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Image: Brandon Hill

We asked Seattle what was so great about their workplaces. Employees from 82 different businesses replied, telling us about subsidized CrossFit, in-office bars, and nap rooms. We heard about unlimited time off and company retreats, doggie day care, and more. When Seattle likes going to work, here’s why. 


Simply Measured’s Nerf Arsenal

A typical first day at Belltown’s Simply Measured: Get your key card. Find your desk. Meet your coworkers. Maybe start a little actual work, compiling hard data from Facebook, LinkedIn, Google Plus, Vine, and more into customized reports. Select your weapon.

The weapons are toy guns that shoot foam missiles, and no one wants to be caught in the regular company Nerf wars without firepower. Workers can switch out their ordnance from the Nerf armory in the break room, though ammo is harder to come by since workers hoard darts to prepare for the next skirmish. They’re data analysts—they know numbers win the battle. The company values word-of-mouth recruitment so highly that employees earn a referral bonus for bringing in a friend plus a budget to buy more toys for the office; that’s how the Ninja Turtle scooters came to serve as intraoffice transportation. 

 

Facebook’s Offline Hangout

Facebook has been blamed for society moving its collective socializing online, but the staffers in the company’s Seattle office still hang out the old-fashioned way—in hot tubs. A tub-turned-ball-pit has prime placement in the South Lake Union office. A rite of passage for interns to pose inside for photos, the pit was decorated by Seattle street artist Jeff “Weirdo” Jacobson and has earned the name Bubble Bobble. When things turn even more chill, hangouts happen on a couch reportedly owned by founder Mark Zuckerberg, or solo workers can escape to the single-person sleeping pod. At the very least, no one can get in trouble for having Facebook open on their work computer. And going to the office keeps getting better: One of the company’s regular hackathons is dedicated to improving office culture. A recent project created software that automatically ordered balloon delivery on every employee’s anniversary.

 

Image: Brandon Hill

Rover.com’s Pampered Office Pets

Office dogs are a sign of a workplace that strives for cool cred, like foosball tables and break room kegerators. But Rover.com is already dogcentric: The site matches dog owners with boarders and walkers. So the office has to do more than throw some chew toys into its cubicles. The company’s Belltown headquarters welcomes about a dozen canines daily, and employees earn comp time for becoming dog walkers or sitters through the website—plus pet boarding is subsidized every day they’re on vacation. 

Since the only thing better than slobbering canine coworkers is more of them, the company offers bonuses for adopting or even fostering a pooch, plus three bereavement days if things go all Old Yeller. If that sounds too depressing, head to the office puppy cam for a daily shot of the office wolf pack.
 

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Image: Brandon Hill

 

Cupcake Royale’s Freebie Giveaway

Whoever said “’Tis better to give than receive” probably worked in a cupcake shop, because giving away cupcakes is a really, really fun job. Cupcake Royale employees at the Seattle chain’s six stores get to give away a free cupcake, cup of coffee, or scoop of ice cream every day they work. They reward regulars, hardworking bus drivers, or customers who look like they’re having a bad day. In even larger “random acts of cupcakes,” they’ll drop a dozen at a fire station, hostel, or preschool. At the end of the day, they give all the leftover cupcakes to local shelters and food banks. And yes, employees also get a daily freebie for themselves; it helps that there are constantly new flavors of cupcakes and ice creams to sample. Every employee can contribute flavor ideas to the kitchen team, or even T-shirt designs or philanthropy partners. And even on the worst day at work, there are cupcakes.

 

Tavon Center’s Herb Garden Plan

Day Center for Young Adults
10 employees
tavoncenter.org

Companies always have goals: Release a new product, corner a new market, bag a bigger client. The goal at Tavon Center, a five-acre adult day center in Issaquah, is both more modest and tastier. Tavon hopes to launch a kind of CSA program run by the disabled young people served by the center. Seventy clients have already started growing basil, tomatoes, and lettuce in the property’s greenhouses, helping at every step of the farming and packaging process.

Not only will the new program stock the produce drawers of local residents who subscribe to the CSA, the center’s young employees will help build the social network of the autistic and intellectually disabled adults it serves via the act of farming—which is socially engaging even for clients who aren’t verbal. What’s emerging is a peer group of employees and clients, and soon everyone will also go home with salad.

 

Conenza’s Montana Trip 

Every employee, every year: That’s who gets to attend Conenza’s company trip to a private luxury getaway in Montana. The 500 acres of High Meadow Mountain Ranch abut the Lolo National Forest and show off the state’s famously big sky. A stone house and giant log lodge are the stuff of dream vacations, holding an indoor sport court and pool. And cattle, buffalo, wild turkeys, and a wolf pack roam the property; retreat days often end with the sound of wolf howls.

Conenza spouses and partners are occasionally invited on the company’s annual trip, but it’s mostly a workers-only affair. The developers who make up the bulk of the staff are a competitive bunch, starting Flip Cup tournaments or cooking competitions. Back home they create software that helps corporations communicate internally; the annual trip to their home on the range is Conenza’s no-tech way of doing the same thing.

 

Embryology Lab at Pacific Northwest Fertility

 
You can’t watch baby making at the office without ending up in a very long sexual harassment seminar—except at Pacific Northwest Fertility. In the First Hill offices, an interior window lets patients and staff observe the workings of the embryology lab, which make babies every day; couples here have a success rate as high as 95 percent using donor eggs. The clinic performs every kind of fertility treatment currently practiced, including IVF, sperm freezing, and egg preservation, and the window shows off their state-of-the-art equipment. Lurkers aren’t meant to linger—the embryologists don’t put on a show or anything—but the lobby portal reveals a negative pressure lab dotted with -microscopes and nitrogen tanks. The transparency is reflected in the workplace culture, where staff members feel comfortable engaging patients in chats about sex lives and menstrual cycles.

  

Brown Paper Tickets

Seattle’s homegrown ticketing company doesn’t give unlimited vacation like some other organizations, which count on employees only taking what’s reasonable. But its paid-time-off package is pretty spectacular: six weeks of leave, even for brand-new hires. There’s no guilt to taking that break, and unused time rolls over from one year to the next. The company apartment in New York City is available for free in case an employee doesn’t know what to do with all that vacation time.

But Brown Paper Tickets, which pioneers what it calls a “not just for profit” model of corporate philanthropy, doesn’t stop there. Staffers get an additional paid week off to work in any kind of charity or community activity. One man used “paid time on” to help supply a school in Africa, while another staffer researched and wrote a book about the effects of capital punishment. The ethos continues to business practices, and Brown Paper Tickets offers its services to nonprofits and fund-raisers at no fee and has arranged for more than a million dollars worth of event tickets for veterans and their families. Clearly, even with seven weeks of paid leave, enough employees hang around the Fremont headquarters to keep the company going. 

Ivy Softworks’ Indoor Swings

The Swingerators are the first thing to greet visitors to the lobby of Ivy Softworks, but they’re more than toys to the employees. The wood swings, made from old bleacher seats, would be at home in a playground, but these chain-link supports hang from beams inside the company’s Pioneer Square headquarters. The “idea generators”—hence the name—help burn off stress while the staff is in stealth mode, waiting to release its first software product, a productivity tool, this spring. The company, launched two years ago, has good reason to cultivate a playful tree-house vibe: It plans to attract and hire 30 people in 2015, nearly tripling in size.

Image: Brandon Hill 

Urbanspoon’s Rooftop Putting Green

Online Restaurant Guide
50 employees
urbanspoon.com

Executives have used office putting greens for decades—just picture any boss in an ’80s movie. Urbanspoon brings the workday golf break to every employee and adds an Eastlake view: Its six-hole putting green sits on a sizable outdoor deck overlooking Lake Union. The adjacent bocce court and gas grill help convince workers that office time rivals vacation time; no easy task since they all get unlimited paid time off. 

Of course, most of the actual work of running the international dining guide happens inside, within conference rooms named after famous prisons and behind bulletproof windows (thanks to an old tenant of the office suite, the Gates Foundation). So they’re well prepared should a lunchtime round of putt-putt get out of hand.

Image: Brandon Hill

Wunderman’s Team Cram Sessions

It wasn’t the first time the copywriters and strategists and project managers of Wunderman—called Y&R Group until recently—pulled an all-nighter to prepare a pitch. But last summer employees went one step further to impress the client headquartered right across the street, REI. They hauled their tents and hammocks past the tree stumps and carved wooden bear that decorate their own entryway and camped out all night in the office. They donned headlamps to work on their pitch to redesign REI’s online user experience and roasted s’mores over lit Sterno cans. In case their ursine mascot came to life, they hung their pizza boxes and Chinese takeout from bear-safe ropes looped through ceiling pipes.

The stunt made for an entertaining video to include in the pitch, but it was also a bonding experience for the team, most of whom camp and hike—and all of whom were disheveled together on the day they woke up at work.