After an especially turbulent year for working professionals, some workplaces went above and beyond to keep their employees happy when it seemed like the world was ending. As it turns out, Austin has a lot of great places to work.
Inc.'s annual Best Workplaces list highlighted 11 Austin-based companies, more than any other city in Texas, as employee-driven. Out of 429 companies Inc. awarded across the U.S., here are the "2021 Best Workplaces" in Austin.
Marking seven consecutive years being honored on the list, management consulting firm 9Gauge Partners once again made the list for its dedication to employees. Once the pandemic hit, 9Gauge continued to hold weekly interactive video calls to foster connections and still holds employee interviews every two-to-six months to gauge satisfaction. 9Gauge says they put employees "first in every business decision."
Austin-based SaaS, or software as a service, provider AgileAssets sees diversity as one of its biggest strengths and boasts a team brought together from 20 countries, 12 languages and five continents. The company was recognized with an "Enduring Impact" award for its progressive policies on healthcare, including maternity and paternity leave for new parents, and in-house self-care classes so employees can learn skills to be their most zen selves.
Proving that "Happier, healthier employees are a bedrock" of success, AlertMedia used the pandemic to rethink what company culture should mean. On top of trying to keep employees connected through frequent Zoom meetings when working from home, AlertMedia incentivized staff to take breaks for mental and physical health. The company also tried to pay it forward to the community in a hard time, donating "time and treasure" to local businesses.
Decent is not only providing "affordable" health insurance plans to small Texas businesses, they also try to go above and beyond to keep employees happy, healthy and well-traveled. On each employee's first anniversary at the company, they receive a $1,500 travel voucher and a poster with notes of love from all their fellow employees. They show they care about employees—even finding housing for those without power during the winter storm.
As a completely remote company, Fourlane strives to keep employees connected even when they are apart. The company claims to operate on core values of open communication and transparency, with a goal to "create a culture where everyone feels heard and valued." To accomplish that, Fourlane holds frequent open-agenda meetings led by employees and recognizes exceptional work with awards throughout the year.
Made In Cookware
We're beyond excited to announce Made In is one of @Inc’s Best Workplaces of— Made In Cookware (@madeincookware) May 12, 2021
2021! Grateful for this incredible team we get to work with everyday! Congratulations to all of the #IncBestWorkplaces winners! https://t.co/JWwzmdoLiSpic.twitter.com/RHh27v0G5Y
Mutual respect is the name of the game at Made In Cookware, which says it shares a belief that "that we should be able to share a meal with anyone we work with, even after a hard day," and that includes everyone they work with. That belief has led to the creation of the Southern Smoke Emergency Relief Fund, which supports hospitality workers, and honors employees with peer-nominated spotlight awards.
Embracing the new hybrid of office and work-from-home, employees, marketing and digital communications organization Mighty Citizen says it is transparent by involving staff in setting quarterly goals and not hiding anything on the business end. With extensive benefits and paid parental leave, the company claims to keep employees at the front of decision-making.
Using artificial intelligence to connect people to their dream homes, OJO Labs says they put people first and hire employees who are mindful about the current social sphere. OJO is helping the community bridge the inequality gap by helping first-time Black and Latino homebuyers but it is helping employees by regularly revisiting company policies to maintain flexibility and extending breaks for employees during a hard year.
Protective intelligence software company Ontic tried to make the transition to the new normal by giving employees a stipend to perfect their home offices, hand-delivering home care packages and hosting virtual activities that came as close to the real thing as possible.
Digital media sales and services company Q1 Media is all about working hard and playing harder. For employees, hard work means bonuses, celebrations, happy hours (virtual for now) and trips to Vegas once it is safe. As Q1 says, "We put our people first, and the rest follows."
Some things never change. Getting named to #IncBestWorkplaces is one of them.— The Zebra (@TheZebraCo) May 12, 2021
Our #AllStripesWelcome workplace is on @Inc's list for the fourth consecutive year!
🏆🏆🏆🏆 ---> https://t.co/U3yg0qOFJgpic.twitter.com/4Somm32oNp
Not only does The Zebra love its employees, it also loves their furry friends. In addition to the five-month paid parental leave, $100 per month wellness stipend, unlimited PTO and employee-led resource groups, the independent insurance-comparison site offered employees a $300 stipend to welcome a new adoptable friend into their homes early on in the pandemic.
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There’s a new way to find your future furry best friend in town.
Purrfecto Cat Lounge, 2300 S. Lamar Blvd., is bringing the cat cafe back to Austin with adoptable kitties and coffee starting on Wednesday.
Visitors book a reservation for either 30 minutes or 70 minutes and spend time getting to know the cats over themed coffee—those interested in adopting one can fill out applications on site. Purrfecto said four cats from its preview weekend have already been adopted out.
The cafe will also host cat-themed events like cat yoga, painting with cats, BYOB happy hours and private events. Purrfecto will also offer memberships for those who want to frequent but a 30-minute visit starts at $15.
Knock on wood—real estate professionals are saying Austin’s housing market showing signs of stabilizing as local inventory hit two months for the first time since 2019.
Austin Board of Realtors CEO Emily Chenevert said after two years of pandemic-fueled prices, “we're inching our way toward something that feels more normal,” during the 2022 Central Texas Housing Summit—which brought industry professionals and economists together—on Tuesday.
Still, housing is one of Austin’s biggest fallbacks despite a diverse local economy, growing infrastructure investments, multiple nearby universities and a healthy job market. Stable housing falls in tandem with affordability, Austin Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Laura Huffman said.
“So what could bring that all down? Affordability—the No. 1 issue in Austin,” Huffman said.
So what does the housing market look like as of June?
Listings are up, sales are down
As of June, closed sales are down 20% and pending sales are down 31% but active listings are up 217% and they’re staying on the market for about 18 days. The median sales price is still over $500,000 and housing demand is still high but ABoR President Cord Shiflet said it is good news to see the market stabilize.
“The trajectory of our market over the last two years was unsustainable and it was in no way going to last,” Shiflet said. “The Austin market is by no means balanced and it still favors sellers, but buyers have more bargaining power now than at any point since before the pandemic.”
Realtor.com senior economist George Ratiu said it will take some time for the market to reach healthy levels after such a “feverish frenzy,” adding that prices aren’t crashing, they’re going back to where they were before Austin hit an anomaly period.
“To me, this is good news. When you look at the city proper, you see the same trends, prices are a little bit higher but sales are moderating,” Ratiu said. “That's simply a reaction to this period of transition and let's not forget, things don't change overnight.
Development is particularly expensive in Austin
A report released by ABoR and the Texas A&M University Real Estate Research Center showed Austin’s per-unit fees on new development are 187% higher than Dallas, Houston, Fort Worth and San Antonio.
What that means is development is about 168.8% more expensive per infill unit and 80%, or $8,000, per suburban unit in Austin-Round Rock metropolitan area. Those high fees not only slow production, but they also get passed on to the customer.
David Glenn, senior director of government relations for the Homebuilders Association of Greater Austin, said researchers from the study weren’t able to verify what each fee went toward.
“We know that with the National Association of Homebuilders Price Index, for every $1,000 they add to the price of the home, you're pricing out 791 families in the Austin MSA,” Glenn said. “For suburban developments, 9% of that earner’s income goes toward fees, for an infill project 20% just goes to fees. That's not land, that's not labor, that’s not materials.”
Unflipping the market
Shiflet said the fix to right-sizing development fees and restrictive zoning laws, another major problem in the development sphere, is to vote for candidates who will support expanding housing.
“However it is that you're involved in our housing market, you've got to care about housing and having these conversations is so important for us,” Shiflet said. “We've got an important election coming up in November and I can assure you that our 20,000 Austin Board of Realtors members are going to really be looking at candidates and really be looking at who puts housing first.”
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