Consumer finance fintech InDebted has won the top spot in the 2022 AFR BOSS Best Place to Work list, thanks to its newly implemented four-day work week, work from anywhere policy, and payment of a quarterly office stipend.
The online debt collection agency was also crowned the AFR BOSS Best Place to Work in the technology sector over progressive companies including employee wellbeing startup Culture Amp and online jobs company SEEK.
Awarded annually, the Australian Financial Review (AFR) and BOSS magazine Best Places to Work awards are judged through an assessment process managed by consultancy Inventium, along with written submissions and staff surveys examining policies, practices, and programs that help businesses support their team.
More than 750 companies competed for a place in the awards this year.
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InDebted founder and CEO Josh Foreman told SmartCompany Plus last year the company immediately saw the impact of its four-day work week, which was made permanent in September 2021 following a trial period.
The move reduced hours by 20% across the board for its 160-strong global workforce without cutting pay for employees.
In the first 45 days after announcing its shorter work week the average number of job applicants increased by 283% compared to the preceding four and a half months, Foreman said.
“As we continue to scale and grow into new and global markets, the four-day work week has had a tangible impact on employee happiness and talent acquisition,” he said.
The company reported that 98% of employees told them the four-day work week positively impacts their wellbeing and 92% said the four-day work week positively affects their productivity.
Beyond its benefits as a recruitment tool, Foreman said transparent communication and cross-department visibility were crucial to the success of the four-day work week rollout.
By staying focused on “employee happiness, productivity, and autonomy”, the company has used the policy to drive the business forward.
“We’ve also heard amazing stories of our employees dedicating their extra day to important causes and passions, from climate change to wildlife shelters, and perhaps most excitingly, the ability to spend additional time with family,” Foreman said.
‘Thinking Thursdays’ to banish meetings overload
Many companies are also looking beyond perks focused on the office, with a focus on strategies and policies that create safe and effective working environments.
Beyond sector-based accolades, specialist awards recognised progressive workplace policies in a range of fields including small business, diversity and inclusion, and employee flexibility.
Customer experience and media agency Affinity won out the Media and Marketing category, along with a new award for Most Outstanding Practice — Employee Wellbeing.
Angela Smith, chief brand officer at Affinity, told SmartCompany companies should be tying their business strategy more closely to employee’s day-to-day experience at work.
Core to the company’s submission, Smith said, was its ‘Thinking Thursday’ initiative: a meeting-free day designed to give employees uninterrupted time and space during the work day.
The initiative gave people the opportunity to engage in deep work including solving client problems, improving processes, and developing new tools and approaches.
“Our brand purpose is to relentlessly champion and champion the power of human thinking — and we try to centre everything we do around that brand purpose,” Smith says.
The practice showed Affinity empowered “everybody on the team to actually live the brand.”
Policies that address the employee world beyond work
Vista, formerly Vistaprint, a producer of marketing products for small and micro businesses, won the Best Employee Experience award; digital; SixPivot, a cloud management solutions provider, won the award for the Most Outstanding Practice in Employee Flexibility; and non-bank lender Wisr took out the Most Outstanding Practice in Diversity and Inclusion award.
NASDAQ-listed US company Vista introduced “remote-first” working, in-line with announcements by Australia’s tech giants Canva and Atlassian that last year both unveiled remote work policies that only require employees to visit the office a few times a year.
Vista now connects with a remote workforce through weekly company-wide meetings, and invites all staff to listen in on executive meetings to increase transparency.
SixPivot’s success this year came from its decision to offer unlimited domestic violence leave for victims and perpetrators.
Along with leave, the company provides paid emergency accommodation, cash support of up to $5000 and individual and family counselling.
Australian Neo bank Wisr ascended in the Best Place to Work Diversity and Inclusion category through strategies including bias filtering during the recruitment process.
The company said it engages in transparency around practices such as promotion and pay by demonstrating how promotion decisions were based on performance and pay was linked to position and responsibilities as opposed to the individual employee.
Wisr said the company’s focus on providing upskilling, cross-skilling and lateral moves within the business for staff had helped it hold onto talent and reduce attrition rates.
Head of employee experience at Wisr Kate Renner said the past year had seen a surge in business-wide rethinks of employee wellbeing programs to include more initiatives that support flexible work, mental health and social connectedness.
“These are the areas that we’re hearing employees ask for and we’re observing that they need now,” Renner said.