How the most innovative companies are tackling commuting

Sequoia Consulting Group holds a unique position among HR benefits consultants. Headquartered in the heart of Silicon Valley, perhaps it’s not surprising that Sequoia has carved out a niche serving high-growth tech companies, helping companies such as Dropbox, Cloudera, Baidu, One Medical Group, and MongoDB select and implement the employee benefits that enable them to attract and retain talent and enable their employees perform at their best.

Within Sequoia, there is one woman who sees it all — Kaleana Quibell, the Director of Wellbeing. She advises companies on innovative programs to support physical, emotional, financial, and social wellbeing of employees and their families. In this capacity, she assesses company needs, supports vendor selection, and helps rollout competitive benefit and wellbeing programs for some of the world’s most innovative tech companies.

Given Kaleana’s unique perspective, we recently sat down to learn about general benefit trends and how innovative companies are solving commuting for their employees. Some highlights:

  1. The most successful companies are building a benefits philosophy grounded on their core values to drive consistent decisions. Fringe benefits are currently experiencing a renaissance with new offerings being introduced to the market every day. These address diverse employee needs targeting everything from emergency childcare, to financial wellness, to mental health, to commute. And benefits managers are increasingly being challenged which to select based on impact. When comparing benefits that might be apples to oranges, Kaleana explained, “deciding the benefits philosophy is really important. For some clients it is going to be to reduce cost. Other clients with a larger budget want to do the best job at taking care of their people. Some want to give employees a lot of autonomy to choose what’s important to them. Others want to gather feedback to make core decisions and slowly add other benefits. We help clients figure out their objectives and company values so they can make decisions in a consistent manner. Otherwise, adding a random benefit will seem favoritive. Whereas, when a company chooses a benefit in alignment with their philosophy it’s usually better accepted by everyone.”
  2. Companies are moving beyond a one-size-fits-all approach to introduce benefits that will have the greatest impact for certain functions. In giving a detailed example, Kaleana explained, “they have to support a wide variety of people: from high stress call center employees to their sales team. To do that, they gather feedback from managers and relay that to the benefits team to evaluate programs that will help serve the diverse needs of departments or locations […] Rather than approaching it as spend this much on the company as a whole we thought about which vendors would offer their services as pilot programs to the subset of people who needed it most.”
  3. The most progressive companies are introducing flexible spend accounts to support employees with commute. Increasingly employees are expressing less tolerance for long commutes and requesting flexible work arrangements (e.g., work at home, flexible hours, etc.). As a response, companies are responding to commute challenges by evolving from a centralized office model to smaller distributed offices to reduce commute times. Further, they are introducing commute benefits to tackle the commute itself. As Kaleana explains, “it’s all about giving people flexibility in their lives […] Recognizing that they can’t make assumptions on how people commute, progressive employers are striving to create a seamless reimbursement system. They provide flexible funds that their employees can use. It’s a great idea but I don’t think there is a perfect way to do this yet.”

Read the full interview here.

Originally published at on January 29, 2019.