MUD\WTR is an experiment in radical trust. We’re placing a big bet on the idea that if you give employees a benefits package that most CEOs would deem business suicide, the team will work harder, create better and stay longer. This looks like unlimited paid time off, money for meditation retreats and monthly book budgets.
"People want us to fail," says MUD\WTR Founder and CEO Shane Heath. "This model is unproven, but I’m not focusing on what our employees will get done in a week or a month—I’m focusing on what they’re going to get done in five to 10 years. If you look at it that way, then this approach makes total sense. An employee’s long-term output is probably going to be higher, but the other factor is the quality of their work. We’re focused on quality because we’re in the business of creative thought."
We want this model to spread. A few years from now, one of two things will happen: The media will be shaking its heads at our foolishness as we crash and burn. Or, we’ll hit warp speed and MUD\WTR will have set a new standard for well-being in the workplace.
As our CEO puts it, "In the way that Patagonia is working to keep environmental landscapes intact, MUD\WTR is working to keep our mental landscapes intact.” However the chips fall, these benefits should pique the interest of any employer who is concerned with retention. A recent study by Microsoft found that 41 percent of the global workforce would consider leaving their current employer within the next year. And a poll from Monster found that 95 percent of workers are at least considering a job change.
MUD\WTR is currently valued at $138 million. The company is nearly four years old and has 22 full-time employees. So far, not one has quit.
Here is a list of the benefits, plus some other notable aspects of company culture, that are responsible for that retention. Below that, read on for testimonials from the MUD\WTR team about how the benefits have impacted their lives.
MUD\WTR Employee Benefits
- Remote work: Work from anywhere.
- Team trips: We book at least one all-expenses-paid team trip per year.
- Individual trip: We will pay for employees to work from a dream location once per year.
- Every other Friday off.
- Unlimited paid-time off.
- Wellness budget: $200 monthly to spend on well-being (e.g. massage, gym membership, therapy).
- Parental leave policy: Twelve weeks of paid parental leave, plus an optional eight weeks unpaid and a four-week gradual re-entry upon return.
- Childcare benefit: $500 per month per child under 5 years of age.
- Books: A monthly budget of $100 to spend on books.
- We discourage meetings before noon so employees can have undistracted time to work.
- We work on a sprint schedule. Two weeks of "sprinting" followed by one week of reflection and planning.
- Ōura Ring: Employees get an Ōura Ring. At the end of each week, the team logs its sleep scores as one of the company’s Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).
- Bonus structure: Frequent company-wide performance bonuses, alongside annual profit sharing.
- 66-Day Challenge bonuses: A $500 bonus for completing the quarter’s challenge. Past challenges have included meditating, cold plunging or journaling for 66 days within the quarter.
- Equity: Every full-time employee gets equity.
- Forced vacation: We make employees take vacations so they can enjoy them guilt-free.
- $250 charity donation: We will donate to a charity of a new team member’s choice.
- 401(k) matching: We match 3 percent of an individual’s contribution.
- Weekly paychecks: We pay every week.
- Heath and wellness: We cover lab work and consultations with a functional medicine doctor.
- Retreat of choice: We pay $500 per year for employees to take a retreat of their choice (e.g. yoga, meditation, ayahuasca).
- Accounting: Our CPA firm will do employees’ taxes.
Insurance: Personal health and dental is covered.
- Swag: Up to $250 in MUD\WTR swag.
- Partial home office reimbursements: Money for cell phone, internet and home cleaning services.
- Gear: A new computer and work-from-home setup.
- Coaching: Employees have access to two monthly sessions with professional life coaches.
The Mud Fam on our recent off-site trip to Bacalar, Mexico
What is Your Favorite MUD\WTR Benefit?
"My dad died less than two months after being hired, so the fact that we have unlimited paid time off is massive. Instead of asking me when I was returning to work, Shane asked me if I needed support getting connected to a mental health support system. Then, the team made a financial contribution to help my family get through those first few weeks. MUD\WTR didn't tell me that they supported me, they showed me."
Jess Rienerth, project manager
"Forced vacation. If you aren’t someone who believes vacation actually does yield productivity, you probably need a vacation."
Garrett Mullennix, marketing coordinator
"I appreciate the book allowance on a deep level. That $100 a month that I have no choice but to spend on furthering my education in a way that doesn't involve a screen means so much. Having a budget set aside for reading … wait for it … makes me read more. I buy all of my books from my local bookshop because I want to support the folks over there fighting the good fight."
Jordan Chiu, director of brand experience
"I use my wellness budget to pay for a therapist who is helping me make some serious strides in life. MUD\WTR is the only company I’ve ever worked for that genuinely wants each employee to be the best version of ourselves. I’ve grown more than I ever thought I could here."
Merissa Allen, CX director
"Childcare is freaking expensive. We’re paying $2,400 per month for part-time preschool and a nanny just two days a week. MUD\WTR’s monthly childcare stipend of $500 per kid (under 5) is an enormous help. It’s the kind of benefit that tells me the company isn’t just trying to look cool with what it offers. It actually, truly cares about improving our lives.”
Elizabeth Limbach, managing editor
"I had two spine surgeries six months ago. After the surgeries, I became a sleep zealot with the help of the Ōura Ring that MUD\WTR provides each of us. I learned that I sleep best when I eat an early dinner and have a hot shower before bed. I noted that I need the room to be very cool at night. The Ōura Ring gave me a way to game-ify my sleep, so my Capricorn ass can still feel like I'm ‘achieving’ in some way."
Blair Atkins, community manager
“My favorite mud benefit is our team trips. I had rarely traveled outside the U.S. before this job, and MUD\WTR's team trips have ignited my curiosity for travel, allowing me to connect more deeply with my friends and, perhaps more importantly, with myself.”
Emma Nelson, head of operations
"Who doesn't want every other Friday off? Between this and the flexible hours, it's amazing how you shape your day and your efforts to make sure you're focusing on exactly what needs to be done and cutting the fat. At a lot of nine-to-five jobs you just find ways to fill that time until you go home. But now, I'm finding ways to do the best work I can in the shortest amount of time possible so I can go sit outside in the sun or play guitar. Getting Friday off is so much more than a four-day work week. You change how you work and find your genius."
Matt Held, senior R&D manager
"For me it's the fact that mud endorses people working from anywhere. If that's an office, on the road or from the beach in Barbados—especially during a time when so many other brands are struggling to grasp the future and how to market that to employees. Mud is unique in nailing the idea of ‘work from anywhere (not just home)’ without compromising the ability to build personal bonds and team culture.”
Andrew Rickards, VP of CX
“The ‘dream trip’ benefit in which mud will pay for us to each take a trip once per year and work from anywhere is amazing. Many of us are avid travelers and we certainly don't want to stop seeing the world just because we have a job. I got to use my ‘dream trip’ budget to go to Chile and connect with two friends. We went south to Patagonia, fly fished and rafted down a glacier river. I came back energized and more creative. Stepping outside of your normal context can provide a lot of energy to come back and infuse new ideas into your life."
Chris Keener, head of MUD\Films
“Equity. I love that we all own a piece of mud and our efforts pay off in ways other than a paycheck at the end of the week. Being a part of growing something with a team—something we all have a stake in—is hugely motivational.“
Becky Clark, manager of people & ops
Kyle Thiermann is MUD\WTR's head of editorial and the host of The Kyle Thiermann Show podcast.
Read more: Work from Anywhere (But Here)
Header image by Jason Strull via Unsplash.