Startup Perks and Benefits

I work for a startup called Juggle Jobs. We’re the goto place to people to find flexible work. We help early parents to find a challenging part-time work so they could spend the early months with their newborns and not feel a massive hole in their family budget. We help people find a job in multiple companies at the same time, something we call a portfolio career, where you spend several days a months at a company, for example, as their CFO.

I am one of the early employees and I have share options that I can excersise after several years. As an additional bonus, we also have an annual ski trip to the Alps, free lunch once a week, gym membership, snacks in the kitchen, and, mind I say, amazing office in a nice London area. Oh, and I actually work remotely. Would you like to work for us? We’re looking for people.

A recent chat with our founder made me think about the topic of perks and benefits. Is having share options in a startup a good enough reason to stay with the company no matter what? Do you actually own part of the business?

It is not a secret that only a handful of companies become unicorns. Slightly more startups succeed in becoming profitable, and the majority fails for one or another reason. Working for a young and ambitious company is tough and tiring. You can get a bunch of problems starting from simple insomnia and anxiety to a divorce when you neglect your family at the expense of working long hours. In many cases you also have lower salary compared to your friends who drive nice cars, own beautiful houses, and play golf every week all the while leaving the work at 4.30 pm.

I currently live in Estonia where we happen to have the most number of unicorns per capita, we have two: TransferWise and Taxify. I know people from both companies, all of them have share options, some left before the vesting period ended, some still work. If you don’t like the company but can potentially have a good cash bonus in a few years, would you leave? How big should the bonus be for you to stay?

If seems like the breaking point is roughly your annual salary. If you were to receive an equivalent of your monthly salary times twelve, then you’re likely to stay for a few more years. But that is the case with companies where employees can clearly see the rapid growth and thus the potential for returns. What about the companies that have “sluggish” growth when you compare them with the dears of Silicon Valley?

My personal feeling is that if there is nothing else apart from the share options that holds you within the company, the earlier you leave the better.

I joined Juggle opting for a lower salary that I had at that time because I saw the potential for growth, both my personal and the company. For me it’s more exciting to work with a group of talented and driven people and enjoy my work rather than be bored and hate my job. I didn’t join because of the gym, flexible working schedule and the ability to work remotely. For me, it seems, the biggest benefit that makes me stay is that I feel challenged. And when that ends, I’ll likely to leave no matter what. So are the share options and other perks useful in retaining people?

I think it’s very individual. And to some degree the benefits package must also be individual to each employee. In the end though, personal matters far outweigh any benefit that a company can offer, and so people would leave no matter what.