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Top Companies for Work-Life Balance

Lisa Scherzer
Lisa Scherzer
The Exchange

On-site childcare and gym, free breakfast and lunch, every second Friday off, work from anywhere, opportunity to take a sabbatical. To those of us who are always on the clock with eyes glued to our BlackBerrys, that sounds like the perfect balance between work and personal life, right?

And if you work at Orbitz, SAS or Agilent Technologies, that set-up is probably old hand.

Those are a few of the companies that take work-life balance seriously, according to a new survey. Jobs site Glassdoor.com ranked companies based on their work-life balance culture to come up with its second annual list of 25 firms. (The report is based on the reviews of employees who elected to participate in an online company review survey.)

Other firms that made the top 25 include: Mitre, a systems engineering nonprofit company (4.5 out of 5.0 rating); LinkedIn (4.3); Discover (4.2); and consulting firm Bain (4.1).

Work-life balance has become a hot topic this summer as prominent economists advocate mandatory vacation for all workers as a way out of our economic rut.

Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich this week called for a mandatory three weeks off for every worker -- resulting, he said, in more productive workers, more output per worker, and companies hiring additional workers to cover everyone else's three weeks vacation, which would, in turn, lower the unemployment rate. (The U.S. is the only advanced country with no policy guaranteeing paid vacation time.)

Similarly, last month economist Dean Baker argued in the Guardian for shortened workweeks and increased paid vacation time, pointing to countries such as Germany and the Netherlands, where the average worker "puts in 20% fewer hours in a year than the average worker" in the U.S., adding that Germany's unemployment rate  has dropped because it "encourages firms to reduce work hours rather than lay off workers."

So it's nice to know that at some companies, working 14-hour days is not necessarily the way to impress the boss. Employee comments posted on Glassdoor highlight the value these companies place on flexible work schedules. (Though it should be noted, it's not all roses. A few reviews offset the glowing work-life balance remarks with harsh honesty, like this one from a Bain & Company employee: "Work-life balance -- obviously consulting stinks but at least Bain tried (weekly health checks, meetings on how to make life better)."

Check out the full list below. And note the companies that made the list last year but didn't in 2012, including Facebook, Southwest Airlines and Nestle Purina PetCare.