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Leadership

Beyond Foosball: Office Perks That Employees Actually Want

Release the doves!

[Illustration: Ty Dale]

VC–funded startups have long been known for their cushy amenities, such as foosball tables and free lunch, but a poll of more than 100 directors and managers in Fast Company’s Most Creative People and Most Innovative Companies communities sheds light on the way businesses—both new and old—are rethinking the art of keeping their employees happy. More than 70% of respondents, from companies as varied as GE to Genius, say that their employees value experiences over things, or at least a combination of the two. Some stick with the tried-and-true—regular happy hours, generous parental leave—and others are getting creative, offering volunteer days and round-trip plane tickets to anywhere in the world. Here are a few standouts:

"We have quirky celebrations when we meet our goals. These have included releasing doves, smashing Greek plates, and, of course, lots of parties." — Melanie Perkins, cofounder and CEO, Canva

"Everyone [has] access to free private sessions from a professional therapist or coach on a weekly basis." — Lisa Kennelly, director of marketing, Clue

"We have a series where anyone can volunteer to lead a workshop on a subject they have some expertise in. Topics have [ranged from] linocut printmaking to funeral directing to sushi making. [At] our annual retreat, David Byrne was a guest speaker and joined us for lunch." — Stephanie Pereira, director of community education, Kickstarter

"We offer full-body professional massages every Friday to all employees." — Dan Harden president and CEO, Whipsaw Inc.

"One thing that feels unique to our culture is the Facebook Analog Research Lab and the Woodshop. These are on-site facilities where any employee or intern can learn how to do silk screen, take a hand-lettering or drawing class, or learn the basics of woodworking." — Margaret Gould Stewart, VP of product design, Facebook

"We incentivize employees to give back through initiatives like #TranslateBIG, where we took over a local food bank to prepare and serve meals to the Bed-Stuy community where Biggie Smalls was born." — Steve Stoute, founder and CEO, Translation

"After two years, pick [an affiliated] country, and the trip is on us. After three years, take a month off to do what makes you happy—your paycheck will keep coming." — Erin Lewellen, COO, Global Citizen Year

"A sandbox. Offices with soundproof, padded walls for the rough days. Book club. Daily meditation." — Heather Gordon, brand manager, Acorns

"We [offer] an employee-challenge grant where REI gives an employee $300 in products for any outdoor activity, as long as it’s a challenge—backpacking in the High Sierras, summiting Mount Everest, running a marathon in Thailand, et cetera." — Chris Gardner, director of total rewards, REI

A version of this article appeared in the September issue of Fast Company magazine.

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