Tech companies get creative with pandemic and protest-related perks for employees

Accolade CEO Rajeev Singh and his daughter Sarina Singh, a high school senior attending Northeastern this fall, during the company’s special virtual commencement event for employees’ children graduating as part of the Class of 2020, ranging from preschool to MBA. (Accolade Photo)

The snack bar is out, and the care packages are in.

Tech companies are known for offering handsome office perks as a way to lure and keep talented workers.

But with most employees working from home amid the pandemic, companies are coming up with new ways to keep their teams happy and healthy. Many are also responding to the recent racial equity protests across the country, offering time off to join rallies and get involved.

As some companies allow remote work for the rest of 2020 and beyond, maintaining a positive culture takes on new meaning and is forcing HR leaders to adapt quickly.

“Less important will be physical perks like on-site dry cleaning and bringing your dog to work; more important will be programs around career development and mentoring, and ways in which the company allows workers to balance their job with outside interests,” former Zillow CEO and dot.la chairman Spencer Rascoff wrote this week.

Here’s a rundown of what some Seattle-area companies have rolled out recently.

Virtual commencement

Healthcare tech company Accolade hosted a virtual ceremony to celebrate all employees with children in the Class of 2020, from preschool to MBA grads. The event featured photos of each graduate, words of wisdom from Accolade board members, and a commencement speech from CEO Rajeev Singh. “My family joined from Oregon, New York, Georgia, Delaware and the virtual ceremony made my aunt cry!” one employee said afterward.

Fridays off

OfferUp is doing “Summer Fridays,” giving employees every other Friday off through August. The mobile marketplace startup already offers unlimited PTO, but noticed some employees working more hours than before and taking significantly less vacation time. The perk has been a “huge mental health boost for people,” said Natalie Angelillo, vice president of community at OfferUp.

Care packages

Uplevel, 2nd Watch, OfferUp, and others sent care packages to employees with plants, puzzles, snacks, coffee, coasters, and organic soaps. 98point6 had beanies made for team members with a theme of “putting our heads together in spirit” since they are all working remotely. “The message hoped to inspire us all and remind us that the work we’re doing is directly making a difference in the pandemic,” said Jenna Walcott, director of brand marketing. “They were very well-received and we find them being worn across many Zoom calls!”

98point6 employees received beanies with a theme of “putting our heads together in spirit.” since they are all working remotely. (98point6 Photo)

Protest PTO

Contract management software startup Icertis added seven days of paid leave for employees to help fight injustices and racism. “To make it easier for Icertis employees to join the fight in person, we are adding 7 days paid leave this calendar year for them to volunteer, support, help, give, protest, and make yourselves be seen and heard,” Icertis CEO Samir Bodas wrote in a blog post. “We strongly encourage you to take this leave.” Bodas himself is taking today off to join the silent “March for Black Lives” event in Seattle.

Honoring Juneteenth

Sales automation startup Outreach is closing on June 19 in remembrance of Juneteenth, a nationally celebrated day commemorating the ending of slavery in the U.S. Nike, Twitter, and Square did the same. “I have encouraged my team to use this holiday to celebrate, participate in a march, volunteer, and most important to this moment: understand that while slavery legally ended, the racial injustices against Black lives have continued into the present day, most vividly and violently with the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, as well as other Black lives who were taken from their family, friends, and loved ones,” Outreach CEO Manny Medina wrote in a blog post.

WFH supplies

Uplevel and OfferUp also delivered everyone’s desk belongings to their homes and allowed employees to expense whatever they need to create their home offices. Hiya did something similar, sourcing top-of-the-line equipment for employees, from monitors to webcams and headphones.

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