Covid Resource Center
If you have ever seen an episode of the cult TV show Mad Men, you’ll be familiar with this scenario: Don Draper, after a long day (well, sometimes just the morning commute), walking into his office, opening up his bar, and pouring a stiff drink to unwind. In meetings, next to the coffee and pastries would be an array of liquors on offer for anyone who wished to partake. And every lunch and dinner meeting would be punctuated by cocktails and wine.
For some, this scene is something that is a cultural relic — it went out of fashion with bellbottoms and cigarette ads on television. However, in startup culture, whether it is nostalgia or something else, at least part of it is making a comeback.
At my former company, Evernote, we had something we called “Beer Friday.”In all of our offices around the world, we instituted an in-office happy hour where we had craft brews available (many brewed by employees of the company,)and elaborate Charcuterie plates. These gatherings were used as a way to wind down at the end of a busy week, and for people in different departments to mingle with each other.
We kept the keg and tap on site all the time –and at least during my time — there wasn’t anyone who abused the privilege. Other companies, like Yelp and Sendgrid, have keg fridges available all the time, while The Muse goes further and offers Whiskey during their Friday sessions. This has led to some companies like the Arnold Worldwide Ad Agency to install beer vending machines.
Enter Anheuser Busch. With their new Office Bud-E program, Andrew Green, Head of Innovation hopes to help companies on two fronts. He explains, “A lot of startups and communities are starting to have happy hours in the office, and we thought as Anheuser Busch we can certainly find a way to play in that space and add value.”
Eligible companies get a free wi-fi enabled refrigerator, designed to hold — you guessed it — beer. Office managers purchase beer from local distributors — not from Anheuser Busch directly, at their own pace. There is no subscription required, and there’s no charge for the service.
For this, the data is valuable to Anheuser Busch. They will be able to quantify how much beer is purchased specifically for office usage — something no one has been able (or possibly tried) to measure before. “This also functions as a regular fridge,” added Green. “If someone puts their lunch in there, that’s useful data as well.” He explained that the sensors would be able to measure that something foreign is in the machine, and the rough size and shape.
Currently, they are only in certain test markets on the east coast. However, he mentioned, “We’re now preparing for a national launch in states where our delivery partners operate.” All interested companies are encouraged to apply at the Bud-E website.
For those considering an office happy hour policy, here are a few things to keep in mind:
While it is generally assumed that adults will act responsibly, especially in an employee setting, 18 states place liability on the host who serves the alcohol – which means your company.
AtYelp, theirKegeratorrequires people to sign in before using it — giving them detailed records of how much it has been used (and by whom.) Consider the type of policy that is right for you.
Even if your happy hour is taking place during work hours, if there is alcohol being served, there may be employees who cannot attend at all. Allowthem a discreet way out.
For those who abstain from drink, ensure there are non-alcoholic refreshments available as well.
While it may be tempting to chat about the report that is overdue, or the client deadline coming up, a happy hour is a time for relaxing and socializing.
Not great with topic ideas? AtEvernote, we created “Evernote University” — a series of extracurricular clubs offered to employees, which helped stir conversation.
At some point, your company may outgrow “Beer O’Clock.” This doesn’t preclude teams from going out together, though, so continue to encourage social groups as your company grows.
In all, happy hours are a great way for your employees to break away from their desks and bondwith each other. And that, really, is the key to successful employee engagement.
When Julia Cheek founded Everlywell in June 2015, she was, by her own estimation, “perhaps the least qualified person to start a health care startup.” And yet, as her Austin-basedat-home lab testing companyapproaches its fifth anniversary, she finds herself overseeing a staff of about 100 people, providing home tests for allergies, food sensitivities, thyroid conditions, and, as of May 2020, Covid-19. The company raised $50 million in its last round of funding and was listed at No. 3 on the Inc. 5000 regional ranking for Texas this year.
In anInc. Real Talk: Business Rebootlivestream, Cheek, 36, spoke withInc. editor-at-large Tom Foster and took questions from viewers.Their conversation ranged fromhelping her team cope with quarantine to making big decisions. Here are some highlights.
In May, Cheek and her board decided to give away $1 million to labs across the U.S.to help them develop a working test for Covid-19. For a startup still counting every dime, it wasn’t an easy check to write.However, Cheek saysthey made the decision quickly. “It took about an hour,” she says. “It was one of the fastest and easiest decisions made in the history of the company.”
She knew that funding those labs would speed up development of an at-hometest. She also had to make decisions internally to offset that cost while doing everything possible to maintain head count. That meant scaling back every discretionary dollar her team could find–Goodbye, office coffee!–in order to do the right thing and keepher team. “I wanted to protect as many jobs as possible,” she says.
“It was the right decisionmade at the right time,” she says now. A month later, she’s hiring.
When asked how she deals with the challenges of running a companyfrom home (with a new baby) as well as whilewitnessing the protests in the streets, Cheek was quick to stress the importance ofmakingsure her colleagues are able to cope. “I worry like a mom about every one of our team members,” she says. That means asking herself how her team is doing all the time and asking herselfhow she can make their days better. Sometimes that means encouraging them to disconnect from Zoom or other digital platforms and take care of themselves. “Our primary focus is: What does every employee need for their mental health?” she says.
As for her own self care, she’sbeen developingwellness routines, including taking many meetings while walking and doing her best to separate her home workspace from the rest of her house.
Cheek spoke at length about the difficulties she encountered while seeking funding as a female founder, despite the fact that she went to Harvard Business School and had a strong network.
“It was hard for me,” she says. “So you can imagine how hard it is for people of color, especiallywomen of color. I heard a lot of noes. What I learned is that it only takes one yes.” Among those yeseswas one on-air boost from Shark Tank‘s Lori Greiner, which doubled Everlywell’s sales overnight.
Ultimately, Cheek says, people needto talk about funding obstaclesopenly and honestly and encourage entrepreneursand investors to confront theirbiases. “It’s important that founders hear stories and become part of the solution,” she says.
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