October 24, 2012

The Inequity of Benefits

Business balancing actRecently, I spent an hour on the phone with my sister. After landing her dream job working with special needs children, she was at her wit’s end. Four months into her new career, she was emotionally and physically exhausted, frustrated at how much her energy was being sapped both at work and at home.

We talked for awhile about options and discussed getting a cleaning service (no small cost on an educator’s salary) and ordering in when she’s too exhausted to cook for her husband and small son. Many of the options were untenable, either due to cost, or the fact that her husband too, works long and unpredictable hours at a physically tiring job.

Finally, I said: “Well, sweetie, maybe it’s just too hard. I mean there are lots of people who could not do this work.” To which she responded, “But I always thought I could. I thought this was the thing that I could do above all others.” And she’s right. Taken to its logical conclusion, my idea, which was essentially quitting, leaves these children, many of whom have high spectrum autism, shaken baby syndrome and fetal alcohol syndrome, in the care of people who don’t care quite as much, or who have hardened their hearts to what the job entails, or who have just checked out. Of course, there is a fourth option: To keep going and provide these professionals with the benefits and relief they need for such a high stress job.

Contrast that with an article that talks about the wonderful benefits that Evernote offers its staff. From housecleaning twice a month to money towards a much needed vacation, Evernote is just one of the startups that offers its hardworking employees incredible benefits under the auspice that happier employees make better products.

“[The house cleaning] eliminates a decision I have to make,” one of Evernote’s employees told the New York Times. “It’s just happening and it’s good, and I don’t have to think about it.”

“Happy workers make better products,” Libin justifies the perk. He also offers employees $1,000 per year to take a real vacation and travel somewhere. “The output we care about has everything to do with your state of mind.”

Please note, I am in no way insinuating that these employees don’t deserve these perks. But what about happier employees making better people? That’s what my sister and her co-workers are doing, after all. Day in and day out they care for children and situations I can’t even fathom, but no one is offering to clean her house. In fact, here are some more perks that hardworking Silicon Valley startups offer:

Eventbrite gives its employees massages, while ModCloth gives unlimited sick days. StumbleUpon and Uber give employees unlimited car service. Asana gives employees 10K to buy computer gear and Dropbox has Whiskey Fridays.

Perhaps Whiskey Fridays isn’t the best idea for those working with kids but while software is an important part of our everyday lives, it baffles the mind that the people who work with our children don’t get at least one or two of these. Not all of us live in Silicon Valley and many of us don’t work for startups, but we can vote with our pocketbooks. Day in and day out, we work hard to secure benefits for the employees of our companies and the candidates we place. This holiday season, take some time to do something for the people who are investing in the future. Whether it’s a gift certificate for a massage, a Starbucks gift card or a housecleaning service, show that you appreciate these amazing teachers, educators and caregivers.

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Maren Hogan is a seasoned marketer and community builder in the HR and Recruiting industry. She leads Red Branch Media, an agency offering marketing strategy and content development. A consistent advocate of next generation marketing techniques, Hogan has built successful online communities, deployed brand strategies in both the B2B and B2C sectors, and been a prolific contributor of thought leadership in the global recruitment and talent space. Hogan speaks and writes on all career and workforce related subjects. Her clients include Fortune 500 companies and SMBs around the globe. Red Branch Media was formed in 2006 as a simple consultancy. Today, the firm is a full-service B2B Marketing Agency that serves clients in the U.K., Africa, China, Israel, Europe and North America. Primarily focused on the Human Resources and Global Workforce vendors, Red Branch Media handles clients of all shapes and sizes.
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