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The Best Places to Work

There's no such thing as a perfect job. Or is there? Fortune's annual look at the 100 Best Companies to Work For begs the question, offering a raft of reasons why these workplaces are top-notch.

A well-known California-based technology company makes it a rule that employees never be more than 100 feet away from food. At an energy producer in Oklahoma the average bonus in 2006 was $21,332 and the median was $9,000. And then there's the New York firm where pay and benefits increased 23 percent from the year before.

If you're scouting greener career pastures, you might pursue a gig with one of these employers.

Google's Glory

Topping Fortune's list is Google, the Mountain View, Calif.-based company that gives stock options to 99 percent of its employees and reported one-year job growth of 60 percent. The perks don't stop there.

Women 'Googlers' can take up to 18 weeks of paid maternity leave; men get seven weeks. As part of its "green" policies, Google offers solar panels, recycled carpets and complimentary public transportation, and at headquarters there is an environmentally friendly air-filtering system designed to flush out toxins and particulates. Google also lays claim to the 100-feet rule about food and employees.

Beyond the dazzling compensation and perks, employees say they relish Google for the flexibility, and opportunities to be productive and try new things. If after working hard and succeeding in one position a worker chases a new endeavor within Google, he or she usually enjoys an abundance of support.

What's not to love? Google seems to have everything covered: financial stability, creature comforts, professional supports for advancement and upward mobility. But would it be a struggle to maintain a life outside Google? Would some--especially young, single employees--lose sight of work-life balance, focusing too much on work? 

An All-Star Lineup

A variety of companies hit Fortune's charts. Here are the other firms rounding out the top five:

2. Quicken Loans
   Headquarters: Livonia, Mich.
   Number of U.S. employees: 4,920
   Most common salaried job: Mortgage Banker, $75,765
   
3. Wegmans Food Markets
   Headquarters: Rochester, N.Y.
   Number of U.S. employees: 35,302
   Most common salaried job: Store Department Manager, $49,411

4. Edward Jones, brokerage firm
   Headquarters: St. Louis
   Number of U.S. employees: 31,451
   Most common salaried job: Senior Programmer Analyst, $77,368

5. Genentech, biotech firm
   Headquarters: South San Francisco
   Number of U.S. employees: 10,842
   Most common salaried job: Research Associate, $85,880

Above and Beyond

Fortune slices its data in a variety of ways, including best compensation, health care, work-life balance, most women, sabbaticals, and telecommuting, among others. Among some of the most intriguing perks:

FactSet Research
Best Companies rank: 52
Who says there's no free lunch? Employees go crazy for the stir-fry, and anything spicy, at this financial data supplier where lunches are gratis Monday through Thursday. (On Fridays, employees are encouraged to go out for a lunchtime change of scene.)

MITRE
Best Companies rank: 42
Get schooled: This nonprofit researcher encourages higher learning with tuition reimbursement up to $20,000 per year. Employees also can take up to a week of paid time off to support Hurricane Katrina relief efforts, lead Scout trips or help with other volunteer projects.

KPMG
Best Companies rank: 71
Time to de-stress: Most employees get a full 5 weeks of paid time off in their first year of service. 

For more details on the data, check out these links:

  • Health care: 21 companies on this year's list pay 100% of their employees' health-care premiums.
  • Telecommuting: Of the 84 Best Companies that allow employees to telecommute or work at home at least 20% of the time, these 10 have the highest percentage of telecommuters.
  • Work-life balance: The top 10 Best Companies where employees feel "encouraged to balance their work and personal life."
  • Best compensation: A breakdown of companies according to who pays what.
  • Most women: Bright Horizons Family Solutions is in first place, with women accounting for 96% of employees.
  • Sabbaticals: Fully paid hiatuses are a reality at these workplaces.

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