FLEXBenefits: The Next Level of Employee Choice
Although the pandemic impacted every person differently, at Palo Alto Networks we wanted to support each employee as an individual with unique challenges to their physical, mental and emotional well-being.
As a company that puts the welfare of employees front and center, we wanted our pandemic response to have a global reach with a distinctly personal focus.
And so the FLEXBenefits program was born, built on the core pillar of the company’s FLEXWORK philosophy of expanded employee choice. This innovative program provides employees a quarterly stipend that can be spent on whatever team members believe they need (or want!) to enhance their own health and happiness, for themselves or their families.
“When the pandemic started, we quickly realized we needed to both create stability for our people, and that we had an incredible opportunity to accelerate our efforts to be employee-centric by adding personalization.” said Chief People Officer Liane Hornsey. “Well-being is so very personal and in the spirit of employee choice and personalization, we wanted to create something that would allow employees to spend exclusively on their health and wellbeing — whatever their focus is.”
The recognition of employee choice helps set FLEXBenefits apart from perks offered by many other organizations. “For too long, companies have tried to force employees neatly into cohorts but that's not how employees actually exist as individuals,” said Tom Woo, Vice President, Total Rewards and Operations. “We want to challenge that and continue to offer market competitive benefits while also expanding choice wherever and whenever we can.”
The ability to choose what works for them has resonated with employees thus far, and it’s obvious in the wide range of products, services and activities people have paid for using their FLEXBenefits. Our list of eligible expenses under this program has continued to grow based almost exclusively from employee suggestions.
“I am planning to take my three kids to Al Buqaish Private Zoo located in Umm Al Quwain, UAE,” said Regional Sales Manager Sujith Parambath. “This is unique; the one and only licensed private zoo in UAE where kids are allowed to pet tamed wild animals such as tigers, lion cubs, bears and a python, among others. The kids are going to love it and we are looking forward to spending some quality family outdoor activity time.”
Irene Sanchez, Senior Sales Desk Manager, believes FLEXBenefits work better for her when she spends them on indoor products.
“I bought a standing desk to help my osteoporosis and a tilted disc,” she said. “With my newly-issued funds, I will purchase fitness equipment that will be used for back therapy. I’m extremely grateful for the help I’ve received from Palo Alto Networks.”
For many team members, such as Jeff Wichman, Consulting Director for Global Customer Support, and Corporate Systems Engineering Manager Christel Schmidt, mental and spiritual health are grounded in physical fitness.
Schmidt’s FLEXBenefits will be used “to invest in myself and work with a health coach to get me on track to a healthier lifestyle.”
Wichman, meanwhile, has a plan to boost his fitness even when he is stuck inside.
“I often find myself glued to my desk now with more face-to-face Zoom meetings,” he said. “In the past I would walk around the house on the phone for calls to get some movement. I will be using my FLEXBenefits to get a walking treadmill for my desk so that I can get back into the habit of walking more.”
Giving everyone a chance to spend their stipend on whatever works for them is among the key attributes of the program. It’s also a way to thank Palo Alto Network employees for their dedication to protecting the digital way of life around the globe and fulfilling the company’s vision of a world where each day is more secure than the one before.
That commitment to the mission during an especially tough time is among the reasons the yearly stipend for current employees was ramped up to $2,000 in 2021 after a year of stellar company performance. Newer employees continue to be offered $250 each quarter.
“It was a challenging year on many fronts, yet our employees did a remarkable job of staying focused and executing phenomenally well,” Woo said. “We wanted to take the opportunity at the end of the year and give everyone a small token of appreciation for their hard work on behalf of the company's success.”
As a reward for great work and an investment in people that pays long-term dividends, FLEXBenefits is a leading-edge program that continues growing and opening the door on future perks that will celebrate and empower the most important asset of Palo Alto Networks: Its employees.
“We are only successful because of our employees,” Hornsey said. “We will continue to explore ways to make Palo Alto Networks the best workplace, ever!”