Atomic Object’s offices in Grand Rapids and Ann Arbor were each honored with a When Work Works Award last month.
When Work Works is a national initiative that researches effective and flexible workplaces and how they can yield positive business results and help employees succeed. According to When Work Works, effectiveness and flexibility occur when a workplace’s design, practices, and policies benefit both the organization and its employees.
To apply for the award, Atomic first submitted a document outlining each site’s flexibility programs and policies, such as flex time, parental leave, health insurance, etc. Reviewers measured these responses against a national sample of employers and ranked Atomic among the top 20 percent, based on the Families and Work Institute’s National Study of Employers criteria.
According the the scoring rubric, effective workplaces have:
- Opportunities for learning;
- A culture of trust;
- Work/life fit;
- Supervisor support for work success;
- Autonomy; and
- Satisfaction with earnings, benefits and opportunities for advancement.
Next, Atoms (our employees) completed a survey about their views on workplace culture at Atomic, and these responses were weighed twice as heavily as the employer submission in the final scoring.
Business Manager Mary O’Neill says the award reflects Atomic’s culture of intention she and other Atoms have built over the past 15 years.
While the bulk of the award’s rubric is based on carefully-crafted policies around employee benefits, O’Neill doesn’t discount the day-to-day things—like monthly office social gatherings, healthy snacks, office dogs, and a jelly bean machine—that contribute to Atomic’s unique workplace culture.
“They’re a reflection of openness to me, making Atomic a more human-centered workplace,” she says.
Making Work Work
O’Neill, who started her career at Herman Miller, says she experienced the value of a flexible workplace when she became a mom in the ‘90s.
“The company and I crafted a creative plan that allowed me to balance caring for a newborn baby and being fully engaged in my work,” she said. “They showed me that they believed in the value of both sides of that equation.”
She carried that lesson to Atomic Object, where she says she sees creating an employee-friendly workplace as a moral imperative.
“We’re human beings, and we need to create a company culture that is flexible, open to experimentation, and friendly to people,” she said.
Upon receiving the award for both of Atomic’s offices, O’Neill says she’s proud.
“It feels great. Our leaders and employees have all worked together to craft our culture,” she said, “and it’s super cool to have a well-respected organization outside Atomic reflect that back to us.”
The Business Case for a Flexible Culture
CEO Carl Erickson says while flattering, awards like these also serve as a benchmark for validating the company’s evolving work environment in an ever-changing landscape.
“Atoms are not only our most important asset, they are our only asset,” he said. “Keeping tabs on how they’re feeling, and how we rank against other companies, makes clear business sense.”
This isn’t the first time an outside organization has awarded Atomic’s culture; we received an earlier version of the When Work Works award, the Alfred P. Sloan Award for Business Excellence in Workplace Flexibility, in 2010 and the Cool Places to Work in Michigan award in 2014.
Looking to the future, O’Neill says perfecting, not perfection is the goal for Atomic’s workplace culture. She says no award will signify the end of this process; there’s always work going on within the company to find new and better ways to help the team grow in diversity and numbers.
“Sustaining a strong and effective workplace culture is definitely a process as opposed to a destination,” she said. “We’ll never stop learning and growing.”
Find out more about our culture and what it’s like to work here on our website.