My Best Unexpected Work Perks

I’ve worked with some pretty unique companies since leaving Cal, and some of the perks have made a few of them very difficult to leave. 401(K)’s (with matches!) are a wonderful thing, and of course covered healthcare is a must, but companies are getting much more creative with their offerings to stay competitive with the Googles and Facebooks of the world.

And no, I’m not talking about an in-house chef, nor a fancy in-office masseuse. Some of these perks are great material items, but some have made major changes in my quality of life over the years.

While there’s nothing more important than finding your right fit at work, there are a few ways a company can sweeten the pot in a meaningful way. Here are the best ones I’ve personally come across at work:

Kindle Paperwhite + Unlimited EBooks

To this day, this is easily my favorite and most-used tangible benefit from a former employer. The founders of one of my prior startups firmly believed in the power of reading, and I can’t say I blame them! On day one, employees were given a brand spankin’ new Kindle Paperwhite, along with instructions on how to request eBooks on the company’s account.

Yes, my boss was able to judge review every book on my list, but it brought our company closer. We spent so many lunches going around talking about what we were reading, and trying to avoid spoilers. We even had a channel on the company’s Slack just for book recommendations. And even though the company was acquired and parted ways with most of its employees (point one, stock options), it’s still a regular part of my life now.

My Kindle has been by my side for every flight, every business trip, and every quiet lunch. Now I have to pay for most of my eBooks, but having something slim and light in my purse at all times means I never have to mournfully wish I had a book while waiting at the doctor’s office.

Fully Stocked Kitchen

I’ve only worked with one company that stocked their kitchen to the nines. Our amazing office manager went out of her way every week to pick up fresh bread and deli meat, and more avocados and fresh produce than any of us really deserved.

Every day for breakfast and lunch, I could make something better than I could get at any of the neighboring restaurants using just a toaster oven and a microwave. I’ve never had so much (free!) avocado toast in my life, nor such a wide assortment of teas. If you’re reading this, amazing office-manager-slash-unicorn-lady, my hat goes off to you!

Vacation Rentals

Is there anything better than a company that offers good vacation time? I can only think of one thing: a company that forces you to use it, and offers great places to stay while you do! It’s nice to not only know that the space is going to be perfect – because all of your coworkers rave about it – but also to know that you get it for free. Or, at least for an unreasonably low rate.

Cell Phones or Reimbursement Programs

Simply put, if you use your phone for work, your work should cover at least a portion of its cost. I’ve worked with two companies that did this particularly well: one which provided a standard monthly stipend to cover employees’ phone plans, and one which just said “to hell with it,” and gave employees new phones on a company plan.

One thing to consider if you use the company phone: protect your personal usage. Make sure you’re aware of any data that goes to them, whether on what your data is going towards or where you physically are. Jus’ sayin’.

Student Loan Payments

Oh yes, this is a thing. A lot of companies don’t consider it, but if you’re lucky enough, your company may be willing to put a dedicated amount towards your student loans for every month you spend with them.

Student loans can seem too big to tackle. We all know someone who’s so afraid to combat their loans that they won’t even open mail from Sallie Mae. So yes, student loans are a bitch, but an extra $50-$500 from your company every month makes paying it off that much more realistic.

(Way Too Many) Beauty Products

To all my beauty-conscious ladies and gents out there, work. for. a. beauty. company.

I’ve worked with two companies that either specialized in women’s lifestyle or marketed for the companies that produced top of the line beauty swag, and the freebies I gathered are still bankrolling my personal beauty routine today.

My first women’s lifestyle business had employees bring home products and test them out, guinea-pig style. Yes, some of them were duds, but some have been my go-to’s ever since, including:

As for the company that marketed for beauty brands, I found myself with more Nars and Buxom blushes than any lady has any reason to own – to the point that I had a give-away box at home for any friends that stopped by to rummage through before taking off. I was basically the friendly skincare fairy of my group for years.

This has a negative side effect, though, as silly as it sounds. My lucky ass was so spoiled by the free access to Shiseido and Bare Minerals that I seriously considered spending close to $100 on one skincare product.

On a related note, does anyone know a good replacement for this Shiseido cream? Asking for a friend.

In-House Investment Options

Ok, this isn’t something I’ve found anywhere else, but my current company has amazing in-house investment opportunities. The founders have a mantra when it comes to their employees: “health and wealth.”

So, work-life balance is great, sure – and that’s nothing to overlook! But the wealth aspect? They’ve really gone above and beyond here: they invest for their employees, and guarantee an 8% yield annually. That’s more than most investors earn from the stock market on average, so you better believe I’m taking advantage of that one.

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I’ve been unreasonably lucky to work with companies that offer such creative perks, and I love hearing about others! A few friends have fitness stipends, corporate gym memberships, and reimbursements for their fancy Soul Cycle classes. One friend works for a behemoth that offers cafeteria-style gourmet food for every meal. I even know of one company that offers its employees portraits of themselves in a style of their choosing. And I’d love to hear about more!

Health coverage and 401(K)’s aside, your company’s probably doing a little something extra to take care of their employees. While we’re eating and vacationing like royalty, be sure to give a quick thank-you to your HR, Office, and Executive teams! I’m sure it takes a good amount of work to spoil us so well.

 


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6 thoughts on “My Best Unexpected Work Perks

  1. My favorites were free car and gas, top of the line smart phones, laptops and occasional private jet travel. But the one that makes the difference now that I’m retired is the fact they let me work on things outside of my core responsibilities which allowed me to start 4 fun and profitable side gigs days after I retired. That freedom to prepare for retirement pays 100% of my family expenses only working two days a week. Basically they paid me to build my own exit plan.

      • Dealing with elected officials and regulatory agencies, testifying for the company when we were sued in court, and helping other company locations solve problems at their facilities were the “extra” things I volunteered to do at work that led to my consulting and legal support work side gigs in retirement. I knew my core job didn’t exist outside of a 9 to 5 full time commitment but that those extraneous side line jobs would be fun retirement pursuits. So far after two years it is working great.

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