From more vacation to Fridays off: How Charlotte employers are trying to keep office workers happy

From more vacation to Fridays off: How Charlotte employers are trying to keep office workers happy

Photo: Katie Peralta Soloff/Axios

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Office employees are quitting their jobs in droves. To keep from losing them, Charlotte employers are implementing all sorts of new policies, from letting workers convert sick days into vacation to offering every other Friday off.

Zoom out: Globally, 41% of office workers are considering quitting their jobs, according to a recent survey by Microsoft. “A hybrid blend of in-person and remote work could help maintain a sense of balance — but bosses need to do more,” the survey noted.

Why it matters: Charlotte is the second largest bank town in the country, with a rapidly growing fintech sector as well. Competition for talent is fierce. Workers have options when it comes to their next job, so employers are doing whatever they can to keep them around.

  • Highly skilled workers with other job prospects are the hardest to replace, as Axios’ Kim Hart recently wrote.
  • Half of employees recently surveyed by Prudential said they feel disconnected to their companies after a year of working remotely, which makes leaving a job easier, per Hart.

What’s happening here in Charlotte: “Flexibility and understanding will be a hallmark of our approach as employees return to the office,” Ally spokesperson Caitlin Palumbo said. The majority of Ally’s employees will return to the office after Labor Day with a hybrid schedule, she added.

  • In fact, a blend of in-person and remote work, at least in the near term, looks to be the norm for several of Charlotte’s biggest employers.

Others are taking new creative steps to keep workers around.

Bank of America, which employs roughly 16,000 in the Charlotte region, recently started letting employees use up to five sick days as paid days off, spokesperson Mark Pipitone said. The bank’s upping its pay, too: For U.S. employees, the minimum hourly wage will be $25 by 2025.

  • The bank is also expanding its childcare benefits “to provide support for the personal impacts the pandemic has had on teammates and their families,” Pipitone added. Bank of America is offering 10 additional back-up care days (provided by Bright Horizons) in addition to the usual 40 days per year.

At Method (previously Skookum), which employs about 100 in Charlotte, employees can work either from home or the company’s offices. Next month, Method moves into its new space at the Charlotte Plaza, which is designed for flexible work, Method’s director of marketing Brad Schmitt said.

  • For employees who come into the office, Method will continue to host monthly happy hours (either in the office or at a local brewery) in town, plus offer weekly catered lunches in the office. “Ultimately this is a very natural transition for us, as this flexibility has been built into our culture from the beginning,” Schmitt said.

Passport, a Charlotte mobile payments firm that employs about 170 here, implemented “Fun and Focused Fridays” during the pandemic. This means employees get every other Friday off, and meetings are not allowed on the Fridays they are working.

  • The program aims to help address Zoom fatigue and overall work/life balance and has continued because of its popularity, a Passport spokesperson said.

Duke Energy is figuring out a hybrid work setup for its approximately 6,000 corporate workers in the Charlotte region, says spokesperson Neil Nissan. “For a majority of office employees, we’re providing some flexibility of splitting time between working remotely and being in the office.”

Red Ventures, known for its in-person work culture, is letting its 1,400 Charlotte-area employees work remotely for the rest of 2021. Beyond that, Red Ventures will transition to a hybrid of in-office collaboration and remote work, according to Thadd Jones, Red Ventures’ chief talent officer.

  • The company is also now offering “global disconnect days,” which allows employees extended weekends to rest and recharge. Additionally, Red Ventures offers “inclusive benefits” such as gender transformation surgery medical coverage, mental health and wellness resources, up to 12 weeks of parental bonding pay, and covered fertility/family-building medical benefits.

Ally pointed to its generous PTO allowance (starting at 20 days) and a number of family-friendly policies as ways to keep parents in the workforce. For instance, the bank, which employs about 2,100 locally, recently increased its adoption benefit (up to $35,000 per child with a maximum of two adoptions) and added surrogacy benefits (up to $35,000 with a max of two surrogacies).

  • Other benefits Ally noted that set the bank apart: 12 weeks of parental leave, student loan repayment ($100/month, up to $10,000 lifetime) and 529 plan contributions.

Truist, with roughly 2,000 employees in the Charlotte region, says it takes a “total rewards” approach to attracting and retaining talent that includes a competitive 401K and pension plan and flexible time-off policies.

  • The Charlotte-based bank will provide “ongoing flexibility” as workers return to the offices, meaning they’ll offer in-person, remote and hybrid work options.

Of note: In Iceland, roughly 86% of the entire working population has moved to (or is on their way to moving to) a four-day workweek with no reduction in pay. Researchers recently found this arrangement workers’ well-being and productivity.

Bottom line: Especially in tight labor markets, employers are known for doing what they can to attract and retain talent, from increasing pay to offering more time off. It remains to be seen how long these pandemic-era benefits will stick, though.

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