Balancing the Scales: An Inside Look At Xero’s People-First Culture
Photo Credit: Alexander Suhorucov

Balancing the Scales: An Inside Look At Xero’s People-First Culture

Auntie Maxine is not the only person reclaiming her time. People all over the world are discovering the beauty of self-care and self-prioritization. But, how can one do this when it seems like schedules are getting busier and days shorter? The answer lies within intentionality. It takes self-awareness, a sense of autonomy and immersion within a culture that supports preservation and success. Xero is a leading example of such intentionality at work.

Xero, a global small business accounting software company, has built a strong (and still evolving) culture around self-care, mental wellness and what that means for each individual. With comprehensive policies that support parents, their partners and families, as well as wellness days for brain breaks, Xero is committed to ensuring its employees are at their best — not just to support proficiency in their work, but also for their overall well-being.

AfroTech had the opportunity to sit down with Jana Galbraith and Tanisha Orr from Xero’s People Experience team to learn more about Xero and the culture it’s building to effectively support employees.

People First

As the Director of People Experience in the Americas, Jana Galbraith oversees the HR function that looks after 500+ employees across Canada and the US. With more than 20 years of experience in HR, she finds that the tech space comes with greater responsibility surrounding talent and culture. “Because tech is fast-moving, high growth most of the time and demand for top talent, you need to look after your people properly. You need to do things to attract great people and then make them want to stay,” explains Galbraith.

In this way, Xero understands that priorities for each individual are different because no group of people is the same. It’s this personalized approach that helps structure the culture of support at Xero, allowing employees to show up as their authentic selves, thereby increasing motivation and productivity within their day-to-day. 

Xero puts its people first and values the humanity of every person. Galbraith has been able to leverage her experience in HR to understand the dos and don’ts of building a culture that values employees. This perspective became vitally important as Xero made shifts due to COVID-19. Galbraith and her team were able to pivot and adjust to the various variables thrown at them while navigating work during a pandemic, including addressing mental health from afar by increasing the number of wellness days available to U.S./Canada employees from five to 10.

And fortunately, putting people first is more than a saying at Xero. Part of building such a supportive culture is listening to what employees need and accepting feedback to gauge what level of support is necessary and can be implemented next. A significant part of Xero’s people-first values is the company’s commitment to work-life balance. “This is the first job I’ve had in 20 years where I take a vacation and disconnect,” Galbraith points out. Xero has an expectation and a commitment to the idea that when you’re off, you’re off! There’s no checking Slack, no calling in to that one important meeting, no answering emails at the end of the day. If the PTO is marked on the calendar, then the expectation is that it isn’t used for work. 

Tanisha Orr, People Experience Business Partner at Xero, gives an amen to this sentiment. “I am grateful to be a part of a company that really promotes a healthy work-life balance and encourages their employees to take the time that they need to properly take care of their mental and physical well-being.”

 

Well-Being Is the Vibe

Following a rollout in 2019, Xero provides optional well-being days that employees can use with no questions asked. If you need the day to regroup (mentally, physically, spiritually, etc.), the day is yours for the taking. Galbraith and Orr both describe the value of using this time to refuel to be better for themselves (or families!) and their teams. Further, Xero doesn’t wait until its employees have a certain amount of tenure before encouraging them to start thinking through when they may need a break. From the onboarding process, HR encourages employees to plan and prioritize self-care and time away from work. “We know people show up better, perform better and are more engaged — and frankly, interested — in being here when they have those proper, regularly scheduled breaks,” Galbraith points out.

Xero continues to stand out, in part, because of its wellness programs. Lucas Finch, Xero’s Global Head of Wellbeing, was hired specifically to look after strategies, programs and events that drive support for well-being across the company. A few of these offerings include Thrive Pass and donut meetings. The Thrive Pass is a stipend that can be used for any well-being activity of choice (e.g., yoga class, meditation membership). Donut meetings are opportunities for employees to come together and talk about anything outside of work, providing an outlet to learn more about colleagues, their families and their likes and dislikes. The conversation is casual, and the donut is optional.

Mental Health Matters

A lot of our daily lives is taken up by work. As such, two key components to overall mental wellness are a work environment that allows employees to feel psychologically safe, as well as one that promotes a healthy work-life balance. As avid supporters of World Mental Health Day, Xero makes sure this is a priority above all else.

 “We can help employees be successful at what they’re doing inside and outside of work because what they are doing outside of work can trickle into their performance inside of work. So, having conversations outside of what your day-to-day entails is important because it can help us gauge on ways we can support [employees],” Orr explains.

And luckily for its customers, Xero isn’t selfish with this work. During the height of the pandemic, Xero recognized the emotional toll small-business owners were facing and partnered with Shift Collab, a Toronto-based provider of therapy and mental health education, to offer a series of mental wellness sessions for its small-business customers, accounting and bookkeeping partners and employees. Topics included managing overwhelm, challenging imposter syndrome and letting go of perfectionism. Xero also created a resource page for small businesses to help them navigate through the pandemic, offering business continuity resources, technical assistance and remote working tips. 

While there’s no perfect company, Xero certainly stands out in the workplace wellness space. Its dedication to employees’ well-being is undeniable, and its employees are reaping the benefits of such intentional work. It’s crucial that people feel supported, understood and included — not only for the success of the company but for the success of the individual as well.

To put it in simple terms, Xero is about that self-care life. Work-life balance is an expectation, and it’s embraced by every person associated with the company. Visit here to learn more about Xero, its work and its efforts to build an inherently #human culture.

This editorial is brought to you in partnership with Xero.