“One of the things we wanted to do is provide an environment at InDebted, where people don’t have to shy away from those things, but rather embrace them as part of their working week,” Foreman says.
Nine months later Foreman says the firm has seen “huge” improvements in the talent pipeline and retention, as well as employee satisfaction. The number of people applying for jobs has emerged 280 per cent, and some 98 per cent of employees say their mental health has improved. Productivity has barely changed.
“It has been incredibly successful,” Foreman says.
The tech founder attributes the maintaining of productivity levels to the fact that InDebted has a fully remote workforce, so already has a “very good environment for optimizing productivity”.
Further, before introducing the policy, the company undertook a series of goal-setting and planning exercises and found that the vast majority of staff felt they could meet their goals for the year in a shorter week.
Under the InDebted model, most employees take Fridays off, which is both efficient for the running of the company and ensures that staff do not end up working for some or most of the day because of the need to respond to requests from those who are working .
Apart from sector-based Best Places to Work awards, specialist awards are given to companies whose policies are progressive in a particular field.
Vista, formerly Vistaprint, a producer of marketing products for small and micro businesses, won the Best Employee Experience award; digital, customer experience and media agency Affinity won the award for Most Outstanding Practice in Wellbeing; non-bank lender Wisr took out the Most Outstanding Practice in Diversity & inclusion award; and SixPivot, a cloud management solutions provider, won the award for the Most Outstanding Practice in Employee Flexibility.
Last year SixPivot took out the Most Outstanding Practice in Diversity & Inclusion prize, while the overall award was taken out by SEEK.
Vista, a Boston-based company listed on the NASDAQ exchange, introduced “remote-first” working.
Says Marcus Marchant, Vista CEO for Australia, New Zealand and Singapore: “Our default position globally is you’ll always be remote with us, except if you’re at a production facility. You can work anywhere in the world, anytime in the world. We work asynchronously and really go for work-life balance, or work-life harmony as we prefer to call it. We really want you to find a way to work within your lifestyle, that really suits you.”
Most of the local employees are in Australia, but Marchant points to a colleague who based herself in Canada over December and January because she wanted to obtain a ski instructor’s license.
With the workforce fully remote, Vista has come up with a variety of ways to connect with staff. On Wednesdays there is a “stand-up” meeting, where parts of the business showcase what they are working on. There is a second company-wide meeting for an hour each Friday morning, but it is a social occasion, often involving online games. All employees are allowed to listen in to executive planning and business meetings to increase transparency, which Marchant says would probably not happen in a “room environment”.
There is a policy of no meetings on a Friday afternoon so employees can focus on their personal development. As a result of the changes, engagement, diversity and health and well-being levels have all improved.
SixPivot’s success this year came from a decision to offer unlimited domestic violence leave for victims and perpetrators. In addition to the leave, the firm provides paid emergency accommodation, cash support of up to $5000 and individual and family counseling.
To date, SixPivot has had one team member — a potential perpetrator — come forward because they were concerned their behavior was “borderline” and wanted help to prevent any escalation. Another staff member has taken advantage of the program to support an extended family member.
SixPivot founder and chief executive Faith Rees says the policy came about after it emerged that three of the six female employees working at the firm at the time had experienced domestic violence.
Change the behavior
About two years ago, a male staff member told Rees that he had had a fight with his partner and, in the words of Rees, “did some things that he wasn’t proud of and needed some help”.
Rees adds: “He basically didn’t know where to go, or how to get that help. So that was why we [thought]: ‘We can support the victim in terms of everything from giving them financial support and helping them change address. But if we really want to make change, we have to make change with perpetrators. If we can create a safe place for the men in our organization to come to us at that point [where their behaviour might become aggressive]or before they get to that point, hopefully we can start to change the behaviour’.”
When potential perpetrators take leave, they must commit to counseling and provide Rees with information and contact details of the counselor or expert to enable the CEO to have a written communication.
“I don’t need to know all the details, but we do need to know that they are continuing to seek help,” Rees says.
Back at InDebted, which is hoping to raise another $US40 million from investors in the next three to four months, Foreman says the company provides a $US1000 quarterly stipend to cover office-related costs. The money can be used in a variety of ways, including purchasing equipment for the home office, co-working membership fees and facilitating collaboration with colleagues.
Paid annual leave is unlimited.
“For most people in the business, as a guide we use six weeks of leave every year as a healthy amount to ensure that people are well rested and balanced,” Foreman says.