Survey MethodologyFinding Outside's Best Places to Work—companies that make it easy for employees to balance productivity with an active, eco-conscious lifestyle—was no easy task. That's why we partnered with the Outdoor Industry Association and the Best Companies Group (bestcompaniesgroup.com), an independent research firm in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. The yearlong process included casting a wide net to find eligible applicants—nonprofit or for-profit companies with at least 15 employees working in the U.S. Next, we sent each company a confidential employee-satisfaction survey and an employer questionnaire so we could collect information about benefits, policies, and practices. The results were analyzed by BCG's experts, who determined the deserving 30—ten each in three size categories. The competition yielded fascinating results: Who knew an employee-benefits consulting firm in Nashville would score so high? If you think we overlooked your employer, drop us a line at email@example.com and watch for it next year.
Group One: 250+ employees
1. New Belgium Brewing Company
>Fort Collins, Colorado
Walk in the front door at New Belgium Brewing, maker of Fat Tire Amber Ale, and the first thing you'll see is a few employees pulling beer from the tap behind a bar, while dogs amble around and bluegrass plays in the background. So goes the nine-to-five "grind" at America's most enlightened beer maker. "Shift beers" are available for free every day at quitting time; the 291 staffers enjoy an on-site climbing wall, $2 yoga classes, and a brand-new cyclocross track on 50 acres out back. "We have a pretty flexible schedule," says media relations manager Bryan Simpson. "So as long as you get your work done, you can go for a ride, and it's not even questioned." Cycling is so entrenched in the corporate culture, in fact, that employees are given a cruiser bike—along with stock options—to celebrate their first year on the job. NBB's commitment to shrinking its eco-footprint includes launching an innovative brewing process that uses fewer than four barrels of water to produce one barrel of beer—significantly less than the five-to-eight-barrel industry average.
>Mountain View, California
Working at Google is like checking in to a five-star hotel: While you're otherwise occupied, the Google concierge (seriously) will book dinner reservations, schedule tickets to a show, or arrange an on-site massage or haircut. Mechanical engineer Daniel Ratner, one of Google's 16,805 employees, typically puts in 12-hour days, but that includes three meals, weight training in the state-of-the-art gym, and a two-hour round-trip commute on the biodiesel GBus, which offers free rides to Googlers in the Bay Area.
3. Johnson Outdoors Inc.
The maker of Old Town Canoes and Kayaks, Necky Kayaks, and Eureka! tents fosters a close-knit culture at all 24 of its offices. Everyone's encouraged to test Johnson products for free: Maine-based staffers paddle the Penobscot River at lunch, and in Mankato, Minnesota, they occasionally close up shop to troll for musky. The company gives generously, both to community nonprofits like the Waterkeeper Alliance and to its 1,474 employees—the Sons & Daughters scholarship Program has awarded more than $500,000 since 1994.
>San Diego, California
No more squandering your lunchtime bike ride for a trip to the dentist. Qualcomm, a wireless communications firm with 13,111 staffers, employs a mobile dental RV that makes regular office stops (the program was so successful, they recently added a roving eye doctor). The company's Q-Flex policy encourages job sharing, telecommuting, and plenty of freedom—ideal for parents or employees who just want to burn off energy in the ten spare-no-expense fitness centers spread among the company's five main San Diego campuses.
REI, with 10,060 employees across the country, offers first-come, first-served doggie daycare kennels and reimburses for "lifestyle prescriptions" like Viagra. In 2006, REI purchased renewable-power credits for 20 of its 96 stores, offsetting greenhouse-gas emissions by 30 percent.
>Santa Clara, California
With 88,000 employees on the payroll, Intel puts a savvy twist on perks, offering employees free backup childcare, consultations with a personal health coach, about three weeks of vacation, and paid eight-week sabbaticals every seven years.
7. Deckers Outdoor Corporation
The parent company of Teva Footwear, Ugg Australia Footwear, and Simple Shoes ponies up nearly 70 percent of its 404 employees' monthly gym dues, provides subsidized chair massages, and donates $1,000 to a charity of choice when staffers trade their gas guzzler for a hybrid.
8. Aspen Skiing Company
Lunchtime powder runs are par for the course at this eco-conscious resort, but Aspen Skiing Co. ups the ante with a progressive profit-sharing program for instructors and a 401(k) plan that matches 100 percent of its 3,402 employees' contributions.
The company, with 1,394 employees, offers a $2,500 incentive for driving a hybrid or bio-diesel vehicle, $2 yoga and Pilates classes, and when the waves are up, employees go surfing. Plus, founder Yvon Chouinard co-created the 1% for the Planet campaign.
10. Avenue A | Razorfish
>New York City
This 13-year-old interactive marketing agency looks after its 430 employees with free indoor bike storage—a huge plus in NYC—18 days of personal time off the first year, and a hefty bonus program that awards up to $1,500 for successful hiring referrals.