From Suits to Sweats

It’s not your father’s workplace anymore. From coats and ties, to casual Friday, to now jeans and t-shirts every day, your typical office environment has drastically changed. Today, 50% of managers say that employees wear less formal clothing than they did five years ago, and nearly one-third would prefer to be at a company with a business casual dress code.  These changes have occurred all in the name of creating an environment that promotes productivity. Companies like Google and Netflix have even gone so far as to offer free gourmet cafeterias, massage rooms, and nap pods, to name just a few.

According to a 2016 Forbes article, the most sought-out benefits after pay are health care coverage and work flexibility, a benefit that wasn’t mainstream a decade ago but is today due to the sheer demands of work and our ‘always on’ society.

But you don’t have to be a part of a Fortune 50 company or a successful tech startup to experience these flexible schedules, benefits, and even Netflix-level ‘work perks.’ These local companies are well-known for their emphasis on creating a work environment that meets the needs of their workforce and in the process enhances productivity. Hear from their leaders on what work perks help create the best environment for productivity.


Jack Silberman

Partner, Reliance Human Capital Management

Reliance Human Capital Management (HCM) was founded in February 2016, with the goal of bringing a fresh approach to employee benefits and workforce management. Our team members are our most valuable assets, and we’ve worked hard to foster a high-trust work environment to reflect that belief. We have an open workspace – everyone works in the same space, including our executive team. This fosters collaboration and the transparency across job functions, which helps keep everyone informed about goals and performance. There is a clear path to success: each position has a document that outlines what employees can do to progress in our company. There is no traditional time off policy. For this policy to be successful, our managers and teams must communicate regularly about deadlines and projects to ensure coverage, but our employees also know that we value their time and commitments away from our walls. All of our compensation packages have a commission or performance related bonus in deference to the idea that everyone has to contribute to our overall success. Additionally, we set quarterly and annual targets, and our team votes on the reward for meeting those goals.


Tiffanie Robinson

President, Lamppost Properties &
Second Story Real Estate Management

Our work environment is based on open communication, trust, and personal responsibility. We value communication, and our open floor plan helps facilitate this. We don’t always have availability to meet formally, but with an open floor plan, we can have a quick team meeting when someone needs to share something. Our team also operates on a ‘get your work done, make your own schedule’ rule. We keep each other accountable and hold ourselves accountable, so we don’t count PTO or vacation days. If you need the time off – you take it. But you have to get your work done. As for a dress code policy, we all dress based on our day, whether we are meeting with clients or just working at our desk. One final thing that we are big on is finding time each month to get out of the office together. We go to team lunch, do volunteer projects, or day outings.



Taylor Jones

Founder and CEO, Whiteboard

Our agency is organized into several small teams (4-6 people) who are responsible for groups of clients. We’ve found that smaller teams can self-organize and self-manage, leading to greater productivity, a greater sense of responsibility, and a greater sense of empowerment. One of the most important factors in productivity is trust among team members, and reduced layers of organization and process barriers typically lead to a higher degree of trust. Our physical office is open-concept to allow for agile growth flexibility, though sometimes this interferes with work that requires more long-term concentration. Based on feedback from our team, we are actively exploring changes to our physical environment that will better balance open collaboration with deep thinking. The best thing  we’ve done in the past 5 years for productivity is ask our team how we should structure their work and their working environment.


Ken McElrath

Founder and CEO, Skuid

Skuid’s work environment is a natural, authentic extension of our personal values and relationships. To work at Skuid, you must be a humble expert, a design thinker, and a caring hero. Our work environment reflects the significant overlap of our shared values and relationships. We’re a startup, so we defined our non-negotiable values up front. We intentionally decided that work/life balance was a futile effort. Instead, we decided to make Skuid a place where you can express your life work, or at least a meaningful part of it. For us, this means bringing more home into work. It means taking care of each other so we can effectively care for our company and customers. Our commitment to taking care of each other naturally led to certain artifacts, such as great health care coverage, ergonomic furniture, private phone booths, flexible work hours, and a generous paid-leave policy. Many companies make the mistake of simply copying environmental artifacts. That’s a big mistake. Copying artifacts will not produce productivity, but may actually produce the opposite, demotivating and disengaging employees. You have to start with values and relationships: the hard but most important stuff.



Amber Cox

Director of Engagement, Spire Labs

At our company, we promote a culture of autonomy and health, and our work environment serves as a reflection of that. We actively encourage things like regular fitness breaks and walking meetings, and allow team members to work when and where they want. This freedom allows our employees to feel empowered to structure their work and personal lives according to their needs, and as a result they are more productive (and happier, too!). Our unifying factor, though, is a shared mission: to improve the health and happiness of millions of people. We keep this goal at the heart and center of everything that we do, which drives us and mobilizes us to do great work. So, if you only do one thing to shape your environment to promote productivity and success, I would tell you to identify your purpose and infuse it into everything you do.


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