Lulu Press’s offices are enlivened with floor-to-ceiling graphics and brightly colored conference rooms decorated by different departments. Although online customers may not see the space, they undoubtedly benefit from the creative and flexible approach that the Morrisville, North-Carolina company takes to supporting its 60-65 employees.
Founded by Red Hat co-founder Bob Young, Lulu is the world’s first online self-publishing company. They provide free tools for authors of all ages to publish, print, and distribute books and have worked with more than one million authors in 225 countries. Authors receive 80 percent profit from print books, and 90 percent profit from ebooks, and books are printed on demand so authors don’t have to keep track of their inventory.
Lulu was attractive to Karine Gnall, senior manager of customer experience. “During the interview process, I met other people who had families and seemed happy,” she says, “I learned that there were policies in place that helped them as parents.”
Flexibility is central to the company’s approach to supporting the health and well-being of their team. “Happy, engaged employees are more productive employees,” says Kris Phinney, Lulu’s human resources manager. “It’s a simple fact.”
“We realize people have lives outside of work,” says Phinney. “They may have children, aging parents, health issues. If you can give someone flexibility to handle responsibilities that may be stressful in their lives – without them having to worry that they have to be at work exactly at 8 a.m. – that goes a long way.”
Core work hours at Lulu are from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Outside of these hours, employees can set their own schedule to accommodate appointments, school-drop off or pick-up schedules, and family needs. Telecommuting once a week is also an option after employees have been with the company for a year.
For both Gnall and Thomas Bridges, manager of the customer voice department for English-speaking support, the volunteer policy stands out as particularly meaningful: each year, employees are paid to volunteer up to three days in the community.
Bridges has used the policy to spend more time with his children while providing additional support to Wake County Schools.
“Teachers do a lot for our kids every day,” he says. “By being available to help out with field trips, I get to spend time with my children and help out the teachers and the school. I would have wanted to be a part of the experience regardless of the benefit, but to be able to use a paid volunteer day to help out is awesome.”
Phinney understands that not every profession can have such flexibility, but says she would challenge anyone who raises cost as a reason to not provide more flexibility.
“We have a relaxed environment,” Phinney continues, “But we strive to achieve here. Everyone is professional and respectful and understands what it takes to do the job. We’ve never had an issue with anyone taking advantage of our policies.”
The company has low turnover and the annual employee engagement survey consistently reveals a high level of satisfaction. If anything, both Gnall and Bridges have to convince younger employees on their teams, for whom working at Lulu may be their first professional job, that the company truly does support a work-life balance, and that they won’t be penalized for taking time off.
“I try to help my staff see the benefit of using their volunteer and vacation time,” says Bridges. “I tell them, ‘You can’t take care of customers if you’re not taking care of yourself.’”
Benefit Overview – Lulu Press
- A medical, dental, and vision plan, with pharmacy coverage; a Flexible Spending Account (FSA) and Dependent Care Flexible Savings Account
- Access to a College Savings 529 Plan;
- Short-term and long-term disability insurance
- Life insurance and additional death and dismemberment insurance.
- Paid time off (PTO) policy includes eight paid holidays, five floating holidays, three weeks of vacation, and three paid volunteer days annually
- Tuition reimbursement up to 100 percent for degrees and courses that are job-related and up to 50% for courses that are more general or indirectly support employees