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Family at Buffer: How We Work to Include Everyone With Our Values and Perks

May 26, 2015 6 min readWorkplace of the future
Photo of Nicole Miller
Nicole Miller

Director of People @ Buffer

What does it mean to bring your whole self to work?

As part of Buffer’s evolution into self-management, we’ve been exploring this question a lot.

We’ve long considered the Buffer team a family all its own. Because we’re a small, distributed team, we form a close bond through shared experiences and values, digital tools and our regular company retreats.

But the entirety of the Buffer family goes beyond the team members we see on Sqwiggle every day—it also includes spouses, partners, parents, children, dogs, cats and beyond.

Family comes in all forms, and as we’ve been exploring the value of wholeness, it’s been exciting to include Buffer’s large extended family in new ways. We’ve learned that bringing your whole self to work includes your hobbies, side projects, pets, family and all! :)

Here are some of the ways we’ve been working on making Buffer an inclusive and supportive environment for all our diverse types of Buffer families.

family perks at buffer

Flexible schedules, work environments and salaries

One of our Buffer values is to live smarter, not harder; which includes working in the environment where you’re happiest and most productive. For every team member, this looks different, and we celebrate the uniqueness of each situation.

Our schedules are flexible to allow for family events, travel, side project work, etc. We rely on the advice process here—the bigger the decision, the more advice we seek from those who will be affected.

We also encourage and adore seeing and interacting with each other’s family (and pets!) There are many times you’ll see a dog, cat, or even chicken on Sqwiggle.

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Our incredible blogger, Kevan, takes care of his son throughout the day and works a bit more in the mornings and the evenings. We all love when his son jumps into our syncs or pair calls.

Reinventing Organizations, a book that has helped us immensely in evolving our team, has something really interesting to say about the effect of pets and children in the work environment:

“Some will argue that animals and children might distract us from work. I have come to believe that something deeper is at play: we have found safety in showing up with just a narrow part of ourselves in the workplace. We might not at first like the thought of having babies or animals in the workplace precisely because it’s so difficult, in their presence, not to show a whole different part of ourselves to our colleagues— a part that is deeply loving and caring.”

We’ve found this to be very true—and it also adds a lot of cuteness to our day, too!

Finally, with self-managed salaries, we are the decision makers of our own salary adjustments (with input from a variety of team members). One element of our salary consideration is dependents, so if you’re expecting a child, have a spouse going through school or have an ailing family member, for example, you can choose an amount that feels best for your situation.

Self-managed family leave

Mapping out a guideline for maternity/paternity leave here at Buffer was something we wanted to consider before we might have needed it. We formed a task force and spoke to many fellow team members about their thoughts on what would be a fair protocol for family leave here at Buffer.

There are many things to consider with being a small team, and here’s what we came up with:

When it comes to family leave (for the birth of a child, adoption, a family illness, whatever it may be), we encourage team members to go through the advice process and take as much paid or reduced-paid leave as he or she feels is best.

For the birth of a child or adoption of a child, we do recommend taking at least 1-3 months of paid time off to allow time to truly disconnect and focus on your family. Throughout the advice process, you can decide what works best for you and the team members most affected by your time away.

In the spirit of generosity, we wanted to identify a loose range of time off, though this is completely up to each team member to decide what is appropriate for their individual situation.

We expect this to grow and evolve as time goes on, as everything here at Buffer constantly does. These loose guidelines will forever stem from our core values, including fairness, abundance and wholeness.

Perks for family, too

As self-improvement is such a key value to us at Buffer, all Buffer team members are given free Kindles (and unlimited Kindle books) and free Jawbone UP bands to track their exercise and sleep.

Buffer families are included in all of our Buffer culture perks—that means anyone a teammate considers family can get a free Kindle and unlimited Kindle books (no questions asked), and their own Jawbone UP.

We extend these items to family members to encourage growth, health and learning among the whole extended Buffer family. And our definition of “family” goes beyond dependents, spouses and significant others. It may be parents, grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles and more! We trust each of our team members with whatever feels best for them.

As much as we love to all keep connected, we recognize that it’s important to disconnect from the team every once and a while to really clear your mind, focus on yourself and your family, and come back to work refreshed and re-focused.

To help with this, Buffer provides a $1,000 reimbursement a year for each team member and $500 for each dependent/family member to go on a vacation. Team members have gone on cruises (like Adam, below with his family on a Disney cruise), planned trips around our retreats, and more!

Adam vacation

Including family in retreats

We’re continually looking for more ways to make families feel even more loved and part of the team. Our most recent addition is the decision to include and support families attending our company retreats by helping cover some of the travel and housing costs.

We’ll be giving this a try for the first time on a small scale with our upcoming retreat in Iceland in July. Some of the changes we’re making include:

Flexible housing: Giving each teammate a choice on where they wish to stay. Solo travelers can have Buffer book their stay at a hotel, and families might choose an allowance to put toward an Airbnb house or other type accommodation.

Dependents boost: Offering a financial boost to help those who want to invite partners and dependents to the retreat. The boost dollar amount would be about 50% total accommodation costs for a retreat (9 days), to be spent however the teammate would like towards the retreat (flights, accommodation, activities…)

We’ve also considered the idea of choosing one specific retreat each year and covering 100% of the costs for all family members, knowing that family members could change quite a lot how the retreat week looks.

We’re excited to experiment here and see how this grows and develops over the years.

Keeping virtually connected

We have a variety of tools to keep us connected as remote workers, and we strive to keep our families connected as well.

Any Buffer family member who wants to be connected to the team is invited to our private Facebook Group, where we share ponderings, photos, books we’re reading, achievements and special moments.

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Family members who choose to use a Jawbone UP are also invited to connect with the team if they’d like. Within the app, there’s lots of cheering one another on for a great night’s of sleep or a great day of exercise.

We also celebrate special moments by sending birthday cards and other special treats so everyone is included and connected!

We’d love to hear from you! What does family and work life look for you? Are there areas we could improve upon here for our Buffer family?

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