The Best Places to Work

by Erica Walsh

Mountain View, CA
The search engine kings know how to have fun -- and treat their employees right. The Googleplex is a 1-million-square-foot complex comprised of 16 buildings that house thousands of lucky Googlers who spend their 9 to 5 at the Mountain View, California, hub.

Within the Googleplex are several restaurants serving a variety of food that includes tapas, Indian, Asian and South American. Café 150 features locally grown organic food that's all grown within 150 miles of Google. Taking eco-friendly eating even further, Googlers also grow their own food in a special garden on the Googleplex campus.

Employees are able to work off their lunch at one of four fully loaded gyms -- all without membership fees. Personal trainers, spas, massages and classes are just another part of a Googler's workday.

Employees are even encouraged to take naps in "sleep pods," where relaxing music and lighting lull you to sleep and recharge your batteries. A few other Google perks include on-site laundry and free use of hybrid vehicles. If you're looking for the perfect place to work, your search ends here.

New York, NY
From being Googleplexed to perplexed, the next extreme workplace aims to amuse and confuse. At Wonderfactory, a media agency in New York, clients step off the elevator and feel as though they've fallen down the rabbit hole. The elevator opens in a room without doors and clients must find their way into the actual office space. The secret is to pull a large golden tassel that opens a secret passageway behind a bookcase -- however, about 50 percent of those who step off the elevator resort to calling reception from their cell phones for guidance.

Once through this door, the Wonderfactory is a corporate playground whose library and dining room are inspired by movies like "Clue" and "Casablanca." Imagination is at work in the full-size play lounge featuring a wall of movie memorabilia. In a Narnia-like closet, employees push past the jackets to enter the secret idea room. This is where branding ideas and website designs for companies like NBC and Martha Stewart get their start.

Another Wonderfactory conference room is the Hell room, where red padded walls are a creative take on an insane asylum, suggesting that to work in this funhouse, you've got to be a little bit insane.

Evans Group
Orlando, FL
The architectural firm Evans Group conducts business in a 240,000-cubic-foot biosphere designed to look like an ideal village community. The eight streets and alleyways connect libraries, movie theaters and private homes -- which are actually the Evans Group's conference rooms and private offices.

Evans uses this office space as a three-dimensional awe-inspiring portfolio. The homes are completely unique and showcase the skills of the firm's talented interior design teams.

San Jose, CA
As you'd expect, this Fortune 500 company offers some unreal perks: aerobics classes, an onsite dentist, an elegant cafeteria, volleyball courts, soccer fields and bocce courts. However, the employees at this company are paid to shop victoriously, and it's the decorated cubicles that make these offices stand out. Personalities and memorabilia happily combine in cubes where fans of KISS, Star Trek, Pez and Spiderman work side by side.

The collecting frenzy is apparent in conference rooms as well where Twister boards, garden rakes, flamingos, checkerboards and garden gnomes can all be found. If you can buy it on eBay then, chances, are it can also be found in the San Jose offices.

Ventura, CA
From a workplace for the savvy shopper to one for the ultimate athlete, Patagonia in Ventura, California, urges all employees to take it outside. The office is stocked with surfboards, climbing gear, bikes and even a yoga studio. Patagonia's flex time philosophy lets Patagonians escape from their desks to the sun and surf anytime of day -- as long as the work gets done, no one cares when you clock in or out.

If you're wondering where the best breaks or swells are that day, simply call reception. It's their job to direct your call and tell you where you catch the best surf.

Chicago, IL
Threadless is a hugely successful online T-shirt company based out of Chicago that cranks out more than one million T-shirts a year. However, the day-to-day here focuses on fun and it all takes place in a 25,000-square-foot, tricked-out warehouse and production space. Employees can play Nintendo Wii, X-Box, ping-pong, pool and throw tricks on the indoor skate ramp.

Threadless is where fun is taken seriously -- and competitively. Their company-wide ping-pong tournament is so intense that a professional ping-pong company sponsors this Pong-a-Palooza. Forty matches, five hours and 60 employees do manage to make this tournament look a little bit like work.

JMP Creative
Santa Ana, CA
Sure skaters and T-shirt designers know how to have a good time, but if you're looking for some serious fun, head to a toy company. JMP Creative is dedicated to making seriously imaginative toys. The 20,000-square-foot "playplace" consists of 20 rooms stocked with gadgets, toys and gizmos that employees are encouraged to play with.

At JMP, meetings take place in a giant submarine-themed room called the Think Tank. Here, JMP employees are encouraged to "playstorm" -- a funcentric version of brainstorming. The conference room is a 40-foot flying saucer suspended 10 feet above the ground, capable of holding 30 people. Donned The Mothership, it's clearly where JMP creates some seriously out-of-this-world toys.

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