How We Work Now: Self Esteem Brands
Chuck Runyon recently upgraded the Wi-Fi at his northern Minnesota cabin. “I plan on taking full advantage of remote work,” says the co-founder and CEO of Self Esteem Brands (SEB), the Woodbury-based parent company to Anytime Fitness and other national franchise concepts. SEB implemented unlimited paid time off for its corporate employees in 2018—“because you should never have to miss the most important moments of your life.” Runyon and co-founder Dave Mortensen pride themselves on coaching their kids’ sports teams and averaging 30 days per year at their cabins. Now, they’re treating the pandemic shift in work culture as an opportunity rather than a crisis. “Contrary to what bad bosses think, employees want to work hard,” Runyon says. “They just want to feel more connected and purposeful.”
Corporate employees get Fridays off this summer. Initially, Runyon says, employees worried the policy would lead to marathon workdays Monday through Thursday: “We assured them this isn’t the expectation. Work is infinite, and if we worked seven days a week, we’d always have more work to do. Most companies don’t have a work problem; they have a prioritization problem.”
“We’re trying to free up time for our people to focus and do deeper work,” Runyon says. “It’s mostly been internal, but as we’ve shared it with other businesses, they love the idea.”
“In mid-April, we encouraged our team to come in two days a week. Thus far, it’s working really well, and we have a campus purposely designed for employee wellness, engagement, and collaboration,” Runyon says. “As leaders, we’re careful to make sure that every employee—offsite or in the office—has the same opportunities to communicate, collaborate, and take on challenging assignments.”
Mental health access
The company now pays for employees and their families to access mental health experts through the online platform Modern Health. “This is above and beyond employee assistance programs,” Runyon says.