Some Massachusetts companies offer their employees more than the standard benefits. Here are 10 notable perks offered in firms in the state.
A workout on the Boss’s dime
As a single mother and a full-time assistant project manager at the mechanical construction firm J.C. Cannistraro, Meghan Ratnam has always found it difficult to fit exercise into her schedule. But when Central Rock Gym opened next door to her employer’s Watertown office earlier this year and Cannistraro offered its 100-plus workers free memberships, Ratnam’s problem was solved.
Now, she works out over lunch, without taking any time away from her son at home. So many of her co-workers have done the same, in fact, that the gym staff has started referring to them as the “Cannistraro Crew.”
The gym perk came about in response to employee demand for workout space. That the company ended up offering memberships to a rock-climbing gym adds a “cool factor,” said marketing director Tom Palange: “It does have a bit of a buzz.”
Sneaking out early, with the boss’s approval
When Scott Signore founded Matter Communications in 2003, he needed to figure out how to lure smart and creative people to work for his new public relations firm. His answer? Offer them plentiful opportunities not to work at all.
Every Friday from Memorial Day to Labor Day, all employees who are caught up on their work are allowed to leave at 2 p.m. Come winter, the entire office shuts down from Christmas to New Year’s. Employees generally stay connected to the office by phone or e-mail, but unless something urgent comes up, they are encouraged to truly embrace their time off, Signore said.
On Friday afternoons in the summer, many employees at the Newburyport headquarters head straight to the beach. Account associate Melissa Garabedian has used the opportunity to soak up some sun, drive up to Maine, and visit college friends.
“It’s a great incentive to work hard all week,” she said. “I try to take advantage of it at all costs.”
How’s my health, coach?
Employees at Weymouth’s South Shore Hospital spend their days tending to patients’ health. So about four years ago, the hospital decided it was time to take care of employees’ health, too.
The result is a comprehensive wellness program featuring one-on-one coaching with health counselors. Four times a year, employees and coaches work together to set health goals, outline plans for achieving them, and assess progress. These personalized sessions are supplemented with free on-site yoga classes, weight-loss programs, and mindfulness seminars.
The goal is not to create a staff of gym addicts, said Bob Wheeler, vice president of human resources, but to give everyone a chance to meet their individual goals.
“Not everyone is going to be a marathon runner or a triathlete,” he said. “You want people to be the best they can be for themselves.”
Work late, eat right
Employees at the law firm Foley Hoag don’t have to make restaurant reservations if they want to dine on miso-glazed roasted salmon or pork loin with maple-apple mustard. They just have to work late.
Every night from 7 to 8, the company cafeteria serves up a menu of dinner options, all free of charge for those still in the office. There are also an extensive salad bar and grab-and-go meals for those who would rather eat at their desks.
On an average night, as many as 75 of the firm’s nearly 390 Boston employees take advantage of the offer. What started out as a convenience for employees has become an important part of the company’s culture, said Julie Hackett, the firm’s director of human resources.
The dinner option came about during the firm’s early days in the Seaport District, when there were few dining choices nearby. Today, after-hours employees have plenty of eateries to choose from, but Foley Hoag has kept up its tradition of making working late a little bit more palatable.
A salad bar right outside the door
Every day during the summer, Jacqueline Falla makes a giant lunchtime salad for the employees at Elaine Construction to share. The director of client services doesn’t have to go far to get ingredients: The Newton construction firm grows lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, and more on a triangular wedge of land next to the front door.
The organic garden is the inspiration of Donald Wexler, an Elaine project manager and Vermont farmer. Many employees are concerned about pesticide use and genetic modifications in store-bought produce, and for the past seven years, they have shared in the nano-farm’s yield.
Whatever doesn’t go into the daily salad can be taken home. One worker made pickles from the extra cucumbers; Falla and several others have been turning the abundant basil into pesto.
“Having a tiny bit of control over our food source has felt very empowering to our employees,” Falla said.
For their listening pleasure
Earbuds are not a common sight at audio technology company iZotope. That’s because music people — and iZotope’s employees are pretty much all music people — know that “they make music sound horrible,” said chief operating officer Brian McQuoid.
Instead, workers at the company’s Kendall Square offices are more likely to be sporting high-end headphones provided by their employer.
The high audio standards extend beyond headphones. Some employees have professional-quality speakers at their desks, guitars and keyboards are scattered throughout the office, and a spare room has been converted into a makeshift recording studio. Next year, the company plans to move into a new space outfitted with a full-blown studio and multiple listening rooms.
Because the company develops audio software, these features are as much a professional necessity as an employee perk, McQuoid said. But they still make iZotope the ideal workplace for music fanatics.
“If you’re a developer or you want to be in marketing but music is your passion,” he said, “what better place to work?”
Around lunchtime, people near the Moakley Courthouse might see a curious sight: professional men and women strolling down Northern Avenue toting kayaks or stand-up paddleboards.
These midday paddlers are staffers from nearby EnerNOC, a clean energy company that offers aquatic equipment to employees who want to get out on the harbor during a break or after hours.
“The fresh air really makes a difference,” said principal engineer and occasional lunchtime kayaker Thom Nichols. “It is a great incentivizer to get out of the office.”
The program started in the spring, when the company moved from downtown Boston to the waterfront. Chief executive Tim Healy wanted to do something for his employees to commemorate the move, and kayaks and paddleboards seemed a fitting choice.
To get the equipment, employees simply sign a liability waiver, check out a boat or board at the front desk, and walk up the street to the nearest entry point to the water.
Child-care providers, house cleaners, even dog sitters are but a single phone call away for employees of Worcester-based Reliant Medical Group. The medical practice offers its more than 2,000 employees free access to a service called Resources on Call to help them take care of everyday tasks that might otherwise distract them from their work.
Employees call the service and describe what they need done, and within a few days they receive a list of vendors including availability, contact details, and price quotes.
The requests don’t even have to be their own. When executive assistant Sandra Ampong’s son and daughter-in-law in Atlanta were expecting their first baby, Ampong asked Resources on Call to find child-care options. The service responded with an extensive spreadsheet outlining providers, fees, waiting periods, and more.
“The amount of work that they sent to me,” she said, “it was unbelievable.”
And Ampong only had to pick up the phone once to get it all done.
Forget the conference room, how about a day care?
These days, Ben Hendricks finds himself taking circuitous routes around the office of his Boston public relations firm, CHT Group. His objective? To visit his infant son, Hudson, in the company’s in-house nursery.
“I find ways to make detours around the office so I can just peek in,” the senior vice president said.
The idea for the nursery came about this spring when both Hendricks’s wife and CHT vice president Kate Trainor-Cotter were pregnant for the first time. The expectant parents consulted with the firm’s president, and before long, a lunchroom had been converted into a child-care space.
The company paid for the renovations and furnishings, including rocking chairs, changing tables, and a mural featuring the names of the inaugural baby boys. The parents and the firm split the cost of a full-time nanny.
As more of the company’s 16 employees get married and start families, the nursery is expected to become more crowded. For now, Hendricks is delighted to have child care — and his son — at work: “It’s hard to even explain how absolutely fantastic it is.”
A two-wheeled commute
Every day when he finishes work in Chinatown, NaviNet digital marketing manager Shawn O’Brien grabs a Hubway bicycle for his 6-mile commute home to Somerville.
“I actually get home faster than if I was to take the T and the bus home,” he said.
O’Brien’s healthy and efficient commute is made possible by his employer, which offers its workers free memberships in the bike-share program. In fact, the health care communications company was so eager to offer the benefit that it contacted Hubway before the service was even rolled out to corporate accounts and volunteered to be a guinea pig.
Members get free 30-minute blocks of time per bike, a structure that has spurred some employees to make a game out of beating the system, riding for 20 minutes and then switching bikes.
“I don’t think anyone at NaviNet has ever actually paid for Hubway,” said Steven Rotman, vice president of human resources at NaviNet. “They’re a pretty creative bunch.”