The pandemic has impacted the employee experience in a variety of ways. From where we work, to how we collaborate and who we work with, this has had a profound impact upon our well-being. According to the Global Workplace Burnout Study released earlier this year, in the last two years, the world has experienced the most rapid and significant levels of workplace change since the first industrial revolution. As the authors point out, people want their work environments to understand that work is a part of life, not all of it.
Like many companies, Zendesk’s shift to a digital-first work environment had a unique set of challenges, from how we communicate to how we learn new ways and unlearn old habits. We found that embracing a digital-first work model – which we define as providing flexibility and freedom to be productive wherever and however it works best for an individual – took a collective, company-wide effort. Yet this new way of more flexible work also added to an employee’s burden of feeling like it was more difficult to step away from work and take time to decompress.
To help mitigate this early in the pandemic, Zendesk experimented with ‘no meeting days’, implemented additional benefits, and encouraged people to take time off as and when they needed it. And yet, even after 18 months of adopting a digital-first work environment, it was apparent the stress of continued uncertainty was having an impact on employees, as was confirmed by a noticeable decrease in well-being outcomes in our bi-annual employee engagement survey. It was clear we needed to help employees find more ways to focus on self-care and work life balance more than ever.
In response, Zendesk launched a new initiative to both recognize employees’ ongoing hard work and continue to support their well-being: Recharge Fridays, a paid day off once a month for people to rest and recharge. The first took place in September, and was initially piloted for the remainder of 2021. The program applied to all employees, regardless of role and tenure, with many teams alternating weeks or adjusting the hours worked every Friday to ensure our customers and partners were able to receive continued service and support. Employees were quick to share with their managers and across social media (how much they valued and appreciated the initiative, and so we announced earlier this year the benefit would be rolled out for all of 2022.
In less than six months, we have seen the measurable, positive impact of continuing Recharge Fridays, per our latest engagement survey in May 2022:
Over half of the comments related specifically to well-being cited the positive impact that Recharge Fridays have had on their well-being
Employees feel Zendesk’s efforts to support their well-being having a positive impact has increased significantly, up 4 points since before this initiative
We also saw increases in employees feeling cared for by Zendesk, to a significantly larger extent than the recognized industry benchmark for companies of our size and scale
As we continue to shift towards digital-first ways of working, Recharge Fridays is just one of many benefits that support employees’ ability to balance work with life commitments. Another example includes Zendesk’s Extended Stay Policy, which allows employees to work from anywhere for up to 90 days during a calendar year. These and many other efforts may seem like small changes, but they play a significant role in continually driving a collective, positive global employee experience.