After Kelly Emo joined BEA Systems Inc. in 2003, she occasionally left during work hours to run personal errands. Last year, the San Jose, Calif., software company began changing her routine.
In August 2004, a car detailer started coming to the office. Ms. Emo now has her family's Explorer and Jetta scrubbed in the parking lot. BEA soon brought in massage therapists, so she started treating herself to an occasional 20-minute massage. This April, a roving farmer's market also began visiting, so Ms. Emo did some of her grocery shopping outside the corporate cafeteria.
Ms. Emo says she seldom has to leave BEA's campus to run errands any more. "I can definitely spend more quality time at work," says the 40-year-old marketing manager, who estimates she squeezes in an extra 45 minutes a day on the job because of the new on-site services.
On-campus pampering is making a comeback in Silicon Valley. Videogame maker Electronic Arts Inc. brought in an acupuncturist to its Redwood City campus in late 2003. Last year, semiconductor-equipment maker Cadence Design Systems Inc. introduced a bike doctor, who visits its San Jose headquarters to tune up workers' bicycles. BEA occasionally arranges visits from Weight Watchers representatives. Many of these service providers pull into corporate campuses in recreational vehicles, turning office parking lots into high-end trailer parks on some days.
The new services are different from the perks of the dot-com days, when free massages and dry cleaning were recruiting tools. The tech bust largely ended that party, with companies scaling back such benefits in favor of plain hard work. Some of those same services -- and many new ones -- are back, but in most cases employees must pay for them.
Getting More Work
And tech companies now use the services not so much to woo or reward workers, but to get more work out of them. "We've added on-site services strictly for the efficiency and productivity of employees," says Debi Muchow, head of human resources at Cadence. The services "don't make our code writers write code, but now they don't have to run around town to get things done and they don't have to take time off."
Jeanne Wu, BEA's senior vice president of human resources, says the on-site services offer benefits for both the company and the employees. The convenience of the on-site services makes for happier employees who have more reason to remain on campus.
Google Inc., known for lavish employee benefits, operates free buses to shuttle employees living in San Francisco to its headquarters 33 miles south in Mountain View. But Google employees don't just gaze at the scenery: The vehicles have wireless Internet capability so they can work during the trip. "It's a Google workspace," says Nate Tyler, a company spokesman. Google rival Yahoo Inc. started a free Wi-Fi shuttle from San Francisco to its Sunnyvale headquarters in September.
Tom Yeh, co-owner of Siteler Wash, a mobile car-wash business that visits Silicon Valley campuses, says his sales pitch is the productivity gains corporations can reap by keeping employees on campus. "Going out to get a car wash is usually a 10 or 15 minute drive, then a five or 10 minute wait, and then 20 minutes for the actual wash, so people will have spent a solid hour outside of work by the time they're back at their desks," says Mr. Yeh. "We save companies time. That's what we're really selling."
Mr. Yeh estimates workers spend just 15 minutes getting their car washed with his service. They simply schedule an appointment online, leave it with Mr. Yeh's team in the morning and pick it up after work. Siteler prepares a quarterly report for corporate customers with an analysis of employee-hours saved -- sometimes as much as 10,000 to 15,000 hours a month, Mr. Yeh says.
Siteler charges $9 for a basic car wash and up to $300 for a full detailing, which includes shampooing the interior, removing tar and bugs and treating the tires, seats and dash. The company, which has three trailers equipped with hoses, buckets and pressure washers, now services 15 Silicon Valley corporations such as Google, Yahoo and Sun Microsystems Inc. in Santa Clara.
Mike Lee, who manages a group of engineers at Yahoo, says he has a budget allocated to employee perks that include gift certificates for on-site services. He recently handed out $60 certificates to his 15-person team for hour-long on-site massages. "It's true that I can keep the [team] here working longer hours" by using these services, Mr. Lee says.
Mr. Lee, 29, gets his own car washed every three weeks and his hair cut once a month, all at work. "I'm basically buying time to be more productive at work," he says. In July, Yahoo started offering valet parking so employees don't waste time finding parking spots.
Many on-site vendors charge more than off-site equivalents. Connie Bedard, a hairdresser in a 38-foot recreational vehicle with the business name Hairs to You, drives to Silicon Valley companies such as VeriSign Inc. in Mountain View. She charges $20 for a basic haircut without a shampoo -- $7 more than a nearby Supercuts. The premium is reasonable, Ms. Bedard says, because "the customer can just stay at work, and it's one less thing for people to take care of."
Patrick Dutrow, 47, a Cadence employee, says he feels compelled to use the services, whatever the cost. After he shifted to a new job as a program director coordinating with the company's business partners this year, Mr. Dutrow had to work 10 or 11 hours a day. With fewer people to do more work in Silicon Valley these days, Mr. Dutrow says he has so little free time that he has to rely on on-campus services to get his personal errands done.
So far, Mr. Dutrow has used the on-site car-oil-change, dent-removal, dry-cleaning and hair-cutting services. "It gives me more time to keep up with my email," he says.