What will the long tail of the Netflix decision mean for all of us?

imgres-1The decision that Netflix made this past week to allow employees “unlimited” maternity and paternity leave is for salaried employees.  After that decision more than a handful of other companies jumped into the party such a Microsoft that will increase paid leave.  Other companies have announced an increase in paid maternity and paternity leave such as Nestle, Vodafone, Blackstone, Johnson & Johnson and more.  You won’t see fast food chains or companies that rely on manual labor jumping into this fray so quickly but perhaps they will be start to think about being more employee friendly too.

The good news is that companies are beginning to recognize that employees who are given perks that allow them to live a balanced life between work and home make for happy employees and in the end more productive companies.  Ever since the mid-90’s when technology started to see an explosion of new companies, I always hoped that those companies would also change the work life.  We are finally starting to see those changes take place from extended maternity and paternity leave to open vacation policies to supporting parents to go to their kids sport games to having an open kitchen in the office with lunch and snacks being served to having hang-out areas that are more conducive to community and interaction with your peers.  These are all great things that are creating cultures conducive to empowering employees.  As our professional  and personal lives become more blended due to technology this makes for a healthier work day.

One of the women founders that I am invested in sat down with people in her company and talked to them about their “dream work perks”.  Super smart on her part.  She is building a culture as the company grows and wants to make sure the first group of employees are part of this process.  Open conversation and transparency makes for a healthier environment.

Not surprising that the number one thing is qualify of life balance.  What can a company do to help with that?  Unlimited vacation is one and studies have shown that when you give people that they do not take advantage but become more productive.  Giving people a month off after 5 years of employment can be another bonus.  Retreats so that everyone can connect and be involved in what is happening in the company.  Healthy onsite meals available throughout the day.  Pushing people to take off an extended vacation for mental health.  I totally agree with that.  The importance off taking time is huge.  The last point is a great one…get rid of the title HR and replace it with Quality of Life director.

Education is important too.  Supporting employees to educate themselves to make them better at what they do.  Create mentorship programs with in the company helps everyone.

It is incredible to see the support of maternity and paternity leave begin to happen.  What if you don’t have kids?  What if you need to attend to a sick parent?  That should also be part of this program.  Everyone has different needs around their personal lives and companies should embrace that.  Each culture is different and it is important to build one that makes sense for the founder and the employees.  It could be daily yoga stretches as a group or Friday afternoon pizza.  It is about community and a supportive work environment where everyone feels that they are a part of it.  It gets more difficult as the company grows but setting those foundations in place make it easier to build that culture.

Netflix has started a movement that is forcing other companies to rethink their policies for their employees.  That is a really good thing.  Not sure how this bleeds down to hourly workers but I do believe that every decision has a long tail and eventually seeing some of the household name companies make a stand will make all companies pay attention.  When the data comes back for young families who can work and feel supportive of their children at the same….that will be huge.


Comments (Archived):

  1. Anthony Serina

    This is really great to see and I seriously hope that the trend continues. What are your feelings about extended leaves, maternity/paternity, personal time off, etc. at smaller more bootstrapped companies? Depending on the financial situation of the company and the persons role it can be very difficult to weather someone being out for six months. Are there any programs, tax breaks/credits, for small fast growing companies that want to be more dynamic and supportive?

    1. Gotham Gal

      I was at a breakfast with a handful of founders and we discussed this at length.It is important at the beginning to set the culture for your company. More than likely the first hires are a dedicated team who are trusted to do the job regardless of where they are. Giving people long ropes has always been the way I have managed people. I have found that people excel when they are trusted. You should be a backstop by not a micro-manager.I am not aware of any programs out there that can help people think through this but certainly your founder peers are the people to discuss this with.

  2. Yinka!

    It is a good change to see. That said, a key point that some have mentioned is that many of these companies’ maternity policies state “up to” X time off, meaning the employee does not automatically get all the stated time off. Apparently, in many states in the US, the leave is tied to doctor certification, which is typically 6-8weeks? If so, I hope that angle will be appropriately neutralized; maternity leave should be a standard feature and separate from medical leave, not subject to haggling/manoeuvring.

    1. Gotham Gal

      Maternity/Paternity leave should be a standard feature….absolutely!

  3. Jess Bachman

    The one thing I don’t like about Netflix’s actions is that nothing is “unlimited”. Their are limits, but I guess now they are implicit rather than explicit. The implicit rules can bind us more than the explicit ones. I could easily see it becoming a case where the subtext is “yeah, you can take off as much time as you want… but you know, Susie only took off 3 weeks after her baby and now shes a SVP, so… well.. the choice is yours of course.”That said, I certainly appreciate the long-tail benefit.

  4. Spring

    I have heard that unlimited leave can backfire (for employees) in some ways – in companies where vacation leave can roll over YoY if not taken and then get paid out at certain intervals, a move to unlimited leave saves the company from that expense, and employees who are not inclined to take it for whatever reason end up shorted. That said, it should certainly encourage a healthier work atmosphere if there is not financial incentive to forgo vacation.For maternity/paternity leave, I worry that the pressure to return earlier will eclipse the “unlimited” nature of the leave – for better or worse, a limited leave policy also acts as a floor.

    1. Gotham Gal

      ReturnPath has had tremendous success on their open policy.

  5. NicholeSmaglick

    Clearly since I lead a company that serves dads, I think it’s great. There is so much data out there that shows the life long benefits to both the kids AND the dad if he spends the first 3 weeks at home. Whether and how it is used is driven by the culture and values of the society and individual. Europe presents some great case studies where in some places, policy is more forward thinking than the culture and men use the paternity leave and associated incentives to go hunting. In other places men use it as intended. I’m excited to see this movement in the US. It reduces the barriers a man faces in developing healthy, constructive relationships with his family. Whether or not we value this is up to the culture of the people.

    1. Gotham Gal

      It is really exciting to see “paternity” leave as something being given and discussed here.

  6. pointsnfigures

    think co-working really starts to help people embrace this. Nextspace.us Nextkids concept is pretty cool. I also saw where Leo Burnett is going to experiment with co-working to help their employees. http://adage.com/article/ag… In an age where we are knowledge workers, we don’t always have to be in a physical office and physically present to make things happen. Right after you have kids, it’s so overwhelming there isn’t a lot of down time. Once a routine starts to happen, co-working might fill the gap before going back full time.

    1. Gotham Gal

      Leo Burnett was a man before his time.

  7. ErikSchwartz

    Netflix is very up front about their culture. Their culture slide deck is famous. I don’t see many people who make it past their culture filter in recruiting and survive there for some period of time taking significant leave for anything.

    1. Gotham Gal

      At least it is available.

  8. Erin

    Ugh. someone I know got let go last year because she took “too many sick days to be with her sick kids” or some weird reason. And she was not the kind of person who would invent a reason to stay home. I like visionary companies.

    1. Gotham Gal

      that is terrible.

    2. JLM

      .And, does she know a good employment lawyer? Because that behavior is patently illegal and juries will punish employers who engage in such practices.A good friend of mine, for whom I bankrolled the lawsuit, tagged the State of Texas for an enormous award when they eliminated her job after being out of work for a very serious illness.When confronted with a trial in the People’s Republic of Austin, the State demurred, settled, wrote a huge check.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

      1. Erin

        I’ll contact her. The laws in Canada can’t be that different.

        1. JLM

          .Canada is a whole different country. Why I want us to merge.I want the US, Mexico, Canada and French Polynesia to merge.Been working on it for a long time.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

          1. Erin

            Boundaries are healthy. We’re pretty happy with the ones we’ve got, but if you’d like to trade us Boston, Cape Cod, and New York City for some maple syrup, we’d be willing to talk.

          2. JLM

            .You can have North Dakota (which many Americans think does not really exist) on freemium just as a way to get the ball rolling.No to the others.JLMwww.themusingsfothebigredca…

          3. Erin

            We’ll gladly accept an underdog to the team. We know what it’s like to not be thought to exist and yet somehow manage to happily exist anyway. We’ll send you some syrup and Canadian pins anyway, just as an incentive to re-think NYC.

  9. awaldstein

    I love this.need to say though that very early stage is in a world of its own. It’s a bit nuts and culture forms with groups and funding and often that comes a few years later.

  10. JLM

    .There is something tantalizingly important about this development.It is being funded by a successful company highlighting that a robust economy which supports the development of profitable companies can be the creator of benefits far more successfully than the gov’t can be by mandating things.This is true with this subject and with many others.The use of “before tax” dollars — meaning not taxed as income as they are deductible as an expense — coupled with the chance to make some benefits not recognized as income by an employee creates leverage.[Note: In this instance getting “paid” is, of course, going to be taxable. I am talking about other programs.]When the gov’t sticks its snout into such issues, they always find a way to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Personal example: When I was a CEO, I provided health, life, dental, vision insurance to my employees at 85-100% company expense. That is now disallowed under Obamacare as being a “Cadillac” plan.It was also a huge binder, a glue, within the company culture as the employees would form a committee to consider the bids and select the winner thereby putting their own skin in the game.Not only did the gov’t kill a good plan, the penalty for providing NO insurance is very inexpensive.Last point — this is also a reflection the “culture of life” which shows who Americans are at their core.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…