When your employer tells you that there’s no limit to the number of paid days off you can take, it may sound a little too good to be true. That’s why Philo went a step further and decided to pay its employees to take a vacation.
“There is a risk with unlimited PTO where with some tech companies—if there’s not a set amount, do I really know if I’m supposed to take it? Is it really encouraged or not? So we wanted to make it really clear and incentivize people to take time off, relax and recharge,” explains Philo CEO Andrew McCollum.
Enter what might be the easiest bonus target on the planet. Employees can rake in $2,000 simply for taking an annual vacation. “We recognize that when you take time off it’s not like your life goes on pause. You still have all the same bills and expenses you normally have, but if you’re going on vacation, there are costs above and beyond that—you’re taking plane trips, you’re renting hotel rooms. If you really want to get away, you have increased costs,” McCollum says. “We wanted to give people a bonus that really enabled them to get away from work.”
If that sounds a bit different, well, that’s Philo’s philosophy. The virtual MVPD service wants to reinvent the way people watch TV, offering a $16/month bundle of channels that omits costly sports and news networks. Philo wants to be a TV provider customers actually love—and McCollum believes the only way it will be successful at building a product that customers adore is if employees feel the same way about it. “We want to have a workplace that really values the people who are here and has a really collaborative atmosphere that supports everyone on the team. We’re always looking for ways we can do that,” says McCollum, who is also widely known for his role as a co-founder of Facebook.
Wait—doesn’t lenient vacation time lead to trouble? McCollum says it hasn’t really been an issue, partly because of the company’s hiring philosophy. “We don’t want to hire people who are just working for a paycheck,” he says. “We won’t hire someone who seems like they would be a high performer, but doesn’t have a team-focused attitude.” Philo appears to be on to something. Since moving its HQ to San Francisco in 2015, it has boasted a 98% retention rate. Philo has about 55 employees currently, mostly in San Fran and mostly engineers.
Other Philo perks include up to $5,000 annually for educational and personal development courses as well as traditional benefits such as 401K, health and dental insurance and family leave. Another less traditional incentive is a $500 “TV stipend” for new employees to upgrade their home watching setup. Not surprisingly, Philo is pretty cool with telecommuting. More eyebrow raising is its dog-friendly office policy.
“We have a rotating cast of dogs that come in from day to day,” says McCollum, who grew up in dog-loving Sun Valley, Idaho. “Basically everywhere in my hometown was dog-friendly. Every business and office always had lots of dogs around, so it seemed really natural to me.”
While the benefits are impressive, McCollum is still working to improve Philo’s culture. High on his to-do list is to hire more women, with the company partnering with PowerToFly and other organizations to deepen its talent pool. “We’re always trying to figure out how we can do a better job with that,” McCollum says.
– Amy Maclean