During one of the 'Money Monday' internal Mancom meeting of Ideas X Machina (IXM), the team of founder and CEO Clemente 'Third' Domingo III was pondering over a very important matter: why many people in advertising are single and out of love.
The consensus was, people in the industry are too consumed by work. The career path follows the same formula as love (difficult and satisfying), in that a lot of time is being alloted to it at the expense of the other facets of life. Thus, this level of attachment makes it hard for an employee to take his or her mind off work.
Third and his team decided to put a stop to this toxic mentality once and for all by integrating a system that gives incentives to employes who will be living "life outside of work" to the fullest: the IXM Love Life Benefits.
He shares in an email interview with FHM, "We already had free catered lunch benefits, birthday leaves, free life and investment fund insurance, what else can we give? How about love life? How do you start writing a poem? Not by putting pen to paper. But by falling in love first, to borrow from Shakespeare."
Third believes the move, which was implemented early last year, makes perfect business sense. For him, the idea is as easy as simple math: less overtime = happier employees. One crucial aspect of workers that government-required perks fail to address is their emotional need. "We need to look at employees not just as 'resource' but as human beings," he says.
Enter the concept of work-life balance.
Recently, a story about a woman emailing her teammates about taking a mental health day off went viral. Madalyn Parker, a web developer at live chat platform company Olark, has anxiety and depression, and she told the company she needed some time to "focus on my mental health."
It was the response of Olark CEO Ben Congleton that endeared him to social media:
"I just wanted to personally thank you for sending emails like this. Every time you do, I use it as a reminder of the importance of using sick days for mental health—I can't believe this is not standard practice at all organizations. You are an example to us all, and help cut through the stigma so we can all bring our whole selves to work."
Although dealing with a much lighter issue, Third's unconventional management style also made headlines a few days ago. This only proves readers are concerned with the dynamic of life outside work. While he didn't expect generating this kind of buzz, he was aware a lot of people can relate to Love Life Benefits, not only Filipinos.
These days, IMX is getting an average of 57 job applications and close to a hundred internship requests.
"I'd rather spend P405,000 annually than have 45 employees who don't have a twinkle in their eyes"
To think that the company didn't even conduct a proper research before the policies were in full effect. "It was a learning-and-improving-by-doing thing," Third explains. They gathered suggestions—one was even called the 'Mot-mot reimbursement'—and finally agreed on the breakup leave, date allowance, and wedding reception, among others.
At first, employees thought that these luxuries are "too good to be true," especially with the clause that doesn't require one to be regularized to be able to avail the benefits.
When asked about how the company is able to ensure productivity despite the additional expenses, Third has a pretty viable answer: "No one ever has become poor by sharing."
He knows one has to spend money to make money, a mentality that is backed by computation. "At 45 employees with six P1,500 reimbursable date expenses, that's only P405,000 annually," he explains. "I'd rather spend that than have 45 employees who don't have a twinkle in their eyes."
Great power and responsibility
Part of Third's faith in his emotional package is being confident with the boundaries that they have set when it comes to each benefit.
For one, photos and receipts have to be presented to the HR as proof that you actually went out with someone. Here is where it gets complicated, according to Third: Over the past year, IMX has seen an influx of office romance. Does it mean they can spend P3000? He says the higher-ups have yet to sort this out.
With the risk of the breakup leave being taken advantage of by playboys and girls, the benefit is good for a maximum of only two times a year. He admits this is the one LLB that he doesn't want to be used. "From my years of experience leading teams and managing an organization, recently heartbroken people are literally useless in the office."
Out of all the perks centered on love, the wedding budget of up to P150,000 managed to raise a few eyebrows. Third acknowledges its lavish nature, but he also considers marriage being once-in-a-lifetime. Still, he thinks that this one is subject to further analysis.
So far, one employee has already availed the company-shouldered reception. He exclaimed, "Pero pag naghiwalay, baka dapat ibalik ang pera!"
If there is one thing Third has learned from more than a year of implementing his unorthodox approach to handling amorous matters, it's that "people are happy for you when you are happy. This seems obvious, but there's more to it than meets the eye."
The regular dating has kept their company Viber group alive, whenever participants share their #LLB photos. "For me, it's refreshing to validate the notion that people care about other people."
With the ad agency being a cutthroat environment for a workplace, the positive vibes brought by Love Life Benefits diffuse the energy-sapping tension within. For Third, it may not seem much but conversations like "How did your date go last night?" breaks a lot of the interpersonal walls created by an office setting.
This develops a deep sense of family in the organization, and fosters a level closeness, familiarity, and trust between teammates, which in turn, will establish a more creative space. He quips, "Kindness is not advertising's cup of tea, but maybe it should be."
"Be plain, ordinary, human,
and vulnerable in your everyday life
so you can be violent and crazy
and world-changing in your work"
Third feels that fostering not only financial stability but also personal growth is the best kind of management an employee can receive from a company. And while he doesn't have a problem introducing his system to other businesses, he knows every venture is different and human resource methods should be customized to the needs of its employees. Still, innovation must extend to manpower, and not just in products and services.
Contrary to popular belief that his style is tailor-made for millennials, he isn't actually fond of all the whining that these young adults have been known for.
But he believes that, given the "right playground," they can transform into the consummate professionals. "They're out to prove. And they have a sense of bigger purpose," he says. "They have ambition. And they know how to have fun while chasing it. That's a lot of positive energy to harness. It's all good."
All the younger generation needs is enough push and the correct frame of mind, which puts a premium on hardwork over brilliance.
"Give them less reason to underperform, which is Love Life Benefits, then you can demand more."