Image credit: The Canadian Press

Five-hour days among work perks at B.C. tech companies

Businesses are fighting the talent crunch with perks like vacation cash and luxury cars

From vacation cash to luxury cars, some technology companies in B.C. are offering big perks to woo prospective employees.

Multinationals like Amazon and Microsoft have opened offices in Vancouver, while homegrown startups like Hootsuite have gained international acclaim in recent years.

The growth has left companies competing to recruit workers, said Bill Tam, CEO of the B.C. Tech Association.

Last year the group issued a report estimating that 35,000 jobs in the industry will need to be filled in B.C. alone by 2021.

“The demand for talent is outstripping the supply,” Tam said in an interview.

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In order to stand out, many brands are advertising their culture and mission statements in job postings so employees can chose the post that best fits their lifestyle and personality, he said.

They’re also offering benefits that go above and beyond standard medical and dental coverage. Tam said he’s heard of companies that offer unlimited vacation, flexible work hours, and even one that paid for downpayments on new Tesla cars.

“Tech companies by design are trying to be innovative in all aspects of what they’re doing. So the way in which they structure their businesses and the culture they try to adopt is very much consistent with that philosophy,” Tam said.

RingPartner, a digital marketing firm in Victoria, slashed work days to five hours in a bid to find employees.

“We were at a crossroads where we’re living on an island in the north Pacific, which sometimes makes it tricky to attract the kind of talent that we want to retain here,” said Sarah Gulbrandsen, the company’s vice-president of client operations.

RingPartner’s 30 employees are required to be in the office between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. from Monday through Friday, but where and when they do the rest of their work is up to them.

That means some people take off for the beach in the afternoon, then log in to their computers at home in the evening, Gulbrandsen said.

Many parents have found that they now have more time to spend with their kids, she added.

Others prefer a more traditional schedule.

“Some people still feel like they do their best work in a traditional eight-hour workday in the office, and that’s OK — they can totally do that,” Gulbrandsen said.

Since the company implemented the five-hour workday earlier this year, the number of sick days taken has fallen 10 per cent, and RingPartner’s revenue and profitability have jumped, Gulbrandsen said.

While benefits can be used as a recruiting tool, they’re also a reflection of a company’s culture, said Leslie Collin, director of people and culture at Unbounce.

“We definitely believe in work-life integration here,” she said.

The Vancouver-based tech company gives each of its 190 employees four weeks of vacation a year, plus $1,000 for taking time off.

The vacation bonus allows workers to “to go on a new adventure and support their life goals as well as their career goals,” Collin said.

Perks like vacation bonuses and flexible hours have helped draw new talent to Unbounce, but they also help employees do their best work, she added.

“Without rest you’re really not able to be fresh with ideas or collaboration or creativity, which is really what we believe makes us successful as a company,” Collin said.

Gemma Karstens-Smith, The Canadian Press

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