1. A Recipe for Success
Early in the pandemic, Ben Montgomery started cooking more for his family of four. The only problem? “I’m not a good cook,” says Montgomery, senior director of corporate counsel at Surface Oncology in Cambridge.
Then his employer stepped in. This July, when the biotech company was still mostly remote, it launched an initiative aimed at employees interested in reading, physical fitness, or cooking. The bibliophiles were each given a Kindle and a subscription to the audio book service Audible, while those who chose physical activity received a Whoop fitness tracker and an annual subscription to its service allowing them to monitor their steps, sleeping habits, and vital statistics. The more culinary-inclined could sign up for a meal-kit service and virtual cooking classes.
For Montgomery, the program has provided some delicious new recipes (his toddler loved the ginger udon noodles) and a chance to connect with colleagues. More importantly, though, it has demonstrated that the company truly cares about the well-being of its employees, more than Montgomery had even realized. “They are genuinely concerned about making me a little bit less stressed and able to focus on family,” he says.
2. Happy Birthday to You . . . and You . . . and You!
At Boston biotech Entrada Therapeutics, employees love food. So when the company decided to celebrate staff birthdays, it was only natural the event would focus on dessert.
Every month, employees with a birthday coming up vote for their favorite treat from a list of just about every sweet thing human resources specialist/dessert wrangler Corinne Vien can think of. Celebrants have opted for confections from Insomnia Cookies (warm snickerdoodles, anyone?), Georgetown Cupcake (double milk chocolate, perhaps?), and Milk Bar (sprinkle-flecked truffles made of cake). “Birthdays are very personal,” says research associate Phallika Mon, who celebrated hers with a variety of Insomnia’s cookies. “It’s a great way to show they care.”
These monthly celebrations came about because the company’s rapid growth — from 50 employees in February to an expected 100-plus by the end of the year, most working on-site — meant the tight-knit staff was spreading out more. Birthday treats are a low-pressure way to get everyone in the same room. “We were thinking about ways to use our space and bring people together,” Vien says. “We’re a very food-oriented group, so this is a tradition that will stay.”
3. Covering the Commute
Employees at Robin found themselves missing in-person interactions after they went remote, so the software company has started making it easier for them to come together. Those who live within two hours of the Boston headquarters can now fully expense the cost of traveling into the office once a month. Twice a year, the company will also cover meals and at least two consecutive nights of lodging, depending on how far away employees live. The program was an instant hit, with five people booking trips the day it launched this summer. “They want that human interaction,” says Elizabeth Fierman, vice president of people. “There’s just some things that can’t be replaced on video.”
For technical recruiter Nelsy Sanchez, who lives in New York, the new policy meant a chance to attend the company’s regular town hall meeting in person in September, after more than a year of participating remotely. “It was good to see [people’s] reaction and be able to have an organic conversation,” Sanchez says, speaking from the Boston office during her visit. “I just genuinely love the people I work with.”
4. A Well-Earned Free Vacation
In 2019, Waltham-based IT consulting firm Aqueduct Technologies launched a President’s Club to reward top performers with a four-day, all-inclusive vacation, but rather than offering this incentive only to sales staff, as many companies do, Aqueduct opened it up to everyone. “A large part of our culture is to make sure that things aren’t only available to some section of the employee population,” says Paige Charbonneau, director of people and culture.
About 15 employees make the cut each year. The program’s inaugural trip was postponed for pandemic reasons, so this past May winners from the last two years took a trip to a resort in Cancun. They relaxed by the pool, sipped cocktails, and sailed on a catamaran.
The vacation was a wonderful escape, says marketing campaign specialist and President’s Club member Madison Lewis. But she also appreciates the impact the incentive has had at work. “I’ve seen employees across the board push to do better, and I’ve seen a lot more cooperation cross-departmentally,” she says. “People want to perform their best and help others perform their best.”
5. Clean Slate
Employees of the Wequassett Resort and Golf Club in Harwich spend their days creating a luxurious experience for guests. This summer, the workers got to experience a little of that hospitality themselves.
One day in August, the management team showed up in the employee parking lot with buckets and sponges to wash the vehicles of every employee who drove in.
The car wash gave managers a chance to offer every bartender and housekeeper the same personal attention workers are expected to extend to guests, says director of learning Julie McGrail, who organized the event. “Nothing is transactional,” she says. “That’s how we want our guests to be treated, and we also want it to be felt among our team here.” Jean Bruder, who has worked in guest services for 15 years, had her Subaru Forester washed at the beginning of her shift. She appreciates that management was willing to support employees in such a hands-on fashion, especially in the height of summer.
“When we’re at the busiest time of the season, you just don’t have time to do stuff like that,” Bruder says. “It’s a treat.”
6. Champagne, Everyone?
Around 5 p.m. on September 15, a visitor showed up at Catherine Mak’s door in Grafton. One of the founders of her employer, Triverus Consulting, had come to bring her a bottle of champagne in honor of the company’s fourth anniversary. “I’ve worked at quite a few companies, and that was the first time I’d had champagne delivery,” says Mak, a lead consultant. “It was quite adorable to be honest.”
In all, 63 employees received a hand-delivered bottle of bubbly from one of the company’s three founders that day (another 12 had theirs shipped to them). The trio has distributed anniversary champagne since its first year in 2018, when there were only about a dozen employees.
The bottles are usually handed out at a company meeting, but for the past two years the founders took their show on the road. Fittingly, for IT consultants, they used mapping software to create efficient delivery territories so they could make it to every employee in one day. It’s a long trek — 530 total miles this year — but worth the effort to show the staff how much they’re appreciated, says cofounder Chris Jennings. “They make the company what it is,” he says. “It’s just a super-special day.”
7. Get a Degree on Us
Monty Sombutvorakul started her career at Newton-based asset management firm The RMR Group as a payroll administrator. She began working her way up the accounting ranks, but felt that her lack of finance knowledge might eventually hold her back. Then she learned her employer was increasing its already generous tuition reimbursement benefit to $20,000 per year, and she decided it was time to pursue a master’s degree. “I did not have a second thought,” she says. “I went right in.”
Tuition reimbursement is a longstanding benefit at RMR, but it has increased in value until hitting its current level in 2020. It can be used for any accredited program to earn anything from a certificate to a doctorate. The program benefits employees and employer alike, says Susan Ash, senior director of benefits, helping the firm retain and nurture the most talented workers. “We love to see people broaden their expertise and grow with the company,” she says.
The perk has yielded results for Sombutvorakul. Earlier this year, she finished her graduate studies at Northeastern University. In October she was promoted to manager of real estate investment trust accounting.
Sarah Shemkus is a writer on the North Shore. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.