Hardly Working? Employees at Zillow relax under a whiteboard illustration by Jason Thompson.

What makes a kickass workplace? Is it perks? Pay? Paid time off? It’s all of the above on our Best Places to Work list. The HR departments and employees of Seattle-area offices completed in-depth surveys of every aspect of their workplace, and the experts at Best Companies Group tallied the responses. The result: the region’s 34 best places to pull a paycheck. (See the full list here.)

Simply having a Ping-Pong table in the break room wasn’t enough—the top 25 companies have Call of Duty tournaments, paid sabbaticals, on-the-job mentoring, and funded volunteer vacations. And they all offer a fabulous place to spend a workday.

 

 

SEOmoz  
The Work SEO—or search engine optimization—hardly existed a decade ago, but now it makes the web, and therefore the world, go ’round. SEOmoz has become a software manufacturer and educational clearinghouse for anyone looking to control the all-important web search. Mozers split work time with poker tournaments, a Ping-Pong table, scavenger hunts, and Wii dance competitions—that is, when they’re not off using their 21 days of annual paid time off. From 401(k) contributions to stock options to a subsidized gym membership, the company delivers virtually every employee perk possible. To put it in SEO terms, they’re the very first result in a Google search for “Seriously Awesome Seattle Workplace.” The Team More than 95 staffers work from the Pike Place office, where the fit flock to an in-office rock climbing wall, and the lazier lounge on beanbag chairs. The Way In seomoz.org/about/jobs


PeopleFirm  
The Work When your whole mission is to consult at other companies, showing them how to run a tight ship, then you’d better be on the ball yourself. PeopleFirm models a happy workplace with team meals and awards for standout work—plus every staffer got a free iPad when the group scored a “Best of” ranking from Consulting magazine in 2011.  The Team The consultants at PeopleFirm can spend 12 weeks or even 12 months on a job site working on a client organization, but most migrate back to the Belltown home base on Fridays. The Way In jobs@peoplefirm.com

+PeopleFirm Perk Unlimited PTO: PeopleFirm really and truly gives its workers as many days off as they want? No limit? No lie? Yep, it’s the truth, and it requires a lot of trust. The idea is that if they treat their workers like grown-ups, they’ll make grown-up decisions. PeopleFirm consultants take an average of three or four weeks off every year, even given the free rein. The entire staff has resisted the urge to milk the policy for, say, an eight-week jaunt to Thailand. So far, that is.

 

MetLife—Financial Planning Division
The Work The planners at MetLife assess a family’s entire financial situation (and they do it without making jealous or horrified faces), then go to work on risk management, retirement planning, and insurance juggling. Their workplace is fun, but it also respects wisdom: The average age for advisors is 55. A Working on Wellness program rewards physically active employees with a dividend payment, but the planners don’t ignore the financial health they preach: 401(k) matching is available from an employee’s first day. The Team The 85 local staff members work out of Bellevue and Tacoma, where they oversee territory in Washington and Oregon. The Way In mcowman@metlife.com 

 

CRG Events
The Work The all-female executive team leads a fleet of corporate party planners, each of whom is always in a good mood. Okay, maybe they’re not all chipper, but twice-monthly Morale Committee meetings organize employee outings and awards. And why not be upbeat? When workers aren’t throwing giant conferences, business summits, and awards banquets—Microsoft is a big client—they’re taking 24 hours of paid leave to volunteer or raking in a profit-sharing bonus. The Team All 50 event planners work out of a waterfront office, and 92 percent of the staff is female. The Way In crgevents.com/who-we-are/careers-crg

+CRG Events Perk Sabbatical: After just four years on the job, CRGers score a three-week vacation, which is loaded on top of their existing vacation time. Past sabbaticals involved home-building charity work in Guatema la, getting married, moving into a new house, and taking a vacation to Vietnam.  

 

Brightlight Consulting
The Work Where do you keep your data? In a data warehouse, of course. Well, the tech practice of data warehousing is a little more complicated than that, but the technology and business intelligence consultants at Brightlight are experts. A special committee in the office oversees the publishing and educational outreach that the company does in its field, keeping everyone at the cutting edge. The bosses hand out sizable bonuses when underlings bring in clients, and IRA matching starts with the first paycheck. The Team All 47 employees work from an office in Redmond that’s within walking distance of shops and restaurants. The Way In brightlightconsulting.com/careers

 

The Mosaic Company
The Work There’s energy everywhere you look in Washington, what with our electric dams, nuclear power plants, and wind turbines, but these energy consultants don’t restrict their expertise to the Northwest—they’ve increased productivity on far-off oil rigs and organized natural gas public utilities in Michigan. And they don’t consider fossil fuel plants a masculine domain; the company is women owned and operated. Mosaic supports charitable works, even sponsoring two employees who built a school in Ghana. The Team While 41 people are based in the Renton corporate headquarters, there’s a huge amount of remote and flex work done by the consultants—and they’re rewarded with luxury hotel stays on work trips and a whopping 26 days of paid time off per year. The Way In jobs@themosaiccompany.com

 

World Famous
The Work The good news is that you don’t have to be an expert at Call of Duty to get a job at Seattle’s funky film company. The bad news is that if you do suck, you’ll be subject to your coworkers’ friendly trash talk on a near-daily basis. When they’re not blowing off steam, the team creates video special effects, movie title sequences, and memorable Washington Lottery commercials. The company is supportive of its creative types, many of whom are members of rock bands or independent filmmakers; the staff gets 21 days of vacation a year for their own pursuits. The Team The lunch table at World Famous’s Capitol Hill office holds all 15 staff members, which is key for their daily lunches. The Way In info@worldfamousinc.com

 

Zipcar
The Work Not a single staffer at the Seattle Zipcar outlet drives a personal car to work. Why would they? They run the popular car-sharing service, and they know that hourly rentals are parked all over the city. Employee appreciation is all over the place: Weekly breakfasts are for everyone, but the hardest workers can snag Caught in the Act quarterly awards or be named Zipster of the Year. The Team The 21 staffers in the downtown Seattle office know where all the Zipcars are parked downtown (and they especially love the Audi A3s), but don’t worry—they’re careful not to book them all at the same time. The Way In zipcar.com/about/jobs

 

Substantial 
The Work When this software company constructs programs, they’re not necessarily for the small screen—one recent project involved making 10-by-12-foot interactive walls for Citibank branches. The group also manages digital strategies and builds smaller applications, like the traditional mobile and web types. The front door to the office is a giant sheet of metal, embodying the Substantial name, but not everything is heavy: A DJ station made of reclaimed Oregon fir is suspended from the ceiling inside. The Team In the office overlooking Cal Anderson Park in Capitol Hill, there are 50 workers to dance to what the DJ is spinning; they can head to the roof deck if they aren’t feeling the tunes. The Way In substantial.com/company/jobs

 

Image: Andrew Waits
Signal the Frog GPS technology meets the outdoors at Groundspeak.

10 Groundspeak
The Work If you’re ever lost, hope you have a Groundspeak staffer in your car. As overseers of the geocaching community, they’re quick with a GPS. The recreational treasure hunting permeates the Fremont offices, where workers work off their daily catered lunches by climbing, skiing, hiking, and geocaching in their spare time. Every employee has received a bonus in the past five Decembers. The Team There are 70 in the Seattle office just off the Burke-Gilman trail, but they’re not always there: The Lackey Evolution program sends employees to U.S. and international geocaching events for free. The Way In groundspeak.com/jobs.aspx

+Groundspeak Perk Unlimited Free Ski Lift Tickets: Go skiing, buy a ticket, bring back your receipt, and get reimbursed: It’s no wonder there are a lot of prayers for snow at Groundspeak. Even trips as far afield as Whistler or Europe are covered, along with cross-country trail passes for the fearful of heights.


11 Sila Solutions Group
The Work The business and technology consultants at Sila love their gigs so much that they rush to refer their friends for open positions. Of course, that might also be because referring staffers and the new hires are treated with a trip to Las Vegas, Hawaii, or Mexico. When they’re not wading through the intricacies of aircraft network security or reorganizing a Fortune 500 company, they’re kicking the ball around on the company team, Sila Soccer FC. But it’s not all sports and travel: The furiously philanthropic company partners with Special Olympics Washington, Big Brothers, Big Sisters, and Seattle Works. The Team The Tukwila office is one of three national locations and houses 62. The Way In silasg.com/careers

 

12 Impinj
The Work Imagine you’re Walmart (just roll with it). Do you know where your millions of pieces of clothing inventory are? You would, actually, because many are tagged with tiny chips made by this Seattle company. The chips allow each Big Bird T-shirt and pink fuzzy slipper to be tracked through radio frequency identification (RFID). It’s like a GPS system on a very small scale. Impinj also uses its chips on the shoes of marathon runners and on Coke freestyle machines, which automatically measure syrup levels. Employee perks include on-the-spot monetary rewards and personalized Jones Sodas for work well done, but in the middle of the office is something even better: a company nap room. The Team Tucked next to the Fremont bridge, the Seattle headquarters holds just over 100 workers. The Way In impinj.com/careers

 

13 Evergreen Home Loans
The Work The CEO of this Bellevue company has been at the helm for a quarter century, meaning he’s handled home loans at times when they were considered a godsend, a necessity, and even a curse. The company has weathered every mortgage storm by emphasizing education and ethics, but the team itself stays chill with monthly visits from a masseuse. The Team Evergreen has 225 employees in 19 branch offices from Kahului, Hawaii, to Clatskanie, Oregon, but there are 150 workers in King County. The Way In evergreenhomeloans.com


14 Zillow
The Work Everything you wanted to know about your neighbor’s house is on Zillow, a website that will offer an estimated market value for any abode on the block. Turns out a lot of people are house shopping, or morbidly curious about foreclosure listings—the web company recently added a fourth floor of offices. Staffers are fed with treats of varying healthiness: There is free espresso, a game room, and organic M&Ms. Discussion of Zillow’s stock price isn’t allowed in the open office, even though employees get stock options, so November’s precipitous drop did little to temper morale. The Team There’s an expansive waterfront view from the Second Avenue office, where all 370 workers sit in an open floor plan. The Way In zillow.com/jobs 

Zillow Perk Hack Week: Twice a year, Zillow workers put away their assignments and go to town on whatever they like for a full five days. Since the company started giving employees free rein in May 2011, several of the informal “hack” projects have turned into real products, like the iPad app and Zillow’s Draw Your Own Search feature. But not every Hack Week endeavor is quite so serious: Last year an enterprising staffer used his time to mount a video camera above the office Starbucks espresso machine, so everyone could monitor the lines from his or her own desk.

 

15 Novinium
The Work Our city’s power cables aren’t getting any younger, but this Seattle start-up can perform a nip-and-tuck procedure that takes years off—or rather extends their life by up to 40 years. The workforce is diverse in age and background, made up of journeymen line workers, technicians, managers, and directors. Stock options and spot awards are available to every employee, and the group recognizes silly holidays like Pi day and International Star Wars Day. The Team Only 27 of the staff work from the Federal Way headquarters; about 100 more work around North America on cable jobs. The Way In novinium.com/employment.aspx 

Image: Andrew Waits
Best-Laid Travel Plans A coffee conference at Expedia headquarters

 

16 206
The Work There are many levels to the “creative development” offered by 206. It ranges from traditional PR and web design to qualitative analysis of a company’s social media (they’ll tell you when you’re tweeting well) and event production. During the 2012 election, the company turned NYC’s Rockefeller Plaza into a carnival of patriotic games, where visitors could follow electoral counts on the skating rink map and get a picture with a President Obama cutout. The Team There are about 40 humans and a few dogs in the downtown Seattle offices, and both species call it a week around 4pm on Friday for a full-office happy hour. The Way In 206inc.com/careers

206 Perk 206 Gives 40: Employees can use 40 hours a year on any kind of philanthropic endeavor. Last year some of the web designers made a website for the Music for Marriage Equality campaign, and others took a service trip to South Africa.  

 

17 Cypress
The Work The boutique firm designs mobile apps and websites, and the group built the platform that allowed Xbox Live users to stream Fox TV shows. When the company behind Jameson whiskey came knocking, Cypress set up an event management system for shindigs like their Bartenders Ball. In the office bar, however, the drink of choice is beer—the Kegerator holds a different brand of beer every month. The Team There are 60 employees working and drinking out of the Pioneer Square office. The Way In cypressconsulting.net/pages/careers/index 

 

18 Queen Anne Healthcare
The Work The staff of this rehab center says this workplace is more like a cruise ship than a health center; the housekeepers, nurses, doctors, and chefs all manage the recovering patients staying there. The women-led staff has such varied backgrounds that Queen Anne’s diversity day meal has grown into Diversity Month, where each continent gets a week of themed potluck meals. For the rest of the year, cultural calories come through weekly Waffle Wednesdays. In an industry known for its high turnover, less than 10 percent of the workforce chooses to leave Queen Anne every year. The Team At full capacity, 120 patients are treated by 88 Queen Anne staff members. The Way In queenannehealthcare.com/careers

 

19 University of Phoenix, Western Washington Campus
The Work The nationwide university has more locations (115) than degree programs (though it has more than 50 of those), but the Tukwila campus offers in-person teaching to make the experience more personal. The administrators enjoy regular Wii game breaks, access to bike trails, and, naturally, tuition assistance. The Team Though the university employs 12,500 nationwide, the Tukwila area is home to a cozy 37 staffers. The Way In phoenix.edu/about_us/employment


20 Data I/O Corporation
The Work The Redmond company has been making the machines that program computer chips since before many of us had even heard of computers or chips (or were born); founded in 1972, they now program microcontrollers in cars, make software for semiconductors, and do technology consulting. The Team Many of the 53 staff members telecommute or work unusual hours. The Way In dataio.com/company/careeropportunities.aspx

Data I/O Corporation Perk ”Biggest Loser” Competition: Staffers compete several times a year in a weight-loss contest, likely necessary given the company’s quarterly pub events and monthly BBQs. 

 

21 Projectline 
The Work Projectline’s three founders met while consulting for Microsoft, then joined forces to create a boutique destination for their marketing and business savvy. That small company has since gone global, and the firm has opened offices in Philadelphia, Toronto, and London. Back at home base, employees are allowed $1,500 per year for professional development. The money doesn’t stop flowing: Workers can apply for two $3,500 grants to fund a volunteer vacation. The Team The 127 Seattle employees are relocating to a Smith Tower office in January. The Way In projectlineinc.com/home/about/careers

 

22 Guidant Financial 
The Work Thinking about cashing in your 401(k) to fund a business start-up? The financial advisors at Guidant don’t think that’s so crazy; they’ve managed the processes for individuals in all 50 states, helping retirement funds turn into shops like Dogtopia Pet Care in Nashville, Coastal Coffee Roasters in South Carolina, and Urban Yoga Spa in downtown Seattle. When they’re not carefully extricating cash from the death grip of IRAs and 401(k)s, Guidant staffers rev up in their Xbox room, chill down in the office Zen room, or just kick back to enjoy 100 percent–funded medical, dental, and vision benefits. The Team The Bellevue office houses all 70 employees, but clients are countrywide. The Way In guidantfinancial.com/about/jobs

Guidant Financial Perk Guidant Olympics: Yes, just like that episode of The Office. Every summer for an entire week, the first hour of the workday is taken over with events that don’t quite make the regular Olympics: Real Angry Birds (catapulting kickballs into shipping boxes) and Stick the Velcro Balls to the CEO. Trash talk, a team draft, and a medal ceremony round out the bonding experience.

  

Image: Andrew Waits
Almost Vacation A break room at Expedia might as well be the lido deck.

23 Expedia
The Work Though the group of travel websites began as a wing of Microsoft, it  was sold and then spun off and is now a thriving business of its own, employing almost 5,000 across the U.S. Headquarters holds almost half of them, where they run expedia.com and hotwire.com, as well as other booking and travel sites. Employees stay tied to home base with stock options and bonus incentives, but it is a travel company, after all: Everyone gets hotel discounts for their own vacations. The Team When they’re not dreaming of faraway travel, staff at the downtown Bellevue office can take laptops to the Wi-Fi enabled patio. The Way In expediajobs.com

Expedia Perk Leisure Travel Reimbursement: From year one on the job at Expedia, employees get extra cash for their own trips: $250 annually until they’ve been around three years, and then it bumps up to $500, and eventually $750. The benefit is extremely popular, but any staff member who fails to use it will get a friendly reminder from HR. 

 

24 Bridge Partners
The Work Anything middle management needs—a product launched, a revenue stream created—can be done by this virtual organization of consultants. Coworkers are linked more through technology than by physical workspace, but when consultants are in the office, massages are sometimes offered before meetings. The Team Few of the 83 staff work from the Eastlake office; most toil from home or a client site. The Way In bridgepartnersconsulting.com/careers

 

25 Sleep Country USA 
The Work Employees own this mattress emporium, whose success is due to the universal need for a good night’s sleep. The local staff is made up of sales reps who help differentiate between all those plain white rectangles, drivers who deliver stock, warehouse workers, and corporate administrators. Everyone gets two days off for community service, and they can all attend concerts sponsored by the company at White River Amphitheatre; recent trips were for performances by Toby Keith, Blink-182, and Weezer. The Team The corporate office is in Kent, but the area’s 194 employees work in more than 40 local stores and a regional warehouse. The Way In sleepcountry.com/careers-openings.aspx

 

Published: January 2013