What makes a great employer?
August 9, 2022 6:10 AM   Subscribe

What are some employer practices and policies that you've experienced or know about that are most appreciated and/or sought after by employees?

Looking for any thoughts you have on what makes a great employer. This could be policies, practices, perks, benefits, vacation and leave, etc. Open to any ideas ranging from mundane to cutting edge, and from any industry.

This could include things like performance management approach, learning and development, things that make the daily work experience better, leadership involvement/support, compensation (outside of general salary), or anything else that contributes to employee retention or candidate attraction.

Mostly looking for things that were/are successful, but interested too in initiatives that were great in theory but didn't work out, if you can explain what went wrong or why a policy or practice was discontinued.

The three topics that are not in scope as they are already well-understood for the purposes of this question:
- Parental and family leave
- DEI policies and practices
- Flexible work / hybrid models

posted by sockless to Work & Money (49 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
My employer provides a gympass membership, which means that for 30€ I have access to a variety of fitness clubs throughout the world. Specifically, I have access to a fitness club 3 minutes away from my home which normally costs 50€ and I can visit all public swimmingpools in my city for free. And you can cancel or pause anytime and are not stuck with some 2-year membership.
Another initiative from my employer is some kind of bike leasing arrangement, which I consider a bad deal, like all leasing-type deals. Essentially you pay the price for your bike over two years and then you have to give it back?
posted by SweetLiesOfBokonon at 6:21 AM on August 9, 2022 [1 favorite]

A former employer of mine made 401k contributions for every worker below a certain salary level (200k+-ish), an amount of money equal to 13-15% of their annual salary. So, without my lifting a finger, my 401k balance went into the six figures during my tenure there. Life changing.
posted by minervous at 6:23 AM on August 9, 2022 [17 favorites]

Please excuse me if this is part of your exclusions, but this isn't exactly parental leave and it is the first I have ever heard of someone doing something like this: pregnancy leave.
posted by jacquilynne at 6:28 AM on August 9, 2022 [1 favorite]

Clear communication. Okay, there are situations where employees get screwed on financials, org charts are redrawn in convoluted ways, or third parties act in detrimental directions - but tell us, tell us in advance what the risks are, and say you're sorry if something screws us over. It makes a world of difference vs pretending everything is all right.
posted by I claim sanctuary at 6:29 AM on August 9, 2022 [16 favorites]

Generally speaking, an acknowledgement of employees' lives outside of the office. There's a lot that goes into that, but the general idea is that employers recognize that they're merely renting our time. They don't get 24 hour access to us, and they acknowledge that even in the eight-ish hours they do get access to us, they probably still aren't our number one priority (e.g., if a kid has an emergency or something).

I think a lot of this is individual managers' tendencies rather than company-wide policies. For example, lunch breaks. Companies are required by law to provide breaks, but when managers tend to work through them, that quickly becomes part of departmental culture, and employees start working through their breaks, too.

Internal promotion is probably the single best thing for company morale, IMO. When employees see new managers coming in from outside the company, that's a sign that there's no future at the company, and it breeds resentment. And if you're going to do internal promotion, it's even better if the company identifies candidates and offers the promotion without the employee even having to ask. That's a powerful sign that the company believes in you and wants you to succeed.
posted by kevinbelt at 6:32 AM on August 9, 2022 [24 favorites]

A generous amount of PTO time will keep people in jobs they'd otherwise leave.
posted by kingdead at 6:34 AM on August 9, 2022 [15 favorites]

A responsive, well-managed IT help desk or department.
posted by inevitability at 6:55 AM on August 9, 2022 [3 favorites]

100% coverage of benefits. Good PTO, but also the ability to easily hire temporary employees in advance of and to cover staff going on long-term leave so everyone else doesn't resent them and they don't have to worry. Internal promotion. Strong boundaries around work hours and reasonable scheduling of project timelines.
posted by Toddles at 7:22 AM on August 9, 2022 [9 favorites]

Make sure you have a well defined EASY onboardng process. The best places I worked had basically a 2-3 month training program even for senior people. I remember sitting in a weeklong orientation and being next to executives who had to do it every 5-7 years with everyone else. I'm guessing you're significantly smaller but I'd highly suggest having tasks people can't screw up even for senior staff and a "buddy" that isn't a direct superior but someone who can impart change if whomever the manager/VP in charge of the person isn't pulling weight.

For new employees this is especially critical as I've been in too many situations where I definitely wanted a "win" but the manager in charge has had to wait probably too long to get the hire approved and wants everything done now, now, now. Or has unrealistic expectations. Or perhaps even worse the manager and everyone involved is new and no one has any idea and the pressure is high. Having a VP say, "Oh they gave you that in that timeframe? That's a bit much you did a good job." Would have helped because in the beginning you don't have social capital to push back. Moving forward it helps having someone outside your department to confer with.

In a similar vein I received high marks for moving people in my department around. Have you been working with X project/team for 6 months? Okay now you're transitioning to a new team. It helps people get exposed to people throughout the company and see how other teams operate. It also keeps managers from hoarding good employees.
posted by geoff. at 7:25 AM on August 9, 2022 [7 favorites]

Flexibility and compassion - which can and should be enshrined in any number of corporate policies related to work/life balance, but which often don't exist at the corporate level because contrary to some opinions, corporations are not beings. So you will generally need to look for these in the individual(s) hired by the company.

The weekly "No-Meetings-Day" was also hugely popular at my place, until leadership cut it down to half a day, which is now only observed in the breach.
posted by invincible summer at 7:27 AM on August 9, 2022 [3 favorites]

Letting people use their sick leave to attend medical appointments.
posted by carriage pulled by cassowaries at 7:31 AM on August 9, 2022 [7 favorites]

My job can be a bit stressful and high-volume, but I think I'd have difficulty leaving because of how good of an employment situation it is. A lot contributes to this, including some of the things you mentioned already (high pay for the industry I work in, flexibility around remote work, and benefits related to family leave.) Other important factors:

- Unlimited PTO (I'm usually against this, as it's been shown that people take less time off than when PTO is generous-but-finite, however we're actively encouraged to take time off, it's always approved, and management sets a model for taking regular vacation)
- Tuition reimbursement for job-related coursework, and separate passion-course reimbursement for courses totally unrelated to the job
- Generous matching for 401K
- Several reasonable healthcare options, including dental and vision
- Other parental benefits like backup emergency childcare and nursing support
- ClassPass discounts for gym/fitness classes

The benefit I have not yet found useful is the Employee Assistance Program. In theory it covers 5-6 sessions with a counselor, but when I tried to use it they did not find any in person counselors for me (this is in NYC, where there is no dearth of options.)

Management & Development
- Weekly meetings with my manager and biweekly team meetings to monitor capacity and keep the team up to date on any developments
- Lots of positive feedback from my manager
- Clear assignments and support for any questions/help needed
- Demonstrated track record of moving people up within the department, as well as support for cross-department career mobility - in general, management clearly prioritizes individual professional development
- Opportunities to specialize, or take ownership of preferred work areas
- While the volume of the work is such that I sometimes stay a little later to finish, there is little to no expectation to work late or on weekends
posted by rabbitbookworm at 7:35 AM on August 9, 2022 [4 favorites]

- Opportunities for growth: don't pigeonhole people in their present roles. Be willing to recognize that the person you hired to answer phones might have ambitions beyond what they're presently doing.

- Good company culture: this doesn't mean just fun "team building" activities. It means cultivating a workplace where everyone feels comfortable contributing, where behaviors like micromanagement and knowledge hoarding aren't tolerated, and where good leadership is valued.

- If you truly value "soft skills", figure out how to hire for them. Hire with the "No Asshole Rule" in mind.

- Implement policies that make senior staff just as accountable for bad behavior as everyone else.
posted by cleverevans at 7:37 AM on August 9, 2022 [6 favorites]

Vocally supporting using PTO. It’s definitely policy at my office, but also my managers remind us to take time off, point out when they are taking time off, support our projects when when we’re out of the office, and have a strict “if you take time off don’t check your email and we won’t contact you” policy. I think in 5 years I’ve been called when I was on vacation once, and it was for a true emergency I could solve in a 2 minute conversation.

At my previous job my manager was asked to get an international data plan so she could work on her week long honeymoon so this policy was a welcome change.
posted by lepus at 7:39 AM on August 9, 2022 [2 favorites]

Popping in to add:
Honestly, a lot of the things listed above: generous 401k, generous PTO, parental leave, childcare facilities, good benefits, flexible hybrid work environment... these are all pretty low-hanging fruit for employers.

But at a certain point, it doesn't matter how much you're contributing to my 401k if you've created a work culture that resembles a cage match.

If you cultivate a work environment that pits people or teams against one another, if you promote people to management positions who might know the job, but who don't know how to manage, if your people don't know how to handle confrontational conversations - on the giving AND the receiving end - people are going to be miserable working there, and the benefits won't matter.
posted by cleverevans at 7:45 AM on August 9, 2022 [2 favorites]

Generous and separate sick and vacation leave that accrues and rolls over. The government does this correctly in my experience.

Respect my personal time. My hours are my hours. Overtime can be okay occasionally, but not the rule. And don't expect me to check my work email or respond in Teams when I'm not on the clock.

ACTUAL CAREER PATHS. I have had numerous jobs, and I have yet to work at a company that offers actual career paths for its employees. The companies I work for tend to have managers that stick around in their positions for decades until they retire, while a rotating bunch of generally younger underlings come and go, never having a chance to be promoted. Even just something like being promoted to a senior level of what I'm doing would've meant a lot! I worked hard and got great performance reviews, and my bosses generally love me, and it has never made a lick of difference for my potential to be promoted at the company.
posted by wondermouse at 7:48 AM on August 9, 2022 [2 favorites]

Even more now, but still true before the pandemic:

An anti-presenteeism policy. No contagious people in the office. Allow for work from home if people don't want to toast all their sick days when they're basically fine to work but still shedding cold or flu viruses, but don't allow sick people into the office and have managers also follow those policies so it's clear that they are respected.
posted by jacquilynne at 7:49 AM on August 9, 2022 [10 favorites]

The better companies I've worked for have some some kind of quarterly (not annually) all-hands meeting where they update everyone on the state of the company.

And the topics are not just product and pipeline updates but financial status. Revenue, margin, profit, inventory turns, etc. A good meeting should also be willing to deliver bad news. Missed forecasts, mistakes in production or quality, lost revenue opportunities, etc.
posted by JoeZydeco at 7:52 AM on August 9, 2022 [2 favorites]

Partial or full coverage of a transit pass.
posted by dusty potato at 7:55 AM on August 9, 2022 [1 favorite]

If you're in a state where abortions are illegal, offer a budget to staff who need to travel to access medical care.

My friend's employer sent this memo:
Since our start as an organization, we've always had team members who travel to access healthcare. We understand that access to the right care is time-sensitive and sometimes requires travel. Effective immediately, we are now providing reimbursement to assist with medical travel for all employees. No questions asked. We can reimburse up to $2500 per year in travel expenses related to obtaining health care of any kind (excluding elective cosmetic procedures). These expenses may include: airfare; gas or car mileage, car rental, lodging up to $250/day; and $75/day in meals. Simply submit your receipts with the subject line, “Reimbursement - Medical Travel”. Do not include any personal health information. In respect for your privacy, there will be no questions asked about the medical care obtained.
posted by nouvelle-personne at 7:59 AM on August 9, 2022 [8 favorites]

One thing I haven't seen mentioned yet is clear expectations and a clear definition of success. At my company we have six clearly defined parameters for being considered a good employee/colleague, and that's what we use for yearly assessments (both self-evals and boss feedback) and as a basis for promotions etc. Not only does it set expectations effectively, it also emphasizes that there's more to success than selling the most, getting the most hits, etc. My previous job, where management was shocking, never had employee evaluations (bad move! Lazy! I hate hate hate doing self-assessments but people have to know whether they're on the right track and where they can improve) and didn't establish any parameters for success, certainly none that applied equally to everyone, so some people felt untouchable and others felt constantly on the verge of being fired—generally without any evidence in either case.
posted by babelfish at 8:04 AM on August 9, 2022 [3 favorites]

Lots of good ideas already, but one thing I haven't seen mentioned so far is a clear & consistent framework for what makes a great manager. Too many companies fail to understand that being a strong individual contributor doesn't inherently make you a strong manager.

The company I work for is very clear on what good looks like for people managers; I've consistently experienced very good management while working for a range of managers across the organisation, and it was also incredibly helpful when I transitioned into a management role myself and immediately received a bunch of training and resources that were aligned with the organisation's overall philosophy on what good people management looks like.
posted by terretu at 8:07 AM on August 9, 2022 [6 favorites]

Managers, don't send emails or phone after 7pm - schedule them to arrive the next morning.

Offer incentives for staff who use reuseable coffee mugs and water bottles (one company I worked for asked employees to send a photo every quarter of their reuseable drink containers, and offered a $25 per quarter cash reward)

Offer miscarriage leave, with confidentiality

Very clean single bathrooms with real doors, excellent sound privacy, good ventilation, and "extra" products like hand lotion and tampons.

Healthy snacks - fresh fruit and veggies, coffee, tea. NOT candy, trash carbs, or junk food! It's too hard to resist and makes everyone feel worse.

Scent-free workplace.

Plants in the workplace!

Organize the space so managers' offices don't get all the windows. Everyone needs natural light.

Budget for accessibility stuff like headphones, software for specific needs, cushions, etc.

Little gift budget, say $40, for each person to make their desk more pleasant - people can get their own little light, organizer, plant, etc.

Encourage staff to create a personal mission statement of how their job intersects with their personal values, and share it with their manager. When people's work feels mission-driven they commit more.

Make the raise system transparent! Multiple small raises feels better than an occasional medium raise.
posted by nouvelle-personne at 8:10 AM on August 9, 2022 [10 favorites]

This is entirely small and stupid, but I've always loved the places I worked for that put free tampons in the bathrooms.
posted by Mchelly at 8:10 AM on August 9, 2022

Regarding generous PTO, I've been in situations where I never wanted to take much time off because I knew no one was going to cover any of my work while I was gone. So my going on vacation would just leave me with a larger pile of work to come back to. Thinking about that was stressful enough that I hardly took any time off, while people above me, who didn't know how to do my job, took time off frequently. I felt very resentful about that.
Try to minimize that experience for your employees.
posted by wondermouse at 8:12 AM on August 9, 2022 [12 favorites]

Include salary band in the job posting.
posted by enfa at 8:25 AM on August 9, 2022 [10 favorites]

One thing that just occurred to me is physical location. I'm WFH now so it doesn't matter as much as it used to, but even still, if you're going to have a physical office, make it a nice one in a nice area. I've worked for places (office work, to be clear, nothing manufacturing-related) before where the office is just an aluminum building in a manufacturing park. It's obvious that the only consideration was the cheapest possible real estate. Obviously, there are limits - you can't locate a manufacturing issue in a residential suburb - but spending a little more money to be in a pleasant part of town, near amenities like restaurants and parks, goes a long way toward making employees feel valued. And then, once you've got a location, making it a nice place to spend time. No institutional carpet and beige cubicles. Keep it clean, light it well, decorate it thoughtfully, include plants, etc.

I used to ask to use the restroom during job interviews, as a way of evaluating the company. You can tell a lot about a company from its restrooms.
posted by kevinbelt at 8:30 AM on August 9, 2022 [4 favorites]

Letting people use their sick leave to attend medical appointments.

This. My long-term government-contractor employer withdrew this benefit (replaced with the buzzword "Full Time Accounting"). You could henceforth only charge 8 hours sick leave, the whole day. What did this mean, in practice? You took the whole day off when you had a doctor or dental appointment? (Fine with me.) No, actually you were supposed to 'make the time up' when you cut out for the hour or two the appointment required (which in reality, nobody did - we were salaried employees.)

What's provided by a great employer? A Defined Benefit Retirement Plan, what we call a pension... good luck finding one in the US these days. Oh, they exist, mostly in government jobs.
posted by Rash at 8:43 AM on August 9, 2022 [1 favorite]

360 degree performance reviews. I would really like to have performance feedback not just from my supervisor, but from my colleagues, the administrative support staff, etc. Each of them experience in different ways how I do my work.

Let the people do their jobs without bureaucratic interference and micromanagement. One of my previous bosses said that I was the best example of how for some employees, the best thing you can do is give them a mission and stay out of their way. Due to changes in upper management and having two new supervisors in 18 months, I've had to fight back on not needing to submit daily reports of what I'm doing ("Tell you what, I'll send you a report on Friday afternoon, that might include the solution to Monday's problem.") and weekly check-in meeting where my supervisor just rambles about her problems and wastes my time. I started working solo in off-site offices when you could only reach me by phone, fax or answering machine. I do just fine without supervision.

Know what The Peter Principle is and don't do that. My organization suffers deeply from this currently.
posted by ITravelMontana at 8:46 AM on August 9, 2022

pay 100% of my healthcare premium. offer a GOOD 401k with matching. unlimited sick time. bereavement leave that is more than 1 day for people like parents/spouses/kids. a well-written and easy to navigate employee handbook outlining all the things about hr, sick time, insurance, workers comp, etc. go above and beyond for ADA compliance stuff.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 8:52 AM on August 9, 2022

Quality training programs or a budget to get outside training. Especially if you plan to promote managers from within. Almost no company trains managers well. Resources like subscriptions to Harvard business review or an overdrive library of curated books important to your company.

Helping employees find jobs that are a good fit. This could include either asking employees what they want to do and providing a path, or identifying leader-type employees and training them, or learning that an employee likes exactly what they are doing and wanting to keep doing it and having that be okay.

Ability to get a loan for certain purposes (down payment for house, student loan payoff, adoption or infertility). Offer forgiveness if employed so long.

Sabbatical leave.
posted by dpx.mfx at 9:09 AM on August 9, 2022 [1 favorite]

I currently report to a boss who makes it his job to make me look amazing to all the C suite people. This looks like:

- giving me public credit for the work I've done in larger team calls
- suggesting my name when the higher ups have new projects in need of a leader
- facilitating direct communication between higher ups and me, without needing to go through him
- setting aside time to coach me and give me the inside scoop when I'm working on projects/reports/presentations directly for the higher ups, so that I end up looking like I've got my thumb on their pulse, which gets me so much more credibility and visibility

Not that this type of championing alone would make me want to work at this company - the pay and benefits and remote work matter way more. But this is also the first time I've ever had a boss who acts as my champion and HOLY SHIT I never knew what I was missing in previous workplaces! In the past I've had bosses who were lovely people, easygoing and fair and all-round excellent people. The things I used to admire about my bosses would be things like, their competence, their effectiveness within the company, and what a great person they are. But this is on a whole new level, I mean, just for starters, I didn't realize I was a kindergartener at heart? because this type of overt recognition makes me truly enjoy being at work. Even though I've been in this company for less than a year, the role is already being tailored to suit my strengths and interests and I have an enormous degree of autonomy in which projects I work on, thanks to my boss and the company culture making this a priority. Plus all of this C-suite visibility has translated into a nice raise for me already, so the adult part of me is also pretty happy!

I genuinely wonder whether this is an experience that a lot of people get to have, because goddamn, we should be training ALL managers to act like this.
posted by MiraK at 9:23 AM on August 9, 2022 [8 favorites]

A culture that leverages people’s strengths and praises them for the things they do well, and gives them work that allows them to demonstrate those skills instead of focusing on what they might not do so well. A constant focus on the need to learn other skills or become a jack of all trades causes ongoing resentment and belief that people don’t have any value unless they know how to do everything in a half assed way. Yes, I understand cross-training, but if all you do is cross train and learn someone else’s job, to the degree that you never get to shine in your own role, then what’s the point? In my last job, I spent more time teaching other people my job than doing it myself. That’s why I am longer there.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 9:40 AM on August 9, 2022 [4 favorites]

Individual career paths for managers and individual contributors (and corresponding compensation tracks).

Many companies (and employees) don't recognize that management is a completely separate position, with its own specific set of skills. Some people don't want to go to management, but there is nowhere else to go in terms of getting promoted and increasing compensation. So they leave, and with them leaves behind most of the institutional knowledge on how to actually do the job (and make it better in the future). Others simply become really bad managers, because it's a separate skill that needs to be learned and has less overlap with the previous job than you think.

Managers should be kept to a minimum, because hiring more of them usually does not directly contribute to a company's success. They are a necessary evil. However in companies that do not recognize this (or do not reward individual contributors), there is a larger and larger amount of management sitting on their hands and wondering why work doesn't get done because the people who actually know and do the work... have left.
posted by meowzilla at 9:42 AM on August 9, 2022 [1 favorite]

Personal experience across my long career:
1) Empathic employers, look at things from your side first, frequently seek out your opinion (sometimes at lunch or breakfast paid for by company). So people skills were great but the demands of the job and the company's clients were very harsh, so I had to leave.
2) Employers who think they are employee centric, make a lot of noise to that effect, but whenever there is a disagreement they switch to prosecuting attorney mode. Even when I left they kept acting like they had no idea why I was leaving. Really, because I sent you my concerns return receipt. You did? Yes, using the company email system. Oh, you should have mailed it.
3) One employer had what I thought was a great profit sharing scheme. Profit sharing pool = $$$. Each employee then got 1-5 points based on performance, 1 point per year at company, 1 point per thousand dollars of salary. Total employee points divided into Profit sharing pool yields $ per point, multiply by your points and you've got your bonus. They got bought out and absorbed by super big company.

So closest I have gotten to "a great employer" is #1, if only the clients hadn't been jerks.
posted by forthright at 9:59 AM on August 9, 2022

At my company we have six clearly defined parameters for being considered a good employee/colleague, and that's what we use for yearly assessments (both self-evals and boss feedback) and as a basis for promotions etc.

I work in mgmt, but my manager barely even does assessments and it's the best. We have multiple (terrible) systems for writing up our goals, but it's a 5 minute conversation per year about them. Are you doing your job? Yes? That's the internal assessment. Are you struggling? Then you need immediate help, not a periodic assessment.
posted by The_Vegetables at 9:59 AM on August 9, 2022 [3 favorites]

Also: hire lots of different people! If everyone in your office is old, young, white, male, or some other category, your hiring practices aren't great.
posted by The_Vegetables at 10:00 AM on August 9, 2022 [3 favorites]

A union, through which people can collectively negotiate for more or less everything that will be mentioned in this thread.
posted by kensington314 at 11:01 AM on August 9, 2022 [6 favorites]

Don't ask employees to "donate" sick or other PTO units to each other when someone is experiencing an emergency. It's really disgusting. Just let people take extended time out, and don't make a huge thing about it, and especially don't pit it as employee vs. employee.
posted by knotty knots at 12:00 PM on August 9, 2022 [12 favorites]

3) One employer had what I thought was a great profit sharing scheme. Profit sharing pool = $$$. Each employee then got 1-5 points based on performance, 1 point per year at company, 1 point per thousand dollars of salary. Total employee points divided into Profit sharing pool yields $ per point, multiply by your points and you've got your bonus. They got bought out and absorbed by super big company.

The best profit-sharing scheme I've ever been part of was one where the company took a fixed percentage of annual profits and distributed it evenly among employees. If you worked full time for the full year, you got the same bonus if you were an office cleaner or the CEO. If you worked part time or joined partway through the year, you got a prorated version.

The bonus amount could be something like 25% of the lowest-paid workers' salaries, which was huge for people in those roles. It was also huge for morale, even among higher earners; I never heard any well-paid people grouch about how it was unfair that the bonus was a comparatively smaller percentage of their compensation.
posted by terretu at 12:46 PM on August 9, 2022 [4 favorites]

I worked an otherwise shitty job once, but one thing the owner did was super kind and really nice:
he hired out the accountant for the day to do tax prep for anyone who wanted help. An email got sent out with what to bring, the accountant would walk you through everything, and then if you were missing documents he'd write a bunch of notes and be really specific with what you needed.

Like, my taxes were pretty easy, but there were some dudes who got maybe not life changing, but significant amounts of return back that substantially changed their life.

This might be harder to rig up at a larger company, but like, what an easy thing for an employer to rig up, and make something that is super stressful for a lot of people, really chill.
posted by furnace.heart at 4:59 PM on August 9, 2022 [2 favorites]

If a job description says I need a car or a driver's license and I don't believe them, hard pass. Even if I do believe them, I don't qualify. "Reliable transportation" I consider acceptable.

I had another job 10+ years ago where instead of a holiday gift, they gave every single worker (office and factory) a $100 bill.

Free annual transit pass was the most valuable perk for employees at one job I had.
posted by aniola at 5:15 PM on August 9, 2022

I work as a casual researcher in a university. These are things I love about my job:
I have my own office
I can turn up and leave any time I like or work from home
I can accept and reject tasks offered to me (except from my most important academic) by saying I have too much work to do, to be able to add their task to my to do list.
I'm quite autonomous in what work I choose to do each day
I rarely answer the phone (so little in fact my phone listing has been removed from university phone contacts)

My work is varied including:
* editing and formatting a journal
* ditto for theses and books
* creating diagrams, infographics, posters, really flash PowerPoints, promotional material
* research & mathy stuff: collecting articles, doing text or statistical analysis
* project managing work with our local Indigenous people to make educational materials (that was super-satisfying and rewarding and I learned a lot - and so will the kids in the local schools)

My wage is more than I ever expected, especially with the 25% loading because I don't get paid vacation days (but I take time off when I want to).

I have access to the technology I need, and if I think I need something, and can justify it, the uni buys it for me.

As an autistic person, I feel welcomed and valued.

I lucked into this life about 20 years ago when my ex and I bought a house at one end of a short road that had a university at the other. The academics were very collegial with the administration staff and encouraged me to keep learning. I did a long distance career in multimedia studies, and then a graduate certificate in research studies. That university was sold, but I ended up doing work for nearly all those academics even when they were at other universities.

And lastly, I mentioned this on the blue, at my last meeting, one of the academics said "wow, we knew you were good, but not this good!"
posted by b33j at 5:39 PM on August 9, 2022 [1 favorite]

...this doesn't mean just fun "team building" activities

A work culture with an emphasis on "Team-Building" activities implies leaning away from life-work balance. Maybe not always.
posted by ovvl at 5:51 PM on August 9, 2022 [2 favorites]

Lots of really good stuff in here, so I'll add what I consider to be a flashing yellow, if not a red, light on the road to finding a good job. If anyone in the hiring process makes any suggestion that "this place is like a family" or anything in that vein, or if they stress how absolutely wonderful everyone who works there is and how your coworkers will of course become your friends, think very hard about whether you want to be there.

You already have a family, and you already have friends; a job is a thing you do where you're compensated for the time during which you provide your knowledge to the company signing your paychecks, in order to help them make the money that allows them to issue those paychecks. That's it. A company is not a surrogate...anything, and when they position themselves as such, even subtly, in the sales process of a job interview, it's not a good sign.

Intimations of work-as-family or work-as-circle-of-best-friends-you-just-haven't-met yet are a huge warning sign that they will expect you to work a whole lot more than 8x5 (or whatever standard schedule they keep), and that they will not properly value that work (either monetarily to you directly as salary, or in terms of providing support and resources as you do your job).
posted by pdb at 8:26 PM on August 9, 2022 [1 favorite]

Hiring great people. A good culture can make at least as much difference as policies and perks.
posted by NotLost at 8:43 PM on August 9, 2022

Lots of really good stuff in here, so I'll add what I consider to be a flashing yellow, if not a red,

In a similar vein I'm a professional and I know that if there's a due date on x date I will get it done or will alert the stakeholders that it is resourced inappropriately. If during an interview I hear "Sometimes we have to work more than 40 hours are you okay with that?" the answer is no. In reality yes I will put in extra effort but if you have to ask in an interview "sometimes" is "more often than not" ... similarly if you're late for an interview and it isn't a bathroom break or something that's a huge red flag that you're overbooked. It happens I get that but I as someone being interviewed can see if you're running from meeting to meeting and this interview is your chance to get back to work earlier.

If at all possible make it part of your culture that running from meeting to meeting is not work.
posted by geoff. at 1:12 AM on August 10, 2022

If anyone in the hiring process makes any suggestion that "this place is like a family" or anything in that vein, or if they stress how absolutely wonderful everyone who works there is and how your coworkers will of course become your friends, think very hard about whether you want to be there.

THIS. Not only does it tell you what the company expects, it tells you what kind of co-workers you are likely to find. I do not want to go out for beer or meet up for disc golf or whatever in my off-hours. I don't want that guy in accounting to call me at 2 AM crying over his relationship problems. Work is work and life is life. I totally understand that others may not agree, and YMMV, but in my experience, nothing matters more than remembering that a company is there to exploit YOU for its profit, and therefore not matter what they say, you are expendable and when the shit hits the fan, you will be treated in whatever summary fashion they see fit in order to maximize their revenue.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 3:06 AM on August 10, 2022 [1 favorite]

Oh yeah, I see free coffee and beer as anti-perks. Coffee because I don't want easy access and beer because I don't want beer culture.
posted by aniola at 12:50 PM on August 10, 2022

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