By Cindy PermanÂ Â
But some companies have figured out that if you get a little creative, and offer a few extra perks, it can go a long way toward keeping employees happy â€“ and more productive.
In this day and age of cutbacks and downsizing, thatâ€™s pretty extraordinary.
Maybe itâ€™s a cool gathering place, with bean-bag chairs, couches or cafÃ© seating, that makes people excited to go to meetings â€“ not to mention it keeps them from talking loudly in front of other co-workersâ€™ desks!
Or maybe itâ€™s not a physical thing but a creative policy like offering employees unlimited vacation time or flexible hours, with the caveat that they have to deliver above-average results, or theyâ€™re out.
Oh, and if you think itâ€™s just the private companies having all that fun, you’d be wrong: Half of them are public.
Here are Six Cool Companies to Work For, what makes them cool, and the answer to the question youâ€™re dying to ask: Are they hiring?
The Boston Beer Company
The Boston Beer Company, which makes Samuel Adams beers and trades under the stock symbol â€œSAM,â€ wants its employees to know and love its products. And what better way to do that than to give them away for free?
All 700 employees nationwide get two free cases of a beer of their choosing, every month. And, at headquarters in Boston, monthly â€œCake and Beerâ€ parties are held to celebrate the birthdays of employees born that month.
Guess where those parties are held? In â€œSammyâ€™s Place,â€ the bar thatâ€™s in the lobby of the headquarters building. (pictured at left)
And yes, theyâ€™re hiring! They have openings in sales, accounting, engineering, IT and more. Go to SamuelAdams.com and click on â€œCompanyâ€ and â€œCareersâ€ to check listings.
The Fairfax, Va., offices of ThinkGeek, an online retailer that sells all kinds of geekily cool stuff, from spycam pens to zombie plush toys and magical unicorn gum, are basically one giant playground.
Playing with toys is just part of their job, whether itâ€™s reviewing a gadget to sell or inventing one from scratch.
â€œItâ€™s an office full of unicorns, zombies, games and toys,â€ says Andrea Owens, a merchandising assistant.
They also have games and other recreational things to help them let loose. One room is chocked full of videogames, arcade-style games, a foosball table, guitars â€“ and even a â€œclaw machineâ€ (pictured at left) â€“ where you can drop a claw down into a pile of plush toys and try to scoop one out. Oh, and their holiday party last year was a four-day trip to San Juan, Puerto Rico.
â€œI like ThinkGeek because I can wear my GhostBusters uniform to work and get high fives,â€ said Chris Mindel, a product buyer or â€œMerchant Monkey,â€ as they call them at ThinkGeek. (And yes, that really happened. It was one day last week.)
And yes, theyâ€™re hiring! Everything from customer-service representatives to an e-commerce purchasing manager. Check listings at http://www.thinkgeek.com/jobs .Â
Ning, based in Palo Alto, Calif., helps users create custom-branded social networks such as Amy Poehlerâ€™s network to get girls into politics and a 500,000-strong community for the â€œTwilightâ€ teen vampire movies.
Like other Silicon Valley dotcoms, Ning offers catered lunch, unlimited snacks and other perks, but what employees like about working there is the horizontal hierarchy. What that means is that everyone, no matter whether theyâ€™re right out of college or have 20 years experience, collaborate together.
â€œI like that, at age 25, I work alongside the executive team and the CEO,â€ said Jason Rand, a policy associate at Ning. â€œThey literally sit across from me, they know who I am and what Iâ€™m working on,â€ he said.
Junior employees get to make important contributions â€“ not just do the grunt work â€“ and the company has a â€œno limitâ€ vacation policy, which means they can take as much as they want, as long as they get their job done.
And yes, theyâ€™re hiring! Mostly engineering types with computer science backgrounds, but they also have an associate community advocate position open. Check listings at http://about.ning.com/careers .
And, if you thought it was cool to work with gadgets all day, wait until you see what goes on behind closed doors! The break room at the Union Square store in Manhattan is loaded with two giant high-def TVs, videogames and a foosball table, explains the storeâ€™s general manager, Amy Adoniz. And after-hours, they have videogame competitions and let employees watch big events like the SuperBowl on the giant TVs in the store â€” just like in the â€œ40-Year Old Virgin!â€
Adoniz says she enjoys working there so much that her family calls her â€œMiss Best Buy.â€
Once a year, the store sends 2,000 supervisors to Phoenix to test out every single new gaming system and gadget for the holidays. And at corporate, they have a â€œResults Only Work Environmentâ€ policy: You can make your own hours as long as you get your work done.
And yes, theyâ€™re hiring! Theyâ€™re hiring across the board â€“ Geek Squad, security, warehouse and sales floor â€” for the holidays. Check listings at www.bestbuy.com/jobs.
W.L. Gore & Associates
Gore, which makes everything from GORE-TEX weather-resistant fabric to surgical meshes, is a technology-driven company and doesnâ€™t believe in the traditional corporate hierarchy.
Everyone is considered an associate, from the newest hires to those who have been at the company for decades. Instead of bosses, they have leaders, who â€œemerge naturally based on their ability to gain the respect of their peers and attract followers,â€ explains Jenny Maher, an associate on the enterprise-communications team.
â€œWe donâ€™t need to operate through chains of command,â€ Maher explains. â€œInstead, we can go directly to the people who can help us the most with a certain decision or project.â€
And yes, theyâ€™re hiring! Maher said the companyâ€™s strongest growth areas are in Arizona, where its medical-products division is headquartered, and the Asia-Pacific region. Check www.gore.com/careers for listings.
The company, which trades under the symbol “GOOG,” also offers free food, with stocked pantries and a whopping 16 free cafes at headquarters in Mountainview, Calif. Plus, creative work spaces â€“ from bean-bag chairs in a big atrium in Dublin to hammock chairs in Zurich.
The idea is to keep people being creative â€“ and collaborative. If an employee has to drive off campus for lunch, theyâ€™re not interacting â€“ and innovating â€“ with their co-workers. They also have whatâ€™s called â€œ20 Percent Time,â€ where employees get to spend 20 percent of their time working on a project based on whatever theyâ€™re passionate about. Thatâ€™s where Gmail and Google News both came from.
And, itâ€™s one of the few places where goats mow â€“ and, ahem, fertilize â€“ the lawn: It costs the same as a mowing service, but itâ€™s more environmentally friendly and it certainly makes the view out the window more interesting!
And yes, theyâ€™re hiring â€“ aggressively! The focus is on sales and engineering jobs. Check listings at www.google.com/jobs .