Planit's sleek orange floors in the lobby lead to a sweeping view of Baltimore's Inner Harbor. The trendy-looking bar table in front of a gigantic refrigerator is filled with beer, wine, energy drinks and other beverages. A few short steps deeper into the 15,000-foot-space reveals colorful art, funky chairs, a slew of gumball machines filled with a mix of candies, a pool table, a couple of guitars and a ukulele.
Planit isn't a swanky lounge. It's an advertising and marketing agency. And while the workplace — especially in these tough economic times — might not conjure images of lively happy hours, flip cup and pool tournaments, Planit, and a number of area businesses, continue to provide free perks and discounted benefits to workers. The employees love the treats. And management says that the extras help foster a productive environment that thwarts turnover.
"It helps work morale," said Brent Hoffman, a Web designer for Planit. "A lot of us work late hours. When you spend a lot of your life in the office, it helps to have fun things to do. It makes people more relaxed."
Companies throughout the region such as Under Armour, a sports apparel maker, gkv, a communications agency, PayPal, the e-commerce giant that maintains offices in Hunt Valley and Timonium, have perks such as: farmers' markets for employees, on-site concierge service, access to box seats at Ravens games and periodic happy hours on the company's roof top deck.
And these Baltimore workplaces aren't unique. Companies across the country roll out the red carpet for employees. In Arizona, one company's CEO rewards the employee of the month with his parking space and car — a Maserati — for the month, according to Marcia Rhodes, spokeswoman for WorldatWork, a global HR association, which has offices in Scottsdale, Ariz., and Washington.
Google is considered the creme de la creme of employee perks. It gives employees with a newborn $500 a month for takeout food; employees can bring pets to work, there's also an onsite dry cleaner and doctors, a gym and a gourmet cafeteria.
"When everyone looks to perks they look to Google," Rhodes said.
Rhodes says she's not surprised that a number of companies continue to offer perks despite the current economic climate.
"With all the pay cuts, freezes and layoffs, employers can't give pay raises," she said. "They have to give [employees] reasons to remain motivated and engaged. If you can't get them motivated it is not good for business. Employers are coming up with ways to motivate the employees that they do have."
Rhodes' company just released results of a survey that shows that 60 percent of employees plan to pursue new job opportunities if the economy improves this year.
"That is why employers are doing all they can to maintain their employer brands," Rhodes said. "When times get tough that is when their true colors come out."
With 890 employees at its Baltimore location, Under Armour is one of the region's larger businesses to offer such widespread, lavish perks.
The sports apparel company offers a discounted membership to its state-of-the art Combine Training Center. Meals are also discounted at the newly opened Humble and Hungry Cafe where employees are served specialty foods such as gluten-free pizza, bison burgers and sushi.
On "Sweet Treat Thursday" the company foots the bill for desserts including ice cream, snowballs and smoothies. During the World Cup, employees watched games in the cafeteria — and when games involved the U.S., the company provided food.
The company also offers a concierge service for everything from discounted tickets to concerts and sporting events to restaurant reservations.
"It is a true concierge service," said Melissa Wallace, senior vice president of talent for the company.
Twice a year the company hosts an Armour Day celebration — think super-sized pep rally — that culminates with free tickets for all employees to a game at Camden Yards.
Once a week the company hosts a farmers' market where local food and produce are sold. Employees who volunteer for a day receive a day off work in exchange. Under Armour encourages a casual dress code every day.
"Our brand is certainly the biggest attraction of what we have," said Wallace. "It provides inspiration, enthusiasm and excitement. It separates us from our competition. This [the perks] puts the cherry on the whipped cream."
The benefit to the companies, including Under Armour: a low turnover rate.
"I don't know of as many businesses our size who can make the same claim," Wallace said of her company's turnover rate of less than 10 percent.