Cincinnati's best workplace perks

The days of living out your life’s work at the same company are likely something of the past—at least that’s the case for most working Americans. Many of us will not only change jobs a half-dozen times during our prime earning years, we may even change career paths more than once. The recent demands from Gen Y (Millennials) have challenged old guard workplace standards and highlighted a desire for more freedom and mobility within companies.

In an age of job jumping, shifting and climbing—how do companies endear themselves to their employees, building loyalty and longevity? Perks.
Work perks present themselves in an array of shapes and sizes, surpassing the standard 401(k) matches and typical two to three weeks’ annual vacation. Cincinnati businesses are no different.
Notable companies, like “big four” public accounting firm EY, boast benefits such as paternity leave (up to six weeks fully paid), and others, such as Blue Ash-based medical device company Mammatome, provide a continental breakfast to all employees every day of the work week. These pluses, and many more, reveal how 21st century employers are finding creative ways to retain their people and demonstrate employee appreciation.
But, perhaps what’s most interesting about companies who are doing it right is that their so-called “perks” go far beyond cool décor and free coffee. Underneath the instant appeal of extensive PTO and free food lie the real benefits of being somewhere remarkable.
Cincinnati’s pick places to work may be dressed in interesting bells and whistles, but employee satisfaction is directly tied to the company culture and interpersonal relationships within.

A lot of design firms call themselves “full service” operations, but the multidisciplinary design-meets-marketing PB+J actually walks the talk. They offer a full gamut of design and marketing services—from graphic design to PR to industrial design and production—all under one roof. This jack-of-all-trades identity is part of what’s so attractive about what they’re doing.
“You can have all the strategy and creativity in the world, but how do you make it come to life?” asks Micah Paldino, founder and CEO. “We’re living in a crafter/maker culture—except at agencies. At PB+J, we close the loop as a modern agency workplace that’s doing it all.” They do it all, and they do it well.
PB+J is arguably a creative professional’s dream job: They’re solving creative problems, collaborating in a stylized, Over-The-Rhine workspace, working on big brands—and actually seeing the product through to the final production/fabrication stages.
“It’s the passion and ideas here that I missed at other places I’ve worked,” says Michael Altman, director of branding. “We have the ability to work on big brands, think big and we’re working with proven talent. There’s a real excitement that comes along with working here.”
But there’s more. Beyond the space and projects, each year Paldino and creative director B. Emmit Jones take the entire PB+J team on a weeklong Michigan vacation for boating, eating and living together—an escape from the office. “We reconnect as a team and don’t have to worry about work. We can simply be creative,” Paldino says.
The PB+J crew shares a camera each year to document the fun. The annual getaway captures their growth, and, yes, team PB+J is indeed growing. They’ve doubled their creative force within the last year, making them 17 strong. This coming vacation, they’ll be packing tents.
Speaking of vacation, PB+J offers employees an unlimited amount of paid time off (with the caveat that work must be turned in two weeks prior). Having lived in Italy as an opera singer in his former career, Paldino believes strongly in the benefits of time away from the job, “You must be out of the office to experience places, foods and trends to bring back so that you have new things to think and talk about.”
Fifth Third Bank

Big banking doesn’t always scream “host of amenities.” But Fifth Third Bank has some benefits worth shouting about.
Fifth Third’s core value to help its people improve their lives—both professionally and personally—is reflected in workplace incentives like learning opportunities and job rotations. But the company's desire to help people live their best lives is made crystal clear by the two full-time, on-site concierges in the downtown Cincinnati location.
This is not an executive benefit. The “Best Upon Request” concierge service is completely free to all downtown employees, regardless of level or status. Whether you need groceries, are trying to locate a pet sitter or want to book a tee time, the concierge will run your errands and take the time to research your request. There’s absolutely no cost (except for mileage if the request requires leaving the building).
“The concierge allows our employees to do their best work—so they’re not taking from one area of life to give to another," says Teresa Tanner, executive vice president and chief human resources officer at Fifth Third Bancorp. A self-proclaimed “heavy user” of the services herself, Tanner sees the value in saving an hour and using time wisely.
“We see a parallel with our business outcomes and how they’re lived out,” Tanner says. “It starts with how our people live this vision internally.”
The concierge, among other perks, speaks to Fifth Third’s desire to be the “number one bank people value and trust.”

Love. Humanity. These aren’t typically the first words that come to mind to characterize a creative/innovation firm. Yet, these are the principles upon which SEEK Company’s founder Tim Urmston built his powerhouse business headquartered in Norwood. And, they’re why so many of Cincinnati’s best and brightest would like to join the SEEK ranks.
Urmston’s love and devotion to humanity comes through in SEEK’s evolution from a qualitative research firm—evaluating products, implementing focus groups—to human-inspired innovation (that's rooted in the qualitative research piece). “At SEEK, we’re interested in what motivates people,” Urmston says.
In fact, he had a strong vision when he started the company in 2000: “I envisioned that when my people open their eyes each morning and their feet hit the ground, they’d love what they're doing”—and, in essence, they’d want to come to work.
SEEK, currently comprised of a staff of 70 spanning Cincinnati, Boston and San Francisco (with more growth on the horizon), is a testament to the company’s success over the last decade. The vibrant, inclusive culture is the driving force behind everything SEEK does. “Culture is why everything works,” Urmston says. “Everyone speaks to the direction of the company.”
Yes, every employee at SEEK has a voice. The decision-makers want to hear each perspective. “Ultimately, we make the decisions, but we don't take that lightly,” Urmston says. “The culture is surveyed.”
It may sound like a lot of kumbayah, but SEEK is about helping people access their full potential. The SEEK team makes annual retreats to Norris Lake to bond, plan and get that much-valued face time.
Urmston calls his team to “grow like mad, take risks (and, yes, fail) and dare to love.” SEEK may be developing ideas and products for Fortune 100 companies, but ultimately it's about developing people—and that starts from within.
The SEEK headquarters is a little like a playground experience where pets and kids are welcome. It’s a high-energy environment where creativity is in overdrive. “We take the work real seriously, but we take the play real seriously,” Urmston says.
SEEK’s two-story slide speaks to its fun quotient—and represents a little more than first meets the eye. Built during the recession, the slide reminds each SEEK staffer to keep moving forward in the face of challenges.
“Up the stairs and down the slide …” Dropping riders right into the lobby, this main attraction continues to entertain children and adults, and it piques the interests of many outside of SEEK’s walls. “We told the architect we wanted this place to have some wow factor,” Urmston says. Between the company culture, products and slide, the wow factor is covered.

Want to talk web development? Step inside Gaslight in Blue Ash any Friday at 8 a.m. for “Community Coffee,” and you’ll find the Gaslight gang talking shop while sipping fresh, barista-made lattes. You’re invited.
Coffee talk isn’t the only reason Gaslight has virtually no turnover. It's a people-first workplace with flexible work hours and unlimited vacation, among other boons. “It’s about creating an environment where people feel comfortable and appreciated,” says Dewayne Greenwood, co-founder and director of new business.
You might hear the phrase “work/life balance” thrown around the professional world. Gaslight actually strikes this so-called balance. “The focus is on doing your job well but having a life outside of work,” says Tammy Gambrel, a Gaslight-er for more tha two years. “People are called out if they stay late or over work. We keep the focus where the focus should be.”
“There’s no reason for a workplace to be a prison,” Greenwood says. Providing unlimited vacation, food, flexible work schedules, etc. allows people to be professionals, own who they are and what they do—without feeling like someone put them in a box with the constraints of a slave.”
Some of us experience the proverbial prison, with our only option to recharge being a short walk down the hallway. Gaslight offers its pack several ways to regroup, retreat and get refreshed within the workday, including meditation. “We’ll get a group together and take 10 minutes to refocus,” Gambrel says.
Mobile desks make it simple to move back and forth between the “fun” room and the quiet room, depending on your mood and needs. Catch a game of foosball, sing to streaming Spotify or strum away on a guitar if projects start to feel heavy. But if you’re looking for some quiet concentration, there’s plenty of that, too.
Catered lunch on Fridays facilitates a group discussion of what’s going on. Team members address any internal issues or conflicts, and they work hard to resolve them so they don’t fester. Employees track their mood and happiness levels week-by-week via the mood board. This helps to minimize client issues and catch any concerns as soon as possible. “Some ‘perks’ are just about caring for people,” Greenwood says. “This is the company I want to work for."

Do you work at a company with great workplace perks? Tell us about them in the comments section.
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Erin Prus is the interactive content director for HOW and Print graphic design brands. She has a background in writing, editing and teaching writing and is a devoted pilates practitioner and french bulldog fanatic. You can follow her on Twitter at @ErinPrus.