Memorial Healthcare Systems' employees can get an oil change and their clothes dry cleaned without leaving work. General Mills workers can skip traffic and long lines when they mail packages or get jewelry repaired. And Ernst & Young staffers need only pick up a phone to have someone plan their vacation or research nursing homes for an elderly parent.
These workplaces are part of a growing number that are embellishing their benefits packages with "concierge services" -- everything from flower deliveries and car detailing to restaurant reservations and clothes alterations.
Perhaps no company pampers its employees as much as Internet search leader Google .The Mountain View, Calif.-based company offers a diverse menu of perquisites that include free car washes, oil changes, massages, haircuts, dry cleaning, child care and on-site medical care.
About 5 percent of the nation's companies, according to one survey, have hired personal assistance firms to handle at least some services for their workers -- whether that means arranging for a car wash or searching for airfare deals, for example. The employer pays the concierge's fee, while staffers pay the cost of the wash or tickets.
Perks like this cropped up during the high-tech heyday in the 1990s, when companies were competing for the same talent, but dwindled when that bubble burst. Now these benefits are more commonly seen at Fortune 500 companies and places that angle for the "employer of choice" label. Experts say a tight labor market for nurses and other medical staff explains why some hospitals -- traditionally low-frill workplaces -- have started joining, too.
"It helps the employee not to have to burn up all their personal time doing all these chores," said Wayne Wallace, director of the Career Resource Center at the University of Florida. And while Wallace doesn't dispute that many people wouldn't mind a bump in their paycheck, "it isn't all about the money," he said. "The extras are nice."
Erin Dunn, corporate services director for General Mills , said of the cereal company's largesse for staff at its Minneapolis headquarters: "Anything we can do to make life easier (for employees) is something we're interested in doing."
At Memorial Healthcare, the concierge service has helped admissions director Jean Romano-Clark, who has been a frequent user of the perk ever since the Hollywood, Fla., hospital introduced it this spring. Memorial Healthcare Systems, which employs more than 10,500 people, pays $399,500 annually for the service. Chicago-based ErrandSolutions runs the benefit for them.