9 Unbelievable Job Perks

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Salary and benefits are important, no doubt. But perks are nice additions to compensation at a job. Free or cheap food, the use of bikes or scooters to get from one side of a campus to another, or game rooms seem old hat at this point. Here are nine of the more interesting perks we've run across.

Bringing Fido. Some companies arrange for daycare for the kids. But what about man's best friend? At the Bolton, Ontario office of Mars Canada, a subsidiary of the U.S. chocolate maker, employees can bring along the pet, according to the company website. There are indoor facilities and an outdoor "doggie courtyard" for them, as well as free dog treats. As for cats? They probably head straight for the president's office.

Get to the school recital. One of the strains of a working parent is missing all those school plays, presentations, and other events. Taking off to connect with the kids is something many employers might tolerate but hardly encourage. Not so at toy-maker Mattel, which gives employees paid time off for such school activities, according to Marie Claire.

Jet away. Planning on a vacation but dreading getting there? A long drive can be a strain, but the cost of getting all the family into a plane could mean a significant hike in the gouge the getaway takes out of your bank account. Work for Southwest Airlines and you fly free, according to the company's employee benefits page. So does the spouse and kids. And committed/registered partners. It's space available, as you might expect, but the travel is also unlimited and starts on day one of employment.

Get paid to travel. As long as you're taking off, might as well reduce the financial burden a bit more. Airbnb, which facilities people renting rooms or apartments to others over the Web, offers an annual travel credit. The company's website explains that travel credit refers to coverage of bookings made through Airbnb. According to LifeHacker, employees get $2,000 a year. That's nothing compared to what Moz.com offers: $3,000 annual reimbursements for food, lodging, entertainment, and transportation, according to Forbes.com.

Unlimited vacation. Of course, if you're going to get away, it's great to have time to do so. And there are companies that follow a new benefits trend, according to CNN Money: unlimited vacation. Virgin Group has instituted it. So did Tribune Publishing, although the company rescinded the policy. A number of high tech companies followed suit -- at least in offering and not necessarily taking away -- as the blog TheMuse wrote. Of course, given that Americans only take off three-quarters of their allotted vacation time, it's yet to be clear how much the exercise will exceed the imagination.

Paging Dr. Howard, Dr. Fine, Dr. Howard. Trying to arrange appointments with doctors, labs, and other healthcare providers can be a pain. It almost always involves significant time away from work ... unless you work at networking company Cisco. Employees and their families can use the on-site medical facilities, including primary care, eye care, acupuncture, chiropractors, a pharmacy, and health coaching, as the company's website details.

Go do some good. Employees at Patagonia can make a difference in environmental causes on the company dime. They can get up to two months away to work for an environmental group while retaining pay and benefits.

Open the beer tap. RJMetrics is a data software and services company that wants to see employees be relaxed and productive. Founder Robert Moore was quoted by Upstart Business Journal as offering workers desks that can change height because "[m]ovement and change of position combat stress and break up the tension of a long work day." According to Business Insider, another way it helps lubricate creativity and productivity is with an in-house beer dispenser. Or you could work for online storage company Dropbox and partake in their end-of-week happy hours called Whisky Fridays, according to the San Francisco Business Times.

Guaranteed employment. But in uncertain economic times, maybe the best benefit is the sense that the company won't lay you off for convenience. As AOL Jobs has reported, such companies as Wegmans, The Container Store, Nugget Market, and Baptist Health South Florida, to name a few, say they have bent over backwards to avoid laying off people, even during bad recessions. In the end, keeping the paycheck may trump free vacations or after-hours beer.
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