Perks are good, but our culture is great!
Despite the fact that women account for nearly half of the US labor force, they make up only 5% of CEOs from Fortune 500s and only 22% of the boards of those same companies. Gunderson Direct isn’t just the leader in direct mail. As a small business with a 67% female staff, including 50% of our management team, we’re on the leading edge of employers that value equality in the workplace. We make decisions every day in the interest of our employees and work hard to maintain a culture that benefits every member of our team. In order to hire and retain top talent in a place as competitive as the Bay Area, where employees have access to company-sponsored laundry service and multicolored bicycles to get around their campuses, it’s imperative that businesses have an edge. It’s critical, in the Bay Area especially, that companies offer work perks.
So, what is a work perk?
- Is it unlimited PTO?
- Free snacks?
- Beers in the fridge?
- A cool gaming table with hundreds of retro games?
It’s likely that if you polled 100 people, some of these answers would make the list.
As a female on the management team of a small business, I can speak to some other things I would consider work perks:
- Having a flexible schedule
- Paid maternity leave
- A place to pump breast milk that doesn’t share space with a toilet or storage closet
- Encouragement to get out and find inspiration and motivation during the workday, by taking a walk or visiting a museum
If we’re being honest, beer in the fridge, free snacks, and a cool gaming table are also probably on my list, but for myself and many career women, the most important perks are things that allow us to have a strong work-life balance.
As a small business with a 67% female staff, including 50% of our management team, we’re on the leading edge of employers that value equality in the workplace.
Gunderson Direct employees have unlimited paid time off. We offer a very generous paid parental leave policy. We’re not expected to take late-night calls or answer emails that come in at midnight. Earlier this year the agency moved into a brand-new office space full of amenities. In addition to a fridge that chills Coors and La Croix, as well as shelves lined with snacks, the boss added a room known as the Meditation Room. It’s a calm, quiet space where we can take a breather, take a call, or hop into the Infinity Super Sonic Massage Chair 5000 and spend 20 minutes decompressing. It’s also a space where any of our new moms can have privacy and space to pump without interruption.
While many people, especially outside of the Bay Area, think that some of these things are outrageous or unnecessary, we realize that having a successful business means having happy employees. These benefits aren’t just buzzwords, they’re reflections of the culture we strive to maintain. The work-life balance and the additions to the office encourage happiness and job satisfaction for our employees. When our team is at its best, we’re able to provide client service at its best.
The women of Gunderson Direct are fortunate to have found careers within an organization that values them. We’re led by compassionate men who have families and don’t think that success can only be measured with a 70-hour work week. Acknowledging that sometimes a 35-hour work week with full focus is equal to a harried and distracted 50-hour week means more time with our families and friends, more time to explore our hobbies, and more time for self-care, assuring that when we are in the office, we’re at 100%. The women on staff at Gunderson Direct are never expected to prove that they deserve a spot at the table, and that is the biggest work perk.
All these perks add up and they help nurture a positive company culture that brings our entire team together.
The following are responses from a Q&A with the women of Gunderson Direct: a little about work, a little about life—the perfect balance.
What is your favorite work perk?
Courtney Henson, Account Manager: “Flexibility!”
Erin Taylor, Print Production Coordinator: “Team lunches. It gives us an opportunity to sit around and talk with co-workers about anything when we’re all together. With everyone’s hectic schedules we’re not always together during lunch.”
Lindsey Rulis, Account Manager: “Unlimited vacation and a flexible work schedule to be with family.”
Alexa Sundberg, VP of Data and Strategy: “The ability to work from home!”
Tara Eglin, Art Director: “Lunches out are fun, office snacks are great, love the new game station. It’s hard to pick one…”
Jaki Rangel, HR Manager: “Unlimited PTO, no explanation necessary!”
Dina Pinzosty, Account Manager: “Old School!”
Gaye Foss, Bookkeeper: “There are so many, but probably Gone With the Wind because of how magnificent it is for when it was made.”
Sarah Olesen, Studio Artist: “I’m bad at picking favorites, but my answer for today would be Eat Drink Man Woman. It’s just a really satisfying and beautifully shot family drama set in Taiwan. Food is at the heart of it, so maybe that’s part of why I like it.”
Lindsey: “I don’t think I have a favorite movie, but my hands-down favorite show is The Office.”
Erin: “This is tough. I would have to say Mel Brooks’ Spaceballs. I love the satire, humor, touch of romance, and overall storyline. Whenever it comes on, I always end up watching it no matter where it is in the storyline.”
What’s on your reading list?
Sarah: “I just finished There There by Oakland author Tommy Orange, and it was excellent.”
Courtney: “Crazy Rich Asians (all 3!).”
Dina: “Toddlers Are A**holes: It’s Not Your Fault (j/k. sort of).”
Jaki: “I just finished reading Sourdough, by Robin Sloane, which was given to me by Gaye, and then I went and passed it on to Tara, so it’s almost like a GD book club.”
Worst job you’ve ever had?
Erin: “Being an office assistant for a summer job, taking in orders for a small monument company. The ‘office’ had a window unit for AC that was conveniently placed near the manager’s desk, so the rest of the building was stifling. Very boring too. I’d get to help by either manually punching out letters and numbers on the sandblasting sheet or working the layout software that would output the more intricate designs onto the sheets, but business was slow. The building where the sandblasting occurred only had industrial fans so they just cycled hot, humid air. It was cool to see the different types of granite and marble and learn about their pros and cons.”
Sarah: “I worked at a clothing store in Noe Valley and it was truly … not my calling. Working in retail requires a level of pep that I wasn’t destined for, and the sales goals were very intense.”
Gaye: “Babysitting for a family with six kids that I didn’t know had chickens that I needed to secure in their coop at dusk. I learned to ask lots of questions before saying yes to babysit for ‘unknowns’ after that.”
Lindsey: “An internship where I had to put stickers on 10,000 bags of peanuts.”
Alexa: “Cutting the bad spots off of peaches on an assembly line of a factory that made baby food.”
Favorite GD outing to date?
Lindsey: “Beach Blanket Babylon!”
Tara: “Horse races!”
Jaki: “I’m biased, because I plan it, but I love our annual Strategy Session.”
Sarah: “I loved our visit to San Francisco Center for the Book. The tour was fascinating, and then we actually got the chance to learn how to print and bind our own notebooks. To me that was a unique and unforgettable experience.”
Favorite meal to cook (or order out)?
Courtney: “I make a mean chicken piccata!”
Gaye: “Thanksgiving. I even cook this if it is not at my house so that we have leftovers.”
Sarah: “My favorite meal to order at the moment is a Vietnamese vermicelli bowl full of fresh and pickled veggies, crispy onions, and delicious pork.”
Erin: “I don’t cook it often, but I do love to cook blackened Cajun shrimp fettuccine alfredo. I’ve modified the recipe so that it has similar ingredients from one of my favorite pasta dishes at a restaurant that my husband and I would go to outside Atlanta.”
Where do you hope to see GD in 5 years?
Jaki: “I hope there are more of us! I hope that our agency continues to grow and that we hold true to the values we’ve established and don’t lose our kick-ass culture in the process. I hope we develop friendships that extend beyond the office and continue to support one another in our careers and lives.”
Sarah: “Gunderson Direct will be the biggest DM agency in the nation and the most experienced team for direct mail. I see a more robust offering of services (more digital marketing, branding, etc.) but always the passion for and focus on mail. I also envision a large buzzing office of ~50 employees.”
Erin: “Thriving with a great name recognition and a larger group of people but with the same small business culture that drew me in.”
Gaye: “All the empty desks filled and subleasing the parking lot across the street.”
Alexa: “Good process in place for data strategy/analysis, solid data product offering for clients—important revenue stream for GD—expansion up and down the West Coast, especially including the state of Oregon.”
Dina: “Bigger! Continuing to grow.”
Courtney: “Bigger and better with daycare (hahahah).”
Tara: “Leader in the industry—a household name in the industry nationwide. Managing a dozen top accounts that are on par with our biggest client.”
Lindsey: “With even more talent added to the team, an even bigger client list, and more knowledge about direct mail than ever.”