Coastal was founded as a direct reaction to the ‘corporate culture’ that drains passion and purpose out of the American workforce. In March of 2021, our founder, Lauren Kennedy, chose to start Coastal Consulting with the intent of designing a better way to do business – internally and externally. With no prior agency experience, Lauren designed the agency model from scratch by making a series of common sense, people-first decisions.
When designing the employee experience, Lauren made all decisions from the lens of the type of benefits package and culture she would want were she employed by Coastal (and, technically, she is!). Although most companies choose not to invest in benefits and employee development until later in their growth, Coastal offered 99% employer-paid health benefits (that are actually great plans) from day 1. A 401K program was also put into place with a 4% employer match and a monthly allowance (of $200) was set for employee development and training.
Because Lauren values travel, family, and the importance of a personal life in maintaining mental health, she chose to offer unlimited PTO. This was the hardest benefit to offer because of the evidence that unlimited PTO has had an inverse impact at many organizations where team members feel that they haven’t ‘earned’ PTO or that they can’t actually take more than two weeks for fear of being perceived as lazy or ungrateful. As a psychology major, Lauren learned at a young age to interrogate her sources. As this data was compiled by large organizations that would be negatively impacted financially by offering unlimited PTO (or so they narrow-mindedly thought), Lauren chose to roll the dice betting that these statistics had a biased foundation.
Rather than set a limit on the amount of time the team would be able to disconnect from work, Lauren chose to challenge the statistics and move forward with the decision to offer unlimited PTO with the commitment that using the benefit would not be criminalized, judged, or seen as an inconvenience internally. From our limited sample size, it seems that offering unlimited PTO doesn’t cause the feelings of unworthiness or internal perception that studies have reported. We suspect that a culture of workaholic-ism receiving praise in the form of promotions and visibility has created an environment where employees feel that they need to earn the right to have a life outside of work and internalize that taking time away from work inherently means you’re lazy and unmotivated. We haven’t experienced that here at Coastal.
In that same vein, Lauren made the decision that all employees would be non-exempt employees. Meaning, all employees are eligible for overtime when working more than 40 hours per week. This decision is perhaps the most shocking to those who have worked in an agency before. In an agency environment, employees are often paid a higher salary than a corporate employee would earn for the same role as they will work on multiple client accounts and are expected to go above and beyond to deliver incredible service. When working with outside agencies in the past, Lauren often received emails after 8 pm during the week and throughout the weekends from her agency partners.
As Coastal has grown and evolved, the decision to be people-first remains at the heart of all we do. All decisions are made through the lens of the best route for our people and our clients.