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Tampa Bay companies offer perks to brighten workers' lives

Chris Noyce, supervisor at the Cheetah Hunt roller coaster, climbs out of the seat after taking a test ride before it opens for the public. One of the perks offered to full-time and seasonal employees at Busch Gardens is free annual passes and daily tickets for themselves, family and friends.

DANIEL WALLACE | Times

Chris Noyce, supervisor at the Cheetah Hunt roller coaster, climbs out of the seat after taking a test ride before it opens for the public. One of the perks offered to full-time and seasonal employees at Busch Gardens is free annual passes and daily tickets for themselves, family and friends.

1 The Progressive Group of Insurance Companies

Want to tell your boss how you really feel?

Get a job at Progressive.

The firm encourages employees to "tell it like it is" and believes that constructive discourse leads to innovative ways of accomplishing goals. With a name like Progressive, employees shouldn't be silenced.

"It gets the issues out on the table," said John Hoppes, national employment director. "It gets folks to look past the rose-colored glasses, so we can have a real conversation."

But can employees really tell their boss to shove it?

"Hopefully, if they do it, it'll be done in a constructive way," he said, laughing.

Employees also enjoy a year-end bonus program based on the firm's growth and profitability. All regular employees are included in the "Gainshare" plan, Hoppes said, adding: "That's what sets us apart from other companies.

In its six regional headquarters across the country, employees can take advantage of medical facilities, fitness centers, dry-cleaning services and name-brand food chains like Starbucks and Subway.

2ConnectWise

You'll never go hungry at this Tampa information technology firm.

Lunch is free every day, and it's not cold cuts.

The firm has hired a caterer to serve hot meals to the 273 workers. Some days are devoted to Mexican, Cuban, Italian and Greek food. The free lunch also lets workers keep a few extra bucks in their pockets each week.

The firm also provides unlimited snacks, like candy or granola bars. Four pantries are filled daily. "It helps morale and shows that we care about our employees," said Paula Hawk, head of human resources.

It's not just food. Company founders, brothers David and Arnie Bellini, believe in hiring homegrown talent: 30 percent of the workers are graduates of the University of South Florida. The firm sponsors football and basketball events to assist in its recruiting efforts.

"We do care about where we are at," Hawk said. "We support our local economy."

3PSCU Financial Services

It pays to be fit at this St. Petersburg firm.

The 1,670 employees who exercise regularly and get annual physicals can accumulate points for paid days away from the office. Workers can also exchange the points for clothing and exercise equipment like yoga mats.

The firm's Health Matters program provides free fitness classes at the company gym. Classes available include boot camps, circuit training and Zumba. If employees pass on the classes, they can still pump iron or run a few miles on the treadmills.

Employees also enjoy on-site health fairs for cholesterol screenings, flu shots, skin cancer tests and nutrition counseling.

Besides offering the traditional medical, dental and vision benefits, the firm provides adoption assistance and pet insurance. Although the firm doesn't subsidize the pet coverage, employees receive lower premiums with the group plan.

"Healthy employees are happier employees," said Jean Selleck, manager of employee relations. "We want to be known as one of the top places to work at in Tampa Bay."

4Hyatt Regency Clearwater Beach Resort & Spa

Who wouldn't want to spend 12 nights in Europe or Asia for free?

The 159 employees at this Hyatt Regency in Clearwater enjoy 12 free days at Hyatt Hotels across the globe. Most book rooms at resorts in Orlando or other Florida areas. Some have traveled to Germany and Asia. And family members also get a discount when staying at Hyatt Hotels.

"It's our most popular benefit," said Jamie Adams, assistant director of human resources. "We're the only hotel chain that offers this benefit."

When employees stay at the other Hyatt Hotels, they're given a 50 percent discount on meals and room service. If workers get hungry at work, they can eat hot meals for free in the employee dining room. Computers and televisions are also provided when workers are on break.

Although many Hyatt Hotels provide discounted meals, the Clearwater facility absorbs the cost to offset the $40 that workers pay each month for parking, Adams said, adding: "It's a real nice benefit."

5Busch Gardens

Who says you can't play at work?

The 2,160 employees at the Tampa theme park may labor as lifeguards, ticket takers and ride operators while on the clock, but it's fun and games after work. Busch Gardens awards free annual passes and daily tickets to seasonal and full-time employees. The program is one of the biggest perks of working at Busch Gardens.

After 30 days on the job, seasonal employees are given six free tickets for family and friends. Full-time employees receive 12 daily tickets and four annual passes, said Mike Kraskow, director of human resources.

Employees also can use the passes at all Busch Gardens and Sea World parks except Discovery Cove. With so many seasonal employees coming from the college ranks, the free passes and tickets helps land workers.

"It's a driver for recruiting," Kraskow said. "A group of kids will apply with their friends. It's a real nice benefit."

If employees want to ride the water slides or splash in the pools after work, all they have to do is change out of their uniform. Besides health care benefits, employees can earn up to six weeks of vacation a year. Working together as a team is important at Busch Gardens. The company organizes park-preview events, holiday celebrations, intramural sports leagues and bingo nights.

Tampa Bay companies offer perks to brighten workers' lives 04/27/12 [Last modified: Friday, April 27, 2012 7:16pm]
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