The Motley Fool isn’t the only company that has built a fantastic culture, but sadly there aren’t enough of us. Countless studies show that employees are lacking engaging and healthy work environments. An interesting New York Times piece, Why You Hate Work, digs deeper into these disadvantages, mentioning faults that stem from the rise in digital technology, increased competitiveness, and our post-recession economy.
Author Tony Schwartz argues simple solutions that, if introduced, could make a huge difference in corporate environments. His suggestions ring true during a time when workplaces actually have the opportunity to evolve. It’s not necessarily a world of suits, ties, and strict regulations anymore.
In Schwartz’s opinion, companies should measure employees not hourly but by the value that they create. He explains, “To the extent possible, let them decide where to do their work, and when to do it, as long as they meet deadlines.” Trust is a huge component, and The Fool’s flexible scheduling speaks to Schwartz’s point. We throw traditional 9-5 calendars to the wind by allowing our employees to manage their own time. With this flexibility comes the expectation that employees are striving to produce their highest quality of work. Because everyone has different work styles, we also offer quiet spaces that offer a break from our open office, as well as the tools to work from home.
We believe in transparency, a point that Schwartz addresses in his column. He notes, “…seek to define all jobs in ways that feel meaningful and significant to people.” Fools are encouraged to establish honest relationships with their managers, making it easy to communicate about goals, projects, and ideas. If a Fool isn’t happy, our People Team wants to help. We organize feedback sessions to connect with Fools about their job path and progress, and recently implemented an internal reward service that allows Fools to publicly recognize others with “gold” for a job well done. Gold can be spent on gift cards for a variety of stores, and the entire process makes receiving Fools feel happy and valued.
However, it’s an unfortunate fact that all workplaces can’t — or will not try — to implement a progressive culture for employees. In addition to cynicism and anger, decreased energy is a common symptom of workplace unhappiness. To combat these signs, Schwartz suggests using 15-25 minutes for rest or an outdoor walk to increase productivity and alertness. The warmer weather has inspired a Fool Walking Group, which takes 30-minute outdoor strolls twice a week. We also have the Reading Room, a quiet space for better concentration that doubles as a place to take a power nap. Our culture encourages Fools to be comfortable enough to always take the necessary time for rest.
Schwartz’s article is one of many that shows how corporate cultures are changing. The Fool is on top of preserving Foolishness, from showing appreciation to our employees to trying out new, fun ideas in the office. Hating your job is the last thing The Fool would ever want, and we’re constantly on the search for ways to top the happiness scale.
By Laurie Street
Whether it’s a biography or the latest best-seller, I’ve always loved to read. My constant desire for a good book in hand explains why Bookie Monster is one of my favorite employee benefits here. Though I’ve already praised this program on this blog, my curiosity was recently sparked when I learned that Amazon rated Fool HQ’s home of Alexandria, Virginia, #1 on their list of most well-read cities — for the third year in a row!
Our company prides itself in helping Fools expand their knowledge. We cover order requests through Amazon and, in just three months, we’ve purchased nearly 300 books at a tab close to $4000. These statistics apply to both work-related materials and personal requests.
Free books are wonderful to any employee who enjoys professional or leisurely reading, but I love that Bookie Monster also celebrates our core value of Collaboration. Washington Business Journal lists Amazon’s top three sellers at the time this data was published, and I know of several Fools reading at least two — Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch and Veronica Roth’s Divergent. Both of these novels have sparked conversations that I’ve been a part of, as well as a few that I’ve overheard around the office.
Speaking of in-depth discussions, all Fools have the opportunity to attend monthly Book Club meetings that are supported by Bookie Monster. We recently finished John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars, and a small group of Fools attended a showing of the newly-released film. Bookie Monster is also important to our Speaker Series, which we’ve hosted since 2008. This series has allowed Fools to interact with amazing entrepreneurs and businesspeople, many of whom are writers. Fools can order the author’s work and read it before their visit. Bookie Monster encourages Fools to explore new subjects and discussions.
While Alexandria is certainly an large area with lots of voracious readers, I can’t help but think the Fool contributed at least a little to its acclaimed title. As The Motley Fool grows, this program continues to be successful; in fact, 119 new Fool employees have ordered at least one book so far.
Would you become more of a reader if your company offered this benefit?
Whether it’s checking off a grocery list or paying the bills, everyone knows the definition of “errand” all too well. Here at the Fool, we’re familiar with a different kind of chore called “Fool’s Errand,” and it’s definitely not your typical mundane task.
The Fool’s Errand is a special prize — two weeks off and $1,000. So what are the rules? The chosen Fool must leave immediately and have no contact with the office, with the money only available if these guidelines are followed. The generous gift of $1,000 can be used for anything — plane tickets, hotel rooms, skydiving lessons…you name it! Past winners have visited Northern California wineries; Captiva Island, Florida; snowy Vermont; and even the Dominican Republic. Some Fools have simply enjoyed a staycation, but no matter where they go, winners are always encouraged to spend a few hours on our company’s purpose — to help the world invest better. Winners have rebalanced their 401k, managed an educational savings account, or chatted with a parent about retirement preparation.
At the end of each monthly company-wide meeting, approximately ten Fools are chosen at random and entered to win. To be eligible, the Fool must be employed here for at least one year. Names are entered as many times as the number of years each person has worked here, so if a Fool has been around for fifteen years there’s obviously a better chance for a win.
I can assure you that this process isn’t fixed. Names are drawn through a computer generated system, and the live announcement is always entertaining. I once saw the names laid face-down on a table, and a slightly-wonky remote control helicopter chose the winner upon landing. Another time, a Fool member visited with her dogs, and each contender was given a dog treat. Whomever the Labrador ran to first was deemed the winner.
Obviously, the Fool’s Errand fulfills our core value of Fun, but it also fulfills two business purposes. First, even with an unlimited vacation policy, some Fools find it hard to fully disconnect from the office. We want to encourage our employees to take the occasional break. Second, it’s important for any company to be prepared for an employee’s sudden, unexpected absence (illnesses and family emergencies happen). By knowing that we can cover for a Fool who needs to take time off with short notice, we know there are no gaps in our workflow.
If your company would like to try a similar program, you can start small. Maybe offer a random employee a day off as a reward for great work. Show your employees that time off is important — and they’ll return with fresh ideas and greater motivation.
By Ali Earle
Human Resources Fool
When you have a pet, it’s more than just an animal – it’s a member of your family! (And probably the only member of your family to love you unconditionally.) Many Fools have beloved dogs, but they can’t walk themselves during the workday. Since we strategically introduce benefits to help make Fools’ lives easier, discounted doggie daycare was an obvious candidate for a new benefit.
A group of Fools from headquarters recently went on a tour at Reserved Barking, where Fools receive a discount on grooming, daycare, and boarding for their pups. Reserved Barking Doggie Daycare in Alexandria, VA, has been in service since 2010 and this past September expanded into a new facility. The Fools had a chance to meet the two business partners, Bilal and Hassan, and take a behind-the-scenes tour. Their facility features playrooms for large dogs and small dogs, two outdoor play sections, and a grooming room. Each playroom is equipped with an ‘introductory area’ where the dog has a chance to get used to its surroundings before entering the playroom, a large play area, and a naptime area. The facility uses 100% dog-friendly cleaning supplies and has security camera set up for surveillance at all hours. Reserved Barking has the capacity for 120 dogs but they like to cap it to around 60 so that each dog has more than enough room and attention from the staff. We have quite a few Fools that love this benefit and take advantage of it on a regular basis. This tour was a great way for us to get to know the company and a chance to see what doggie daycare is all about.
Making sure you don’t have to worry about your pet while you’re at work is just one of the many perks The Fool offers to its employees to keep them relaxed and focused.