From yoga to beer: How these successful startups use perks to keep employees happy

June 30, 2015

Thanks to a few industry juggernauts that take office perks to the max (looking at you, Google), working in tech is becoming synonymous with working in an office with some truly exceptional benefits. To find out what local tech startups are offering their employees—and why—we sat down with four successful Chicagoland startups.



Perk to brag about: Jellyvision has established itself as a true force of nature when it comes to office culture—this year alone, the interactive multimedia company took home three Moxie Awards, including Best Company Culture. The office perk that makes it most unique? Probably the HumanTouch HT 5320 WholeBody™ Massage Chair it has onsite.

Other awesome benefits: Besides more traditional benefits like 401(k) matching, stock options, and covered medical, dental, and vision premiums, Jellyvision is known for some of its more exciting benefits. From weekly in-office yoga classes and catered lunches to charity matching and a smoking cessation reimbursement, Jellyvision goes above and beyond to provide for its employees.

On keeping employees happy: “Offering benefits like these is indicative of a company culture that values its people, which is, unfortunately, pretty rare these days,” said Andy Dierker, Jellyvision’s manager of employee experience. “Even if a candidate or employee isn’t interested in doing yoga, for instance, I think they still recognize and appreciate the effort involved. People want to work for companies that treat them with respect and fairness and still manage to do it with a sense of humor. That’s what we try to do.”

What’s the value in it: “We just want people to like working here.,” Dieker said. “Jellyvision has been around in some form or another for over 20 years, and for most of that time, it was a small, tight-knit company. As we’ve grown, we’ve tried to keep that personal touch. It’s not always easy and we can’t do everything we’d like to do, but we try to make sure people have a good time while they’re working here. I think [companies] can save money, sure; you might save money on recruiting because your turnover is lower, or something. But honestly, it’s just the right thing to do. Not everything we do needs to make us money – sometimes, you have to invest in your people.”

View open jobs at Jellyvision



Perk to brag about: Reverb is an online marketplace for vintage and used music equipment, gear, and instruments. Part of what the company digs most about its employees is that many of them are part-time musicians—meaning that one of the best perks of their office comes in the form of mini jam sessions with guitars and ukuleles throughout the day.

Other awesome benefits: They’ve got it all. From 100% paid Blue Cross PPO with no employee contribution to ping pong, foosball, and yoga classes all offered right in the office, Reverb is committed to ensuring its employees look forward to coming into work. Their office space is artsy, open, and recently remodeled, which helps promote both creativity and collaboration.

On keeping employees happy: “I think everybody here is super open and transparent,” said Reverb’s director of talent, Gina Contella. “If we have a unique situation with a candidate—maybe they’re in a band that tours—we have a very lenient open vacation policy. Although almost every company offers the open vacation policy, we have people go on tour for several weeks in Japan and Australia—and we want those types of people to work here. We want to be able to foster our employees’ music interests as well. Even people who do video or content for us are involved with music festivals if they’re not in bands, and that's something we try to accommodate as well.”

What’s the value in it: “I think giving an employee autonomy and the ability to have some of these luxuries and flexibility in the the office versus having a heads down environment not only increases productivity but also fosters creativity, which is something we value a lot here,” Contella said. “If you’re treating an employee with respect and giving them benefits, hopefully that’s enough to retain them as long as the work remains interesting as well.”

View open jobs at Reverb



Perk to brag about: iLoan, a Springleaf brand, is an online loan company for consumers that markets itself as “being focused on one simple thing: making borrowing better.” But that’s not the only thing they’re focused on. They’re also dedicated to creating an enviable employee experience. Why else would they have a corporate account with the Starbucks downstairs from their office that employees can use any time of day?

Other awesome benefits: Of course, they’ve got your standard medical, dental, vision, matching 401(k), and employees are also 100% vested day one. But they’ve also got an office winter break, where the office shuts down between Christmas and New Years so that employees don’t have to reserve vacation days for the holidays. They’ve got an Uber for Business account, daily catered lunches, a fully-stacked kitchen, and new employees get their choice of computer hardware when they’re hired.

On keeping employees happy: “I think that perks could potentially keep someone here and happy,” said Lee VanEtten, senior technical recruiter at iLoan. “But at the end of the day, even if you have all of the perks in the world, it comes down to the environment you work in and the people you work with. A lot of what makes us strong as a company is the people that work here and how they work together all towards a common goal. We have ownership and we feel valued and know that we're contributing everyday.”

What’s the value in it: “With something like our annual learning budget or allowing employees to pick their own hardware, people can definitely see value in that, especially as a new employee,” VanEtten said. “You see that the company is placing value in you and investing in you and your career. Subconsciously, they know that the company cares about their growth and development in general. When we offer these creative perks, I think it shows that you appreciate your current employees. They are working so hard as a team, and it’s just a little thing you can do in some way to thank them for the work that they’re doing.”

View open jobs at iLoan



Perk to brag about: SteelBrick is a startup that helps other companies grow with its innovative CPQ software. But they also want to help their employees grow, and have a stacked offering of benefits in order to get that job done. Their perks are sometimes financial, sometimes developmental, and sometimes strictly leisurely—like their always open office beer fridge.

Other awesome benefits: 401(k), healthcare, life insurance. And they’ve also got some pretty cool ones, too, like their fully-stocked kitchen, ping pong table, video games, and darts. They also bring in healthy lunches every day and offer a program called IncentFit, which reimburses employees who spend time cycling, running, or just being active with cash at the end of every month.

On keeping employees happy: “Often we have team members that will even stay after work on a Friday evening, just because they enjoy being here,” said Will Wiegler, chief marketing officer. “They’ll stay and play ping pong, and people hang out. They crack open a beer and have a little social club after work. That’s really great to build a sense of camaraderie and engagement to get people feeling an affinity for their co-workers and the company as well."

What’s the value in it: “My opinion is that giving people an outlet during the day—giving them some social time and a reason to step away from their desks—is refreshing,” said Wiegler. “It’s so easy to burn out, even in the course of a single day, if you're just working nonstop. And if we can treat people well and make them feel good about coming into work every day, and reduce turnover, that can save us money. The hiring process, the recruiting process, the training process, the time it takes to get someone up to speed—all of that costs us money. If we can keep our valuable employees here and happier, there's cost saving there.”

View jobs at SteelBrick

Chicago startup guides

Best Companies to Work for in Chicago
Inside the Best Software Engineer Jobs in Chicago
Tour the Coolest Offices in Chicago Tech
Inside the Best Sales Jobs in Chicago
Your Guide to the Best Perks at Chicago Tech Companies
Your Guide to Healthtech in Chicago
Inside the Best Data Science & Data Analyst Jobs in Chicago
Inside the Best Marketing Jobs in Chicago