Business

Companies are betting these employee benefits will help them in the ‘Great Reshuffle’

Paul Bradbury | OJO Images | Getty Images

Millions of Americans are quitting their jobs and rethinking what they want when it comes to work and work-life balance. Companies are responding, meeting their employees’ needs in areas such as remote work, flexible hours, four-day workweeks, compensation and more. This story is part of a series looking at the “Great Reshuffle” and the shift in workplace culture taking place right now.

The “Great Resignation” — also known as the “Great Reshuffle” — is showing no signs of slowing down.

The mass exodus of workers, which includes almost 48 million who walked away last year, has led some employers to rethink how they retain and attract employees.

The result has been more flexibility and remote work, as well as higher compensation. Some companies have instituted four-day workweeks, while others have moved to all-remote or hybrid work schedules.

In fact, 63% of jobseekers cite work-life balance as one of the top priorities when choosing a new job, according to LinkedIn’s 2022 Global Talent Trends report. In comparison, 60% said compensation and benefits.

Here’s how some companies have stood out with policies they say are helping them in the war for talent.

Four-day workweek

Shortly after the Covid pandemic hit, online children’s clothing retailer Primary realized employees were burned out.

“When folks were coming back in on Monday, people were just not refreshed and it was affecting productivity,” said Christina Carbonell, Primary’s co-founder and co-CEO.

The company responded with four-day workweeks.

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Most of the 60 employees at the New York-based company work Monday through Thursday. Instead of lengthening the workday, they have become more efficient. Meetings have been trimmed — and some hours are blocked off as meeting-free. They didn’t have to change deadlines, goals or ambitions.

Employees show up to work rejuvenated and the attrition rate hasn’t picked up, which is a win during a time when millions of Americans are quitting their jobs, said Cap Watkins, the company’s chief experience officer.

It’s going so well that there are no plans to return to the five-day workweek.

Work from anywhere

Sevdha Thompson, digital producer of marketing for Coalition Technologies, spent a few weeks working in Costa Rica last year.
Courtesy: Sevdha Thompson

Employees at Culver City, California-based digital marketing and website design company Coalition Technologies can work remotely from anywhere in the world.

For Sevdha Thompson, the company’s digital producer of marketing, that means she can spend time in Jamaica with her family, visit rainforests in Costa Rica and travel around the U.S. to see friends — all while working.

“I, for one, love traveling,” said Thompson, who’s in her early 30s.

“Having that flexibility to be able to spend time with people who are very important to me, in different parts of the globe, it’s of major importance.”

While some employees have used the policy to travel, others simply work from where they live. Today Coalition Technologies’ more than 250 workers are spread out across the globe — from the U.S., Canada and Mexico to India, Germany and South Africa.

‘Surprises and delights’

LinkedIn employees are treated to “surprise and delight” moments through the tech company’s LiftUp program.
LinkedIn

Even something as simple as an extra paid day off or a workday without meetings can boost employee well-being, according to LinkedIn.

When its workers were faced with burnout and exhaustion during the pandemic, the tech giant responded with an initiative called LiftUp. It’s a resource hub and a series of fun events, but most notably it also gives the gift of time in the form of well-being days off and meeting-free days.

“The surprises and delights were really meant to simply put the spark back in everyone, lift our heads up higher, and create some fun along the way,” Nina McQueen, LinkedIn’s vice president of benefits and employee experience at LinkedIn, said in the company’s 2022 Global Talent Trends report.

The program isn’t going away when the pandemic ends.

″[Employees] need support, they need to know the organization values them,” said Jennifer Shappley, LinkedIn’s global head of talent acquisition.

Paid sabbaticals

Sabbaticals aren’t a common workplace perk. Prior to the Covid pandemic, only 5% of organizations offered a paid sabbatical program, while 11% offered an unpaid one, the Society for Human Resource Management’s 2019 benefits report found.

Tech company Automattic is one of the 5%. For every five years worked, employees get a paid three-month sabbatical.

“It provides a really nice sort of reset point for people to reevaluate their role or their careers or what they want to come back doing,” said CEO Matt Mullenweg.

I stepped away completely disconnected, came back, was rejuvenated, was excited about my work again.
Lori McLeese
Automattic’s global head of human resources

It can also benefit those at work, since people take on new responsibilities to cover for the worker on sabbatical.

Lori McLeese, Automattic’s global head of human resources, took her first sabbatical in 2016 to travel to Europe. It was the best thing she could have done, she said.

“It helped reset my brain,” McLeese said. “I stepped away completely disconnected, came back, was rejuvenated, was excited about my work again.”

Contract work with benefits

Harriet Talbot quit her full-time job at Unilever to take part in its U-Work program in London.
Courtesy: Harriet Talbot

Unilever’s U-Work program gives contract workers the freedom and flexibility they desire, coupled with job security and benefits.

Workers commit to working a minimum number of weeks a year, receive a small monthly retainer and get paid for assignments. Benefits include a pension, health insurance and sick pay.

It was the perfect fit for 30-year-old Harriet Talbot. She quit her full-time job in the global consumer goods company’s London office in 2021 and has since worked two contract jobs at the company, in addition to a side gig at a local bike shop. She is now between assignments, traveling by bike through Europe to Australia.

“It’s such a kind of real relief and really progressive, I think, to be able to come back and join the Unilever community when I get back,” she said.

U-Work is now being piloted in several other global locations, although it hasn’t made it to the U.S. … yet.

Fit work around life

Allison Greenwald, senior product manager at The Alley Group, spent five weeks in Alaska while working a flexible schedule.
Courtesy: Allison Greenwald

Flexibility is the norm for employees at information technology and services company Alley. The company doesn’t set hours; instead, each team decides when to hold meetings. Other than those meetings, employees get their work done when it suits them.

For Allison Greenwald, 29, that means she works her remote job around other things that may pop up in her life — from errands and doctor’s appointments to exercising and traveling.

“I’ve gotten to do really incredible things,” said Greenwald, who lives in Brooklyn, New York, and spent five weeks in Alaska last August.

Alley’s philosophy is that workers are adults and can govern themselves, said Bridget McNulty, partner and chief operating officer at the firm.

“We trust the people that we hire to join our team,” she said.

“There is a mutual agreement to work together and we take that very seriously.”

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Disclosure: NBCUniversal and Comcast Ventures are investors in Acorns.

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