Hate your job? Cool company cultures on the rise

I’ve been applying to jobs for over a month now, waiting for the right opportunity. This is the first time I’ve seriously hunted for jobs since 2014 when I traded a low-paying job at a digital marketing agency for a more rewarding job at a tech startup.

While surfing job boards in 2014, I remember seeing the traditional benefits packages that most companies offer full-time employees. Health, dental, vision, paid holidays, PTO, and partial 401K matches. Some of them mentioned team retreats (like the startup I was hired by), but this was rare — at least rarer than it is today.

Today, team retreats are just one of many untraditional benefits offered by companies. I’m seeing things like the option to work remotely, catered lunches, free snacks, unlimited paid time off, office beer keg, happy hours, profit sharing, equity, and so much more.

I think companies are starting to understand that, if they work as hard for their employees as their employees work for them, they can attract great talent and people. Cutting a paycheck and buying a ping pong table is easy. Respecting employees is hard, but necessary if you want to retain hard workers.

What average companies look like

At the digital marketing agency I worked on the largest client accounts and helped make key hiring decisions. And when I was promoted to a senior position I had to fight for a $14.50 to $16.00 per hour raise.

The company also made us clock in and out for lunch, promised parties and never threw them, didn’t give us insurance, and gave us minimal paid time off. This was not a new company, either. It was 100 people strong and five years old.

Looking back, I’m fortunate for this position because it gave me momentum to find something better. But I’m also sad because people I worked with are still there. Good people. People who worked hard and were promised things that they’ll probably never get.

For them and other hard workers reading this, I want to say: You deserve better and better exists. Compared to company benefits I saw offered in 2014, the benefits offered by some companies today are exceptional.

I think this is because companies are finally starting to understand the ROI of karma. If they respect employees, employees will respect them. Which means less employee churn, less time training, and a more positive work environment.

The digital marketing agency I worked at used cubicles. I understand cubicle farms are space-efficient but, throughout my career, there’s been a correlation between companies that use them and companies that suck the life out of me. Source: PIxabay

What cool companies look like

A positive culture is created by a company that strives to treat its employees like adults. The startup I was hired by after leaving the agency was like this. In addition to giving me a raise within three months because they saw I was worth more than I initially asked for, they also implemented an unlimited vacation policy.

This company was trying. It had heart. And it was fun to work for. The reason I left is because the company got acquired and the culture changed significantly. I also got infected with wanderlust and the company didn’t have a remote work culture. But as I’m finding out now, some companies seem to have it all.

One of these companies is ReCharge, a Santa Monica-based payments startup I came across during my new job search. What caught my attention at first was their remote work culture. Employees can work from the Santa Monica headquarters or anywhere else in the world.

Here is their company video:

A closer look at ReCharge

To get a closer look at ReCharge’s culture, I caught up with Chathri Ali, Head of Growth at ReCharge. She told me about some things that ReCharge does that goes against the grain of traditional work culture, or how they infuse culture into a workforce plagued with a lack of it.

Chathri and I joked about how many of these things would give human resource teams at “boring” companies a nervous breakdown.

In addition to having a keg at their headquarters, they have an unofficial beer o’clock on Fridays, colloquially called MFBT (mother ####ing beer time). At around 4pm EST, a company Zoom video conference is fired up and ReCharge’s employees from all around the world bond and share highlights from the week over their favorite beverages.

“I could mention the marathon sprint analogy but, truthfully, we have things like MFBT and unlimited PTO because we want to make sure our employees understand that connectedness and balance are important to optimizing productivity in the long run,” said Chathri.

Whether you agree with the general act of drinking or drinking in the workplace, this activity represents a profound idea: that work doesn’t have to be detached from reality. Work can be fun. And when you spend a third of your adult life working, it goddam better be.

In addition to having activities like MFBT to keep workweeks grounded, the company has an amazing benefits package that includes:

  • Competitive salary
  • Retreats twice a year to bring the global team together
  • Unlimited paid time off to pursue your passions
  • $75 monthly stipend to use on subscription products
  • Pick your own laptop equipment

In 2014, some companies may have offered benefits like this, but not to the extent that they do now. So if you’ve gained some good experience from working mediocre jobs and are starting to want something more, go out there and get it. It exists.

How to identify cool companies

While it’s hard to determine whether a company has a positive work environment without working there, there are some things things I’ve found that many cool companies have on their website.

Positive team page

Before that startup hired me they flew me to Los Angeles to visit the team. I remember feeling excited about the prospect of meeting and working with them. One reason for this was the team page. It was designed with the intention of showcasing the company’s most vital assets: its employees.

The digital marketing agency I worked at only showed pictures of the management team. And worse, it used its team page to link out to service pages and promote the company. It’s a shame that many companies don’t realize that employees are the company and scratch their heads when good employees leave and growth stagnates.

Transparency about perks

Usually the companies I’m excited about applying to put their employee benefits front and center on the About or Careers page of their website. The startup I worked at does this, ReCharge does this, and a company I’m currently excited about interviewing with does this (Outbound Engine).

A company that isn’t transparent about employee perks probably doesn’t have any worth speaking about, which isn’t a good sign.

Core values

A company that puts time into creating core values is usually dedicated to fostering a positive work environment. The startup I worked for had them, ReCharge has them, and the company I’m currently interviewing with has them. This shows that a company believes in how they grow and not just growth for profit’s sake.

Not every cool company has these elements on their website, but, from my experience, the majority of them do. Pair your first impression of their company pages with answers you get from the hiring manager during your interview.

After they interview you, interview them. Ask them about company perks, salary range, what they do to promote work-life balance, and what makes them unique. Ask of them as much as they ask of you.

If you’re a good worker who treats your work with respect, you deserve a good company that treats you with respect. Remember this and don’t settle. By refusing to settle for mediocrity, the workforce will change for the better.


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