I work hard to make TEN7 a great place to work. When I first started the company, my attention was focused on the clients and the work. I thought I was doing an okay job on the HR end of things. I thought we had an inviting office space (back when we had an office). We stocked a “breakfast bar” so people wouldn’t have to worry about eating at home in the morning, and we paid for parking in downtown Minneapolis.
One day, I got a wakeup call. I sat down to a meeting with an employee whom I had mentored for years, and came to find out that it was no meeting—this was a resignation! I should have seen the sign: hastily scheduled 4 pm meeting on a Friday.
They needed healthcare benefits, and since I wasn’t offering them, there was nothing I could do to prevent this person from looking elsewhere for them. We were a small company—only four employees—and no group insurance plan was affordable for us at all. And there wasn’t an easy way for an employer or business administrator to offer individual healthcare for employees.
With any business there’s always employee turnover, but I didn’t want to keep losing good people because TEN7 wasn’t offering the kind of benefits people needed.
I started looking into what we could do. I couldn’t offer a group healthcare plan yet, but I wanted to contribute something. So, I offered a healthcare stipend to employees that they could use toward their own insurance. Every quarter, employees would send me their invoices, and we’d pay them back for their individual health insurance premiums (at this point everyone was single so things weren’t complicated by family plans). Paying them back this way made that money taxable income, so I approximated the tax and added a bit more to the stipend—it felt like the right thing to do.
The next step in TEN7’s benefits evolution came in 2014, when we started working with Gravie, a health insurance marketplace and concierge located right here in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Employees could work with Gravie and pick insurance from the individual market. Gravie would pay the premiums and then I’d pay Gravie. Gravie was and still is a wonderful solution for simplifying healthcare benefits administration, especially if you want to offer individual and group health insurance to your team.
I believe that TEN7 should cover health insurance—my employees shouldn’t have to be worrying about that.
Today, we offer employees a choice. If they want to be on the individual market, great! We’ll cover them up to a certain amount that changes annually. It’s usually enough to cover 100% of the premium. If they want to be on our group insurance plan, we have two to choose from, one with an HSA and one without. Our HSA is managed through Lively.
Let’s Cover the Basics
Once I realized how important benefits were to my employees, I got to work on adding more benefits. Every year, I do an evaluation of the benefits TEN7 offers, and strive to do more than the past year. I increase a benefit or add another. For example:
- Retirement Benefits: A major benefit we added was retirement benefits in 2014. We started by offering a Simple IRA plan with a company match. The first year we offered a company match of 2%, then raised it to 3%. We then switched to a 401K program where we matched 4% of your salary, and eventually switched providers (from ADP to Guideline) after we learned about high fees many 401K providers charge.
- Comprehensive Healthcare: Over time we added dental insurance and vision care, all 100% covered.
- Life Insurance: In 2019 we started offering Life and Accidental Death & Dismemberment coverage (we pay for the first $50,000 in coverage and you can buy up to $200K more) and Short Term Disability (60% of your earnings, up to $7500 monthly). STD can also be applied to Parental Leave.
Let’s talk about time off: time off is crucial to employee well being. When our employees are performing their best, so is TEN7.
Paid Time Off (PTO)
At TEN7, paid time off (PTO) covers any kind of time off: sick time, vacation time or personal time. How you take it is up to you. Everyone at TEN7 starts with 12 days off, and that amount increases every year that an employee works for TEN7. We’re still working on making sure that everyone gets extra days on a regular schedule, but we’re trying!
The hot trend with many startups is to offer unlimited vacation days. Americans are already bad at disconnecting and taking vacation days, and offering unlimited vacation time seems to be having the opposite effect that was intended. Without some incentive to take vacation days (like losing them at the end of the year or taking money for accrued vacation days), people just don’t take time off. We STRONGLY encourage TEN7 employees to take their vacation days! It’s important to them as people, and time off benefits TEN7 as a company as well. To that end, PTO expires at the end of the year: use it or lose it.
Other Time Off Benefits
- Holidays: The TEN7 “offices” are also closed for eight days a year, and that paid time off is separate from PTO.
- Parental Leave is another new benefit we’ve added in 2019. If an employee has a baby, whether they are the mother or the father, they get two weeks paid parental leave. They’re welcome to take up to 12 weeks off total (only first two weeks are paid), and we’ll guarantee their job is there when they come back. They can also use accrued PTO and Short Term Disability to cover additional time off, if they choose.
- Jury Duty is an important responsibility we have as citizens, so starting in 2019, TEN7 will pay for up to five days of jury duty.
- Bereavement: In the sad event that a family member or friend dies, in 2019 TEN7 started to pay for up to three days of bereavement leave.
Let’s Do More
Once I got the basics nailed down, I started thinking of other benefits I could offer my employees.
Sabbaticals: They’re Not Just for Professors
I’m always open to ideas about how we can work better as a company and as a team. Ideas often come from my regular one-on-one meetings with employees. Les Lim, our Technical Project Manager, suggested that we offer employee sabbaticals. Les mentioned that he had always thought about taking a year sabbatical to work on personal projects. I thought about it, and I thought why can’t we offer a sabbatical? I couldn’t afford to offer a year paid sabbatical, but I could do a month. So in 2016, TEN7’s official sabbatical policy was born. After an employee has worked at TEN7 for four years, they can take a four-week paid sabbatical during their fifth year of employment. And every four years thereafter, take another four weeks off.
Employees can do whatever they want on their sabbatical: work on personal projects, travel, or do nothing at all. We’ve had four sabbaticals so far. Les recently attended DrupalCon in New Orleans, and then drove around Louisiana. Lex Vasquez, one of our full-stack Drupal Developers, took the time on his sabbatical to make music.
On my sabbatical in 2017, I took my family overseas to spend a month in England. Jason, our front-end developer, took the time to “do all the life stuff that’s hard to do when you’re working all the time.” He used his sabbatical to paint some rooms in his house, get ready for his baby’s arrival, and eat deep dish pizza in Chicago. When people get back, we’d like them to tell us something about what they did on their sabbatical.
Whatever they do (or don’t do), the sabbatical’s purpose is to completely disconnect from work. It’s a great opportunity to reset.
- Technology Stipend: As a distributed technology company, it’s important for our team to have the right equipment to do their job. TEN7 provides a technology stipend of $1,500 a year to pay for a computer, cell phone or other tech equipment. These funds can be used for home internet service, a new phone, headphones, keyboards, anything that is necessary for work.
- Professional Development Stipend: We want everyone to keep learning and growing! As a result, we provide $1,500 annually to spend on professional development, whether that’s going to conferences or camps, taking classes or purchasing books or subscriptions necessary for continuing education. Further, there are two additional days of PTO available for attending said events.
Benefiting the Community Benefits Everyone
Sharing is one of our core values, so we encourage the team to use 10% of their workweek to contribute to any open-source community in any way they feel comfortable, whether that’s writing code or documentation. We continue to support the development of our own open source tools such as Flight Deck and Tractorbeam, as well as Drupal modules such as Healthcheck. Check out our We Give Back page to see everything we’ve open sourced.
Our team members also present sessions at camps and conferences around the world. Most recently, Tess Flynn has been speaking about Drupal in production on Kubernetes with her talk “Return of the Clustering: Kubernetes for Drupal” at Florida Drupalcamp, Drupaldelphia and Twin Cities Drupal Camp.
Working at TEN7 = Saving the Planet
While researching renewable energy options to reduce the carbon footprint of my own home, I found Bonneville Environmental Foundation (BEF). They offer Renewable Energy Credits (REC) for clean energy (solar or wind) as well as Water Restoration Certificates (WRC). The cost was more affordable than I expected, so I decided that this was not only something I could do for myself, but that TEN7 could buy RECs and WRCs on behalf of our employees. Every time we work on some code or other tangible project that we can all feel good about, we are helping to restore a stream in Oregon.
Using RECs and WRCs has an excellent return on our investment—employees feel good about the energy they are using at home, and it’s a benefit that sets us apart from others. I’ve never heard of any other companies offering this as a benefit (I wish more would!). It’s also just the right thing to do for the planet. We should be doing everything we can to reduce pollutants and to use renewable energy. I think we want to be around as long as we can.
Why We Don’t Consider It a “Benefit” to Work Remotely
There are many companies who now offer working remotely as a “benefit.” Some even use it to justify reducing someone’s salary, so that they can have that “privilege.” At TEN7, we don’t view working remotely as a benefit—it’s simply part of who we are. We trust each other to be responsible, work together to solve problems and create things, we just do it from the comfort of each of our homes, or wherever we choose. We are a “distributed” company.
Yes, we work to get paid so we can each pay our own bills, but we work hard as a company to work with businesses that we believe are doing good in the world, so we can feel good about the work we do, every day.
Every year I think about what additional benefits we can offer. People at TEN7 also have some influence in this process and have a voice in what benefits we offer. We’ll have a discussion, I’ll tell them what I’m thinking and they’ll tell me any ideas they have. I’ll take their opinions into account when deciding on benefits for the upcoming year.
Some ideas that we’re considering for the future:
- Pet insurance
- Accidental death and dismemberment insurance
- Fitness benefits (perhaps a stipend for a gym membership)
- Coworking space stipend
- Meal prep services
- Closing TEN7 on election day (to make it easy to vote!)
You Don’t Have to be an Employee to Read Our Employee Handbook
We’ve made our TEN7 Employee Handbook open source and available online. Take a look at the details of our benefits and feel free to use it as a starting point for your own handbook.