Great Places to Work: Honorable Mentions

15 places that deserve a shout-out

Making a Chore Fun

B.F. SAUL

B.F. Saul takes the prize for making cleaning fun, with an Office Clean Up Day that includes an ice-cream buffet. Its "Department of Fun" also plans bowling and other staff outings.

The firm, founded in 1892, owns and manages shopping centers, office and apartment buildings, and hotels. Employees praise the family feel and the company's ethics.

B.F. Saul Company, 7501 Wisconsin Ave., Bethesda; 301-986-6000, bfsaulhotels.com, saulcenters.com.

Interesting Work

DISCOVERY COMMUNICATIONS

While several reorganizations this year have made some Discovery staff uneasy, most still love the work--producing TV shows and other quality entertainment. The long list of benefits includes up to 11 weeks' paid maternity leave, an on-site medical clinic, emergency childcare, and screenings of new shows.

Discovery Communications, 1 Discovery Pl., Silver Spring; 240-662-2000; discovery.com.

Let Them Entertain You

MORTGAGE BANKERS

ASSOCIATION

Many offices celebrate birthdays with cake. But MBA's birthday parties sometimes feature entertainment--such as two violin prodigies from Sidwell Friends.

Besides a mission employees are proud of--increasing homeownership--there are 35-hour workweeks, bonuses, and more.

Mortgage Bankers Association, 1919 Pennsylvania Ave., NW; 202-557-2700; mbaa.org.

Stopping Crime

PLATINUMSOLUTIONS

Employees at PlatinumSolutions aren't cops, but they are helping to catch criminals. Their software helps federal, state, and local law enforcement crack codes to apprehend terrorists and to collect evidence that might lock up a violent offender or child pornographer.

"If we do a good job, lives will be saved," says co-owner Adam Rossi.

PlatinumSolutions, 12012 Sunset Hills Rd., Suite 445, Reston; 703-471-9793; platinumsolutions.com.

Caring for Its Own

MENTAL HEALTH ASSOCIATION

At MHA, a nonprofit serving Montgomery County residents, executive director Sharon Friedman tries to "take care of the caregivers." Staffers get their birthdays off and a day for holiday shopping. There's an annual raffle for a Bahamas trip. At staff meetings, where Friedman hands out awards for "great teacher" or "clean office," employees share personal and professional milestones. After, they eat ice cream.

Mental Health Association, 1000 Twinbrook Pkwy., Rockville; 301-424-0656; mhamc.org.

It Adds Up

RAFFA

Accountants can log grueling hours. Though Raffa employees work hard, they enjoy flexible schedules--and the work, most done for nonprofits. The 100-person staff also clocked 5,000 hours of community service in 2004, winning a Washington Business Journal award for most philanthropy by a small business.

Raffa, 1899 L St., NW, Suite 600; 202-822-5000; raffa.com.

Making the Grade

GEORGE MASON UNIVERSITY

At George Mason, there's an emphasis on staff appreciation. President Alan Merten hosts employee-of-the-month ceremonies in his office and invites the staffer's family. At another monthly recognition, he presents awards of $75 to $500. Assistant to the chief of staff Mary Roper even had an award for outstanding service named after her. "People thought I'd retired or died," she laughs.

George Mason University, 4400 University Dr., Fairfax; 703-993-1000; gmu.edu.

Teachers' Hours

NATIONAL EDUCATION ASSOCIATION

NEA gives its staff Fridays off in summer--and plenty of other time too. Most professional employees get 26 vacation days to start plus at least a week between Christmas and New Year's. Those with school-age children get five days of parenting leave.

National Education Association, 1201 16th St., NW; 202-833-4000; nea.org/jobs.

The Right Stuff

SYSTEMS PLANNING AND ANALYSIS

Missile defense, cyberspace security, and other weighty analysis is the draw at SPA. Most projects are for the Navy and Homeland Security, but when the firm decided to explore space work, it attracted astronaut Thomas Ken Mattingly II.

"What we do is exciting," says president Phillip Lantz. So exciting that the 33-year-old firm has employees who've been there 30 years.

Systems Planning and Analysis, 2001 N. Beauregard St., Alexandria; 703-931-3500; spa.com.

Thinking Long-Term

PROJECT PERFORMANCE

Mike Nigro, CEO of this management and IT firm, grew up in a blue-collar family and has seen what happens when retirees do not have enough money saved. So he matches 100 percent on 401(k) contributions up to 15 percent of salary.

Employees like the input they have at PPC and the transparent decision-making. They also like the family feel and occasional trips with spouses; last year's was to Disney World.

Project Performance Corp., 1760 Old Meadow Rd., McLean; 703-748-7000; www.ppc.com.

Time Off for Good Behavior

CORPORATE EXECUTIVE BOARD

CEB encourages employees to give back to the community--and they do. Last year, more than half of the 1,300 employees at this "best practices" research firm spent 8,300 hours volunteering, sometimes in teams. Service Corps, a company-run group, helps staffers find opportunities. An added bonus: They earn extra time off by volunteering.

Corporate Executive Board, 2000 Pennsylvania Ave., NW; 202-777-5000; executiveboard.com.

Sanity for New Mothers

DBC PUBLIC RELATIONS

Public relations attracts women, so it's not unusual that of the 15 people at DBC, 12 are female. What is unusual: Five just had babies.

Besides 12 weeks' paid maternity leave (and an option for four more unpaid), DBC gave each mom a Bugaboo stroller, paid time for doctor appointments, and $1,000 of backup childcare. Dads get six weeks' paternity leave.

DBC, 1050 Thomas Jefferson St., Suite 300; 202-298-7600; dbcpr.com.

Start of Something Big?

TIG GLOBAL

In four years, TIG has grown from a handful of employees to more than 70 and expects to double by the end of next year.

TIG's Web analysts and techies help hotels and resorts do e-marketing. The staff is young but given responsibility. Many travel to Chicago or Colorado or Florida. Everyone gets stock, and an IPO or buyout may be in the cards.

TIG Global, 5335 Wisconsin Ave., NW, Suite 780; 202-465-3900; tigglobal.com.

It's Not All About You

VOCUS

This software firm has an employee charity committee with the best name we've heard: It's Not All About You. (To counter the It's All About You committee that plans staff fun.)

The idea that "it's not all about you" starts at the top. When the firm was running out of space--it grew 65 percent last year--the CEO and CFO gave up their large offices to save the indoor basketball court.

Vocus, 4296 Forbes Blvd., Lanham; 301-459-2590; vocus.com.

Think Green

ICF CONSULTING

Employees at ICF, a management, technology, and policy consulting firm, practice what they preach. Our tour took us through some darkened hallways where lights had been turned off to save energy. The company wins awards for recycling. And when a manager had a baby, colleagues bought the boy a $200 sulfur-dioxide-emissions allowance, to keep industrial emissions from the air.

ICF Consulting, 9300 Lee Hwy., Fairfax; 703-934-3603; icfconsulting.com.