollywood actress or making macaroons at work might seem strange, the employee benefits on this list build staff happiness and create closer relationships in the workplace.