7 September 2020 | 18 Comments
Today is Labor Day in the United States. It’s a day that I typically talk about how I try to pay freelancers quickly and fairly, which is still true, but this year we actually have a payroll with two other full-time employees. Joe became our Director of Operations in January, and Alex became our Director of Sales last week.
I’ve spent my entire adult life fascinated by different perks and principles offered by other companies, so it’s been exciting to actually apply some of those methods to my own company (and to continue to add to the list). Here’s what Stonemaier Games offers:
- Work when you want: There are no set working hours at Stonemaier Games–just get the job done. There are a lot of salaried jobs that require 40 hours of work a week from employees, which baffles me. I understand having a set number of hours for hourly employees, but I believe in trusting salaried employees to do their jobs, regardless of time.*
- Unlimited vacation: While this has been a difficult year to use this perk, I hope Joe and Alex will take advantage of it in 2021 and beyond (if they don’t, I will try to see what’s standing in their way so I can remove that barrier). Again, I trust them to get their jobs done, and I can cover for them when they’re traveling just as they would cover for me.
- Work from home: This is the new normal for a lot of people, and perhaps it’s not a perk for everyone. But the convenience of it is huge: No commute, access to your full kitchen (and your bed if you need a nap), and extra time with your pets. Also, I’ve encouraged Joe and Alex to enhance their home offices at Stonemaier’s expense whenever they want.
- No expense reports or permissions: Speaking of expenses, there’s no bureaucracy, paperwork, or permissions at Stonemaier. Joe and Alex have free rein to buy what they need (for themselves and sometimes even for freelancers and customers).
- Retirement savings contribution: A lot of companies offer a money match on retirement up to a certain percentage of the employee’s strategy, which I like in that it may encourage people who wouldn’t otherwise contribute to long-term savings. But when I was setting this up, it occurred to me that it shouldn’t really matter to me if our employees save or don’t save for retirement–it’s their money, not mine. But I do care about their future, so instead, Stonemaier contributes a set amount to their retirement funds each year (an amount that is substantially higher than what a standard money match would be).
- Guaranteed annual cost-of-living raise: Throughout my career, I’ve liked when employers offer a cost-of-living raise independent of merit, responsibilities, and company success. Those other elements may result in raises too, but they’re on top of a guaranteed annual cost-of-living raise.
- Autonomy and authority: This falls more into the “principles” category than “perks,” and it’s tied to the various elements of trust mentioned above. While Joe and Alex run certain big decisions by me, they have full autonomy and authority within their core responsibilities (and within our mission of bringing joy to tabletops worldwide). I also encourage them to call me out when I’m not doing my best to accomplish that mission.
- Election Day: In some countries, election day is a national holiday. This makes so much sense for any democratic nation, but because the US doesn’t do it, any company can make up for it by making it a holiday for their employees. Joe and Alex are welcome to work on election day, but I’ve made it very clear they’re not expected to do so.
- No regular meetings: I believe that meetings are purely for collaboration or connection that can’t happen effectively in other formats–they’re not for reporting, oversight, or reviewing decisions that have already been made. As a result, we have very few meetings, and we only meet when we need to (usually for a playtest).
Fair salaries and health care are also part of what we provide to employees, but I consider those more in the category of “rights,” not perks.
*Several people in the comments mentioned that not having a clear expectation on working hours can lead to overworked employees. In that way, having a rough target of 40 hours a week is a good idea in principle, and we have that at Stonemaier. But I don’t care of Joe and Alex actually work 40 hours a week (or when they work) as long as the job gets done. There might easily be weeks when they only work 30 hours or less, and that’s fine. I think a big part of it is having clear responsibilities and keeping an open door so employees can let me know if those responsibilities are extending beyond a reasonable amount of time.
I hope to expand this list over time, as I really want to make sure that my coworkers feel valued, appreciated, and trusted. Are there any perks or principles you’ve experienced or heard about that I might consider in the future? What do you think about our list?
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