With labor tight, firms are getting creative to attract and retain talent. Your foosball table won't cut it anymore. Here are the six most fascinating trends from the data behind Inc.'s 2019 Best Workplaces list:

A Doctor in the House

Four percent of Inc.'s Best Work­places take health care a step further by employing onsite medical providers. For some, that's easy: Steven Lee, co-founder and chief science officer of the Chicago-based Visibly, also happens to be an optometrist, which makes free eye exams for his workers pretty simple. Klein Hall, an accounting firm in Aurora, Illinois, has a life coach for one-on-one employee support and an outside therapist. (No word on whether all 22 employees would use the same therapist--which could, of course, create some serious drama.)

Life's a Beach--or Mountain

At Invoca, a Santa Barbara, California-based analytics company, employees take weekly walks to the beach. The enterprise software startup Podium sits at the base of the Wasatch Range in Lehi, Utah--and its famed light powder. That's reason enough for the company to purchase season passes for staffers to the nearby Snowbird ski resort. When the powder is deep--perhaps the accounting department does the calculation--entire departments hit the slopes before coming into work.

Work's Peak Perks
99 percent provide health insurance--and some cover the cost.
4 percent have onsite medical care.
49 percent allow employees to bring pets to work.
65 percent take employees to offsite retreats to relax and recharge.
65 percent have stress-relief programs at the office.
16 percent offer paid sabbaticals to reward length of service.

No Health Care? No Way!

Only 1 percent of the Best Workplaces don't provide health care. At one of them, Ocala, Florida-based MzeroA.com, which offers flight training, employees get gym reimbursement and access to company-paid, flat-fee partnerships with local health care practitioners, as well as a catastrophic insurance plan for emergencies.

You Deserve Some Time Off

Typically a perk for professors, a surprising 16 percent of Inc.'s Best Workplaces offer paid sabbaticals. At AdvicePeriod, an L.A.-based wealth-management firm, employees accrue a week of paid sabbatical time on each work anniversary. Once they reach year 4, they can cash in--and every time someone uses a sabbatical, his or her calendar resets.

The Pup Will See You Now

Ah, pets in the office--that classic polarizing discussion. This year's data shows that 49 percent of the Best Workplaces now allow employees to bring a pet to work. LYNC Logistics in Chattanooga, Tennessee, features a golden retriever named LeBron as its chief happiness officer. "His sole purpose is to make everyone who walks in our doors happy," says the company. Interestingly, the 4 percent of businesses on the list without a casual dress code are almost all among the segment without a pet policy. Maybe, at a certain point, you have to choose: Your dog or your suit?

Meet the VP of Chill

Sixty-five percent of our Best Workplaces hold regular stress-relief breaks--and some of them are particularly notable mental refreshers. Enigma Technologies, a data-management and intelligence company in New York City, stocks its office with musical instruments and pays for staff to book time at a local recording studio. Voorhees, New Jersey's Trinity Packaging Supply hosts table-tennis lessons with a former world champion. And at the new headquarters for United Shore, a Pontiac, Michigan-based mortgage lender, CEO Mat Ishbia, a former Michigan State hoops star, installed a full-size basketball court.

 

How Inc. Selected Its Best Workplaces

While economists quarrel over where the U.S. is in the current economic cycle and politicians fight over fiscal and monetary policy, the state of the American workplace is strong. Inc. and Quantum Workplace conducted America's largest national research effort for Best Workplaces, collecting data on nearly 2,000 com­panies. The biggest takeaway: Organizational health, as measured by employee sentiment, is at an all-time high.

The nominations included workplaces of all sizes and in all industries. Each nominated company took part in a deep employee survey, conducted by Quantum Workplace, on topics including trust, management effectiveness, perks, and confidence in the future. We gath­ered and ana­lyzed the data. Then we ranked all employers using a composite score of survey results, and came up with 346 Best Work­places.

This year, 74.2 percent of surveyed employees said they were engaged by their work--besting last year's 72.1 percent. The segment of dis­engaged workers dropped from 2.1 to 1.7 percent. Clearly, a tight labor market has allowed employers to be smarter about how to create competitive cultures.

The strongest engagement scores came from companies that prioritize the most human elements of work. These companies are leading the way in employee recognition, performance management, and diversity. It's a different playbook from a decade ago, when too many firms used the same template: free meals, open work environments, and artifacts of "fun." Unusual employee perks today include: free farm-fresh eggs and vegetables, paid newspaper subscriptions, table-tennis training with a former world champion, and a pay-it-forward allowance to show kindness to strangers. --Greg Harris, president and CEO, Quantum Workplace

From the June 2019 issue of Inc. Magazine