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Inside Buffer

Here’s Exactly How Much Our Company Spends on Perks & Benefits

Buffer’s People Team spends a lot of time thinking about perks.

One of our biggest and most important perks is maybe the toughest to quantify: The freedom to work whenever, wherever, and however we like.

Being a diverse, distributed team impacts our perks philosophy deeply. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach; we all work differently and are motivated by different drivers.

So over the years we’ve built a robust catalog of benefits, focusing on a customizable approach.

To track how our team is using (or not using) each benefit, we’ve started performing quarterly audits. We wanted to know how many teammates participated in which perks, what we’ve spent, and how it compares to what we budgeted.

All numbers below are for the first half of 2019 only, and all spending goes only to the end of June. Here’s a transparent look at the first six months of 2019 and how much, on average, we spend per teammate on perks and benefits.

Working Smarter Perks

These perks are designed to optimize each teammate’s experience to help them work efficiently and productively. 
⌨️ Tech Accessories: $200 per year per teammate for miscellaneous tech/office needs (headphones, etc.)

Budgeted: $9,000
Spent: $5,353
Teammates who participated: 32 participants/89 eligible
Average spend per participant: $167

☕️ Working Smarter Stipend: $200 per teammate month for “coffee shop working” purchases

Budgeted: $9,000
Spent: $11,400
Teammates who participated: 46/89
Average spend per participant: $248 total

🏢 Coworking spaces reimbursement: We reimburse for coworking memberships or day-passes

Budgeted: $27,000
Spent: $32,082
Teammates who participated: 33/89
Average spend per participant: $972 total

🔌 Internet reimbursement: We reimburse teammates for home internet costs

Budgeted: $24,750
Spent: $25,594
Teammates who participated: 76/89
Average spend per participant: $337 total

🗑 Home Office Allowance: $500 per teammate to set up a home office

Budgeted: $9,500
Spent: $7,016
Teammates who participated: 21/68
Average spend per participant: $334

Note: This perk is for when folks first start at Buffer, but there’s no time limit on using it. We budget this based on our anticipated new hires or for existing teammates who have not used this allowance yet.

Additional perks:

  • 💻 Technology: We give each teammate with a laptop when they start.
  • ✈️ Retreats + Area Onsites: We cover all travel costs for one company-wide retreat per year and one smaller, team-specific onsite gathering each year.

Learning Perks

Learning and development are key tenets of our culture, and we provide several ways for teammates to continue their education through reading, conferences, classes, coaching and more.

📚 Free books (and Kindle): We provide teammates with a Kindle and unlimited books (ebooks, audiobooks or printed books)

Budgeted: $15,000
Spent: $15,171
Teammates who participated: 51 (estimated)/89 eligible
Average spend per participant: $297

📈 Growth mindset fund: $850 per teammate per year on conferences, courses, coaching

Budgeted: $40,000
Spent: $16,613
Teammates who participated: 40/89
Average spend per participant: $415

Financial Benefits

Our financial benefits bucket contains the traditional 401(k) that many businesses provide, as well as some more unique benefits for our global and distributed workforce. 

🏦 401k: 2% match for US, UK and Canadian teammates

We’re working on alternatives for our other teammates, too.

Budgeted: $79,531
Spent: $68,585
Teammates who participated: 40/49 eligible
Average spend per participant: $1,715

Budgeted: $9,550
Spent: $6,550
Teammates who participated: 5/6
Average spend per participant: $1,310

We just launched our UK subsidiary at the start of July, so we’ll see how participation shapes up!

💸 Accounting fees: Up to $1,500 per year for accounting fees for international teammates (currently paid as contractors)

Budgeted: $25,000
Spent: $11,368
Teammates who participated: 16/40
Average spend per participant: $711

Family and Wellness Benefits

This category includes health insurance (which looks different in each country), an additional stipend for each dependent and a mental health service that is available for teammates and their dependents. 

💪 Health Insurance: 100% of premiums for US teammates and 50% for dependents; for international teammates we reimburse up to set amounts

Budgeted: $225,000
Spent: $285,831
Teammates who participated: 79/89 eligible
Average spend per participant: $3,618 total

👥 Dependents Grant: $3,000 per calendar year, per dependent

Budgeted: $148,500
Spent: $133,500
Teammates who participated: 44/89
Average spend per participant: $3,034

📲 Digital therapy: All teammates and their partners have membership to a digital therapy service.

Budgeted: $3,375
Spent: $2,160
Teammates who participated: Unknown, as this is protected data. We’ll get a yearly report from our provider at the end of 2019 and share more in the next benefits and perks report!)

Disconnecting Perks

Time off is perhaps as important as time spent working — that’s why we prioritize a minimum time off and a variety of days for wellness, volunteering, family leave, sabbaticals and compassionate leave. 

⛺️ Minimum time off: At least three weeks of vacation every year (plus local holidays)

Total time taken: 1,109 days, or an average of 12 working days per teammate

🍼 Family leave: 3 months leave recommended for all new parents

Total time taken or planned for all of 2019: 222 days for 7 teammates, for an average of 32 days per teammate

👩🏽‍⚕️ Wellness/Unsick Day: 1 day per calendar year to focus on preventive wellness

Total time taken: 14 days
*We’ll need to encourage this more!

👐 Volunteering: 1 day per quarter to volunteer

Total time taken: 3.5 days
*We definitely need to encourage this one more. 🙂

🗾 Sabbatical: 6 weeks off, fully paid, after 5 years at Buffer

Our first sabbaticals have just kicked off; more to come on this!

Additional days off:
🗳 Local Election Day: We consider this a holiday.
📅 Company-wide holidays in 2019:

  • April 15th (post-retreat recovery day)
  • July 3-5 (mid-year break)
  • Five half-day Fridays in August
  • December 23 – Jan 1st (end-of-year break)

Over to you!

It was fascinating to learn that the total amount per teammate who has participated in these benefits in the first six months of 2019 is $10,149 (Total Q1-Q2 spend/ Total number of teammates).

This new exercise is giving us a lot of great insight into our benefits and how we can keep iterating on them to make sure they’re as useful and meaningful as possible.

All of these numbers are helpful for understanding who has utilized which of our perks, but the gratitude and flexibility we hope to convey with these benefits mean far more than a final dollar amount.

What perks or benefits do you value most? What other perks could we offer?

  • This is fascinating – thanks for sharing! I’m curious what you do for Health Insurance in the US and how it’s possible that you pay 100% of the premium for employees and the average spend per participant was only $3,618 over 6 months. We’ve been struggling to figure out a good way to provide health insurance to our small team of 6. We’re also distributed, so need a national plan that will work in several different states, and the quotes for premiums are in the thousands every month. What’s Buffer using to provide insurance to a distributed team at such a low cost?

    • Nicole Miller

      Hi there Amber!

      Great one — the numbers are a bit skewed in this one as we included the full team average, which includes our contractors who submit healthcare items on a reimbursement basis. We spend around $380,000 a year on health insurance premiums for 100% teammates, 50% dependents. So that’s about $30,000 a month for US healthcare premiums.

      I’m so sorry those numbers are misleading! There are definitely so many stories these numbers tell (and don’t tell!) I can share some of the struggles we’ve had too with being distributed if you want to chat more:!

      Does this help at all?

      Thank you so much for reading!

      • Hi Nicole, Thanks so much for the updated numbers – these are definitely more inline with what I’ve been seeing. (Although I was secretly hopping you had a magic healthcare plan that made things more affordable!!) I appreciate your candidness and offer to chat more.

  • Chris Shaw

    ⛺️ Minimum time off: At least three weeks of vacation every year (plus local holidays)
    Total time taken: 1,109 days, or an average of 12 working days per teammate

    That looks like a terrible statistic, especially since that is regarded as a ‘minimum’. Is this because staff are afraid to take leave, or because they enjoy the work so much? What does the ‘People Team’ think of this?

    • Hi Chris! With this data only being the first half of the year, Jan-June, I feel comfortable with
      an average of 12 working days off per teammate. If we extrapolate that out, we can assume 24 days off per teammate for the year, or 4.8 weeks. That feels about right to me for 3 weeks minimum vacation plus holidays.

      • Chris Shaw

        My apologies Courtney, I’d completely forgotten it was only for six months by the time I’d got to that part of the blog (that’s what happens when I read things in halves across two sessions; I read the top part then decided it was so interesting I’d return to it later). Yeah, that’s actually a great statistic in that case, hats off to you.

        Thanks for clarifying.

        • Thanks for caring enough to comment! I greatly appreciate it!

  • Anf

    What an insightful breakdown Courtney. Goes to show the value of tracking data points such as this within a team.

  • Great blog…..Thanks for sharing the information.

  • Eze Carlsson

    Hi there Amber/Nicole, This is a great post – thank you for sharing! How do you manage international employees on countries you are not incorporated in? What is the contractual relationship that you use? We are a startup with 15 people working remotely from 4 different countries. We have not yet formalized their contracts, as we are not incorporated in their countries. We were considering hiring them as foreign, remote international contractors, but read a lot of info online warning that this contracts are a big liability in many countries (since local law can consider they are actual employees and not contractors) and got a little scared. I imagine this is something already solved by Buffer and would love some guidance! Thanks, E

    • Hi there Eze! I wish we had an easy solution for you here, but in many cases we’ve found that distributed companies are still operating a bit ahead of local laws. In areas where we aren’t yet incorporated, our teammates are right now classified as contractors.

      • Eze Carlsson

        Amazing, thanks a lot Courtney!

  • Maybe you should spend more on customer support because it’s impossible to get any help from you. Or maybe you should spend less on customer support since they don’t actually do anything. And you can keep your hello@buffer email – already tried that one. FAQ is just as useless. FB and Twitter – silence. Why? Explain yourselves…

    • Hi Leah, I’m so sorry we’ve given you this terrible experience. Sounds so frustrating! I’ve spoken to our support team and it sounds like you’re in touch with them now. I hope and trust they’re giving you a better experience now. Again, my apologies.

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