What does your company offer you beyond your salary? Help with childcare, flexible working or a discounted gym membership?

Employers are finding that supporting and incentivizing their staff improves motivation and engagement, which in turn impacts productivity. So, employee benefits are now frequent features of employment, but what about those benefits that are outside of the norm? Here we look at some of the more unusual benefits in the workplace. Perks you may not have heard of ... until now.

Unlimited Vacation
Red Frog Event Company claims that its employee benefits are "the world's best," and with unlimited vacation as part of its package, it might be difficult to argue the claim. Can this be true, and how does anyone get any work done?

CEO Joe Reynolds insists that unlimited vacation is exactly as it sounds. "Taking vacation at Red Frog is encouraged, and even celebrated. It's not abused. Simply make sure your work is getting done and make sure you're covered while you're away," he said. "The pessimists and naysayers have said this policy would either be abused or that it's not entirely real, and that our employees feel pressured to never take off. I assure you they're underestimating a positive work culture and are simply wrong."

If unlimited vacation is not incentive enough, after five years of working for the company, employees are rewarded for their loyalty with a four-week, full-paid trip to Africa, Asia, Europe or South America for them and a friend. It's no wonder they only hire one in every 750 applicants who apply to work there.

Shopping Loans
Umpqua Regional Bank has a famously quirky work environment, which includes morning huddles, in-office games and 40 hours of paid time off per year to volunteer. One of its most unusual perks is its shopping loans.

Have you ever found that the cost of a professional wardrobe is a stretch? Well, Umpqua has found a solution. It will loan its staff the money to buy their work wear. With a loan of up to $1,000 a year, repayable through payroll deductions, at this bank there's certainly no reason to look scruffy.

Go Green
Today, companies are committed to greener policies, but none more so than David Evans and Associates. The company offers its employees cash incentives to ditch their cars and go green. Staff can claim up to $6 a day if they commute to work by walking, biking, carpooling or riding the bus.

Life After Death
Google is a pioneer when it comes to offering a great package to its employees, but this benefit, launched in 2011, takes looking after your staff to a whole new level. Should one of the U.S. Google team die while still employed by the company, the employee's surviving spouse or partner will be given 50% of his or her salary for ten years after his or her death.

There is no small print, which states a minimum employment time, so the majority of Google's 34,000 staff are eligible. "One of the things we realized recently was that one of the harshest but most reliable facts of life is that at some point most of us will be confronted with the death of our partners," said Laszlo Bock, Google's Senior Vice President of People Operations. "It's a horrible, difficult time no matter what, and every time we went through this as a company we tried to find ways to help the surviving spouse of the Googler who'd passed away."

The Bottom Line
There is plenty of evidence that employee benefits and perks improve retention of staff, staff morale and productivity. But perhaps we should end with the words of a company that leads the way in wacky and innovative staff perks. "It turns out that the reason we're doing these things for employees is not because it's important to the business, but simply because it's the right thing to do. When it comes down to it, it's better to work for a company who cares about you than a company who doesn't. And from a company standpoint, that makes it better to care than not to care," said Bock.

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