What’s a cool place to work in Philadelphia?

Consider finance company FS Investments in the Navy Yard. The firm provides access to an on-site fitness facility offering group fitness classes and one-on-one coaching with one of three full-time trainers. In addition, the cafeteria serves up customized portion sizes based on each employee’s activity levels and individual goals, along with advice from an on-site dietitian, if desired.

“The result is that 86 percent of our colleagues in our Philadelphia headquarters participate in at least one of our many fitness offerings, and all have access to our mind-set, nutrition, and recovery resources,” said CEO Michael Forman.

FS Investments, which is an investment firm, wants to make its workplace more family-friendly, offering mothers’ rooms on every floor and three paid days off annually for volunteer work, plus $500 per year per employee in charitable matching.

Finally, there are the “convenience” perks, although employees pay the costs: medical concierge services, dry cleaning, shoe shine valet, and on-site car cleaning. FS Investments manages or comanages $24 billion in assets and employs about 370 people. FS operates one publicly traded company (symbol: FSK) in addition to several non-traded funds, and the 2018 revenue for the public vehicle was $270 million.

FS Investments in the Navy Yard offers employees meals specific to their nutrition and fitness needs.
FS Investments / FS Investments
FS Investments in the Navy Yard offers employees meals specific to their nutrition and fitness needs.

Benefits can ebb and flow with the economy. And although the economy is strong currently, employers are offering perks and benefits that can easily be cut back in a recession, noted Tim Luedtke, assistant professor at Temple University’s department of risk, insurance and health-care management.

“There’s not a general interest in committing to something that’s immobile or can’t be changed, such as retiree health plans,” said Luedtke, who also is managing director of Navigator Benefit Solutions. “Student debt assistance is measurable and generally it ends. It’s a benefit that has a short tail on it, and in a recession, that could go away easily.”

More frequently, hiring older workers has become popular in a growing economy, while perks for younger workers such as on-site concierge, dry cleaning, and shoe shines are “a throwback to the big corporations of the 1950s.”

Another trend: Millennials and other younger workers want portable benefits, such as a retirement plan that follows them from job to job.

“How do companies deal with the gig economy, the Uberization of work, from a benefits perspective?" Luedtke said. "The younger generations aren’t seeing themselves as working for one company forever. That’s not new. But they’re increasingly moving toward short-term engagements, such as project work.”

What about other Philadelphia employers?

Sagefrog this year took the notion of work-life “balance” up a notch, with meditation classes designed to improve the marketing agency employees’ mental health, clarity, and stress levels. Big retailer Urban Outfitters encourages employees to “bring your dog to work” as a benefit, and offers discounted pet insurance. The company also gives employees who bicycle to work a free bike light and helmet.

PwC, the accounting firm formerly known as PricewaterhouseCoopers, pays part of workers’ student loans as a benefit, offering $100 a month in payments for up to six years. That can cut loan principal and interest by as much as $10,000 and shorten employees’ debt-payoff period.

We asked workers and their CEOs to crow a little about their best benefits in the workplace, the ones that are most popular among employees. Did the on-site nutritionist or chef help you retain your execs? Or did helping millennial workers pay off their student loans earn their undying loyalty?

Joe Giannone, Joseph Giannone Plumbing, Heating & Air Conditioning: “We provide a paid day off for every employee’s birthday.”

Anthony Magaraci, Trinity Packaging Supply: “Besides the usual health insurance, a 401(k) with profit sharing and paid time off, we offer free gym memberships to LA Fitness, each employee gets their own personal financial adviser, but my favorite one is we have a former world champion Ping-Pong player come train our employees every Friday for three hours. The thing that helps me retain my employees is I empower them to make their own decisions and oftentimes they’re very important ones. I encourage them to view their day-to-day jobs as a craft they want to master, then move on to the next level, which develops into an incredible career. The other things help make it fun around the office and it makes the little stressful things seem like no big deal."

Claudia Timbo, CompanyVoice: “A new perk we offer is Uber transportation for weekend or late-night shifts when public transportation is unavailable.” CompanyVoice operates call centers.

Claudia Timbo talks to one of the new staffers for her business CompanyVoice, which provides call center services for various clients. CompanyVoice is Timbo's third start-up.
EMILY COHEN / For The Inquirer
Claudia Timbo talks to one of the new staffers for her business CompanyVoice, which provides call center services for various clients. CompanyVoice is Timbo's third start-up.

Eric Griffin, Mobile Outfitters, accessories for cell phones: “We implemented health care in an innovative way at our 27-person company: All employees get a ‘gold’ plan for a flat $30 a month. All employees get $140 a year back in to their account to cover co-pays and promote making healthy choices, like going to the doctor when you feel sick. This $30 a month includes short- and long-term disability, life insurance, and an employee assistance program. We had nearly every employee enroll in the program when we launched. Our goal was to offer health care that everyone wants to take, can afford, and is willing to use. For example, many companies offer health insurance that hourly or frontline employees can’t afford, and even if they do sign up, they refrain from using it because of the cost of co-pays.”

Russ Starke, Think Co., IT professional services: “One of the newest employee benefits that means a lot to all of us is our Thinkiversary donations. Each year on a team member’s work anniversary, Think Co. celebrates that person by donating $100 per year of service to a charity of their choice. This is a way for folks to support causes that are important to them, and their ability to give larger sums only increases over time as they grow with the team. Think Co. has also recently started giving employees who reach their five-year anniversary a $5,000 all-expenses-paid trip to a vacation spot of their choice so that they can take some well-earned time to rest and recharge.”

David Stewart, Tembo, education software: “We do a few things that are fairly standard — paying 100 percent of employee health care, Friday lunches, a 4 percent 401(k) match, and a strong paid time off and maternity/paternity leave policy. But the most fun thing we did this year was take everyone in the company on a four-day trip to Zion National Park for some good old-fashioned team building. Significant others were included, as well; they just had to pay for their own flights. We tend to go on these types of retreats once every two years and this was our third retreat in the past six years. For previous retreats, we’ve gone to the Dominican Republic and northern California.”

What’s your best benefit at work and how has it paid off? Let us know.