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Fostering a culture of compassion

How adapting and developing new benefits is important in reflecting and embracing a workforce.

The #showusyourleave trend has sparked conversations across businesses on work life balance. We interviewed Abigail Sawden, HR Lead for the US, on encouraging leave and time off from work, as well as how developing new benefits and improving current policies is essential to a happy and healthy workplace.

With seven offices across the US, Abigail heads up the HR function, and one of her passions is getting the best out of people through normalizing downtime, putting in place policies and benefits to embrace a better work-life balance. Policies and benefits differ from state to state across the US, which is why, as Abigail is originally from the UK, she couldn’t help but make an early comparison:

“As someone from the UK, it’s been interesting coming to the US as the statuary benefits are quite different. State laws really vary and have a direct impact on basic employee benefit, so it’s up to organizations to do more for their employees. I’d say we’re very proactive and competitive in what we offer.

“At Phaidon International, we want to provide the right benefits, ones that are relevant to our employees. We are always looking at how we can improve our benefits to reflect our workforce, and as we’ve grown and developed into the thriving talent partner that we are, with six talent brands under our belt, we’ve reflected that enhancement through our benefits.”

Paid time off for holiday is one crucial component of a benefits package, and while the standard in the US is 10 days, Phaidon International offers 20 vacation days, on top of 11 national holiday dates. We have also spent time researching the best options as a talent specialist and found that unlimited vacation doesn’t always work out best, with numerous studies pointing to the fact that leave can become a ‘non-policy’ and therefore people take less off in the end.

Adapting policies, as Abigail clarifies, is important to Phaidon International because, while motivations haven’t changed dramatically in the workplace, we have an evolving business and workforce, and that’s why companies need to keep up. While millennials and Gen-Z are often tarnished as a workforce that move employers more than the generations before them, some studies show they are very loyal to employers – in the 1980’s an employee stayed with their employer for a median of five years. In 2018 that only changed to a median of 4.2, but that is in contrast to Deloitte’s Millennial Survey, which reported that 49% of millennials would if they had a choice, quit their current job in the next two years. Therefore, keeping talent is as important as attracting it, and a decent benefits package can achieve that.

And it’s not only about adapting to the current workforce, it’s also about listening to it. At Phaidon International we have made adjustments to key policies as part of our benefits package in the US, such as parental leave as Abigail explains:

“In the US, we introduced the policy firstly as three months paid leave, which is the baseline for the majority of companies as there isn’t a national paid leave requirement. While this was a good policy, following a further review of our offering, we recognized that many of our employees needed the option of more time to bond with their family without the worry of compensation.F

“As a business we want to prioritize employees, so we increased our policy to six months paid parental leave. This is incredibly competitive, particularly in the US, and we can’t wait to see more of our workforce utilize this benefit.

“We also offer the Future Moms Programs with our healthcare provider, which is great for first-time moms in providing support on subjects such as nursing – there’s even a coach provided. We know it’s an exciting time, but it can also be a bit scary, so the more support we can offer, the better.”

Phaidon International also offers extensive paternity time off, so both parents can enjoy more time with their families.

While this is a positive benefit, there is also support when going through difficult times. Phaidon International is currently looking at offering two weeks paid bereavement leave for pregnancy loss, as well as already offering a fertility support program included in our healthcare offering:

“As part of our commitment to our employees, we prioritize physical and mental health. Unfortunately, pregnancy loss is a lot more common than is talked about, and we want our employees to be able to take the time they need to process mentally and physically.

An example of how we embrace a culture of compassion and empathy is with the fertility support program, which is offered via our healthcare provider in the US. It supports all employees inclusively, and again this is to initiate the conversation on difficult topics to show that it is okay to ask for help, and that health is a priority.”

An inclusive, supportive culture equals happier employees. Phaidon International offers counselling through a 24/7 employee assistance program, which provides confidential, short-term counselling, and support for all employees and immediate family members. Easily accessible over the phone, the program offers support across a range of personal and work-related problems that may impact morale and wellbeing.

Feedback is an essential component to fostering a good work culture, which is why globally, Phaidon International has embraced a flexible approach to working after listening to our employees during the pandemic. Abigail describes how the pandemic accelerated moving towards a hybrid model:

“Across the US, we have a hybrid working policy, because the pandemic brought to life how important flexibility is to our people. We foster a culture of accountability - our employees get their work done wherever they are. Flexible working goes hand in hand with our existing parental leave policies. We promote a phased return to work as needed.”

Research has shown that happier employees are more engaged and productive, so not only are these policies beneficial to the employees, but they have a positive business impact too.

As Abigail says:

“Being a supportive employer is good for employee morale, as well as retention, and attraction, it’s really a no-brainer. A better work life balance benefits everyone.