Last summer, when Jessica Reese gave birth to her son, Wyatt, she and her husband, Joe, both Audible employees, each took their available parental leave to care for their newborn and their daughter, Viola, who was then two years old. But when it was time to return to work, Joe says, “That’s when things got really hard.”
Working from home, the pair used vacation time (of which Audible awarded 10 extra days to employees in 2020) to give themselves one or two days a week where they could better give their children their attention, but they still felt strained. “It just wasn’t adequate care,” says Joe. “Not to our standard.”
As the pandemic presented new day-to-day challenges like these, Audible moved to expand the services offered to employees, chiefly in areas of family, mental and emotional support. Audible’s US Employee Assistance Program offered a number of resources before the pandemic, but has since evolved into Resources for Living, an enhanced hub that includes new digital resources and 24/7 dedicated support from a care partner by phone or through live chat. Employees report using the remote therapy offering, as well as MyStrength, an app that lets users complete a self-assessment to determine the kind of mental health support they need, and then connects them with it.
In addition to counseling and other wellness resources, the hub offers educational, financial, grief, and legal help—and not just for employees, but for family members who might be facing job loss, eviction, and other difficulties. “Everyone has unique needs,” says Ivor Mulligan, who as head of our Total Rewards team is responsible for managing Audible’s compensation and benefits. “It’s important to us that all Audible employees and their loved ones are supported and empowered, during these extraordinary times, to be their best selves.”
Among the most-needed services, as parents like the Reeses well know, is childcare. Sittercity is a paid service available free to Audible employees, who can post openings and choose from vetted babysitters, nannies, special-needs caregivers, pet sitters and more (once hired, the sitter is paid by the user). Brooke Dean, a production manager in Original Content Development, has found three sitters this way and says they’ve all been a huge help. “My son loves them. They’re like an extended part of my family now,” she says.
Some parents face challenges that are not often addressed by employer benefits, such as the interruption of daily support systems for children with developmental disabilities, including autism. Rethink, whose services are free to Audible employees, provides access to ADA therapists, webinars, and virtual sessions, as well as downloadable materials to plan days and motivate and reward. In Mulligan’s view, “It’s very meaningful that Audible provides services like Rethink, to help bring much-needed structure and assistance to these families.”
The Reeses needed something long-term to help them manage working while caring for two small children. They learned Care.com was available to them through Audible’s parent company, Amazon, who added it in response to Covid-19. The service connects employees quickly with vetted, local caregivers. Jessica explains, “If you hire someone to come to your home, it’s only five dollars an hour, and the company covers the rest.” They found someone to come to the house one day each week, specifically to spend time with their daughter, and they’ve been delighted with the results. “We can’t say enough good things about the professionalism and safety protocols,” says Joe, of the caregivers sent by the service.
For many employees, it isn’t children but aging parents who need the help of services like Care.com. Phil Bratter, Creative Director of People and Places, lives almost two hours from his father, who has advancing Parkinson’s Disease and contracted Covid-19 late last year. It was a harrowing time for Bratter, who had to get his father to a hospital, then a rehab facility. The facility recommended longer-term care, but Bratter’s father preferred to stay in his own home. This would have presented a dangerous situation, says Bratter, “but that night I called [Care.com], and they got my whole story and got to work.” Right away he was set up with an accredited local home healthcare service.
This, he says, removed a huge weight off his shoulders. “Without this, I don’t know where my dad would have been. It was taking me forever to find someone who would give more than minor care. Care.com found the agency that could do what I needed them to do.” Bratter was also pleasantly surprised at the efficiency and speed of the process. “Usually the paperwork is incredibly thick,” he says, but because Amazon provides information about coverage directly to Care.com, the paperwork is minimal for the employee. And, he adds, “this is a higher degree of care and service” than is normally available to someone in his shoes. He continued to work with the agency he was connected with beyond the 10-day period covered by Amazon, because “they really seem to care,” and because his father liked his caregivers, “which is rare for him,” he says.
As our way of living and working continues to evolve, Audible plans to keep adding new supports and piloting new programs, based heavily on employee feedback, with the goal of relieving employees of as much stress as possible. In the case of the Reeses, having once-a-week childcare help has made a huge difference, for them and their daughter. “It’s been good for her to get that undivided attention,” Joe says. “The next day, she’s more well-adjusted. And for us, we have a day where we can actually work and feel good."