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August 6, 2015

5 zany work perks from Silicon Valley’s big hitters

Why a move into the tech industry comes with surprising benefits.

By Jimmy Nicholls

Silicon Valley is not just about disrupting technology, it also frequently seeks to disrupt all facets of life, including employee-staff relations.

Recently Netflix, the film and TV streaming company, decided to let new mums and dads take "as much time as they want" off work during the first year after the birth or adoption of a child.

This is not the first time that the folks in the Valley have decided to rewrite the rules of work, and don’t expect it to be the last. Here’s some of the wackier perks the technologists have come up with:

1. Google mooted four-day work week

Whilst American firms are famous for their lengthy hours and a Protestant work ethic, Google founder Larry Page believes that working Monday to Friday involves one day too many.

Speaking at a summit last July, the search engine’s chief executive said: "The idea that everyone needs to work frantically to meet people’s needs is just not true. Most people like working, but they’d also like to have more time with their family or to pursue their own interests."

Since then Google has not revealed plans to let their staff have Friday off, perhaps because Page’s business partner Sergey Brin is less enthused by the idea.

2. Facebook built its own high street

In the US it is not so uncommon for firms to create company towns, with entire neighbourhoods revolving around a given outfit.

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Silicon Valley has yet to go quite that far, but in 2011 Facebook decided to move its campus into a remote part of Menlo Park, a town on the southern edge of San Francisco Bay. As a result its staff were left with access to little else but fast food outlets.

As a result the social media firm decided to build their own high street, complete with a coffee shop, barber’s, dry cleaner’s, doctor’s surgery, gym and video arcade. As one wag quipped, it could well be called Zucker Burg.

3. Apple freezes your eggs for you

Gender diversity is now an obligatory concern for any self-respecting technology firm to have, so much so that many of Silicon Valley’s luminaries have released stats on the matter.

Partly in response to this Apple now offers to pay if women choose to freeze their eggs, allowing them to defer child-rearing until later in their careers. Reports at the time stated that the iPhone creator would pay for two rounds of egg freezing, at a value of about $20,000 (£13,000).

Whether the perk, which was introduced last October, will encourage more women to join high-pressure Silicon Valley firms, remains to be seen.

4. Airbnb pays for your travel

Appropriately enough for a company that lets people rent out their spare rooms to tourists and travellers, Airbnb offers staff $2,000 credit on Airbnb listings.

Given that the firm operates out more than 190 countries (the United Nations recognises more than 200) and in over 34,000, it leaves an impressive array of places for employers to visit.

Other benefits at the company include so-called Formal Fridays, a twist on the standard Casual Fridays common to other corporations.

5. Weebly houses own labyrinth

Whilst the website building firm Weebly may not be in the same league as the other firms on the list it has a rather unique perk: its own set of Churchill War Rooms-style tunnels.

Based in one of the older parts of San Francisco, Weebly’s headquarters can trace its history back to the Prohibition-era of the US. As such the office has a secret meeting room, rather unimaginatively hidden behind a bookcase.

Apparently visitors can access the room by press The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, a public leak which might make it a rather less suitable place for storing booze.

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