Work benefits aren't—or shouldn't be—only for parents. We found five companies that strive to do right by all their employees.
by Dorothea Hunter
IBM Armonk, New York
The computer giant started offering flex options in the 1980s, and today more than one-third of some 300,000 worldwide employees operate on the company's six models of flexible working arrangements, from telecommuting to compressed hours. IBM also has a great leave policy that's not limited to moms—or dads. Anyone can take up to three years of unpaid, job-protected leave with full health benefits for any personal reason...and over the past five years, some 6 percent of the company's U.S. workforce has.
MARRIOTT INTERNATIONAL Washington, D.C.
As the 3,000 employees at Marriott headquarters climb the corporate ladder, they can keep their positions even if they want to scale back their hours; flextime policies include a popular job-share option that lets two people work part-time to do one full-time job. Marriott also makes life easier for its workforce with a confidential Associate Resource Line, which offers timesaving information on such matters as financial planning and day care; employees can even get counseling from a social worker.
PRUDENTIAL FINANCIAL Newark, New Jersey
Every five years, Prudential surveys its U.S. employees to find ways to improve work-life benefits. In 2004, after learning that 38 percent of workers had or would soon have adult-care responsibilities, the company instituted free legal services for adult-care issues, began offering geriatric-care management services for a small co-pay, and partnered with a group that sends healthcare providers to the home. (Backup care workers can also look after sick children—another need the survey revealed.)
PATAGONIA Ventura, California
This laid-back company lives by the "let my people go surfing" rule. Translation: If the tides are right, staffers trickle in throughout the morning. They also might go biking at lunch or leave early to run errands. And they take time off for reasons ranging from the birth of a child (new dads get eight weeks' paid leave) to the fate of a species (an environmental internship program gives two months' paid leave to volunteer full-time for a green nonprofit of choice).
S.C. JOHNSON & SON Racine, Wisconsin
The household-products maker calls itself a family company, but employees needn't be parents to enjoy the work-life perks. Every worker can see the on-site doctor for physicals, screenings, and diagnostic exams. And whether their goal is learning Spanish in Mexico or chilling with the kids by the pool, employees with sufficient tenure—eight weeks after five years; 12 weeks after 10 years—can take 25 percent-paid sabbaticals with full benefits.