Agency life is fast paced. It requires the ability to multi-task and pivot quickly, and demands a constant focus on client needs. That can be taxing if you don’t keep things in perspective. One way Merritt Group helps to keep staff so energized to focus on our client work is the firm’s dedication to helping employees maintain balance in their lives. Whether it’s offering flex time, holding monthly exercise classes, or sponsoring the annual Merry Week of Giving and supporting ad hoc causes through the year, Merritt Group has created a culture that celebrates all aspects of an individual’s well being.
My personal favorite component of Merritt’s culture is the giving back program. Staff is given eight hours of corporate volunteer time off (VTO) each quarter to spend time with any organization they choose; to connect with the things that matter/motivate them as individuals. Sadly, we noticed this program wasn’t getting as much love as it deserved, so this year we made it our mission to make volunteering even more accessible and get more of our generous staff out there sharing their gifts and energy with the community. Build it and they will come, right?
We wanted to mobilize groups of volunteers throughout the year and encourage staff to take advantage of the opportunity. We started by asking Merritt Groupers to share their ideas on the types of efforts they’d like to prioritize and found that a top response was “helping kids.” From there, I set out to find an organization that aligned with our company values and staff interest — one that also needed help on a regular basis. The goal of the VTO program this year is to build an ongoing relationship with a handful of local organizations so that we can share our time and resources to make a difference throughout the year, not just once.
I first worked with a Washington, D.C. non-profit called Bright Beginnings during our Merry Week of Giving back in 2015. The organization left a lasting impression and I and knew they’d be the perfect fit for this ongoing commitment. With child and family development centers for homeless children whose families are in crisis shelters or transitional housing in Washington, D.C., their mission is focused on helping families find a safe and nurturing place to care for and educate young, homeless children, and on setting up parents for long term stability and success. Children are the future, and I can think of no better way to invest our time than to help them grow, learn and find their confidence so they can become the next world changers.
Over two days, Merritt sent small groups to help in whatever areas Bright Beginnings was in need. Some of us helped to organize donations and pack boxes to prepare for the organization’s move to two new locations this year. Others spent the day assisting teachers in the classroom and working (playing) with kids from infants to five-year-olds. We also collected some essential items in the office like diapers, bottles and books and were able to make a donation when we arrived.
Regardless of their role, volunteers came back to the Merritt office the following day with personal stories to share, smiles on their faces and a true appreciation for the time they were able to spend giving a bit of themselves to a worthy cause. We can’t wait to get back to the school later this summer, and are already organizing our next office drive.
In the midst of demanding workloads and pressure to do more in an always-on industry, I for one am thankful to work for an organization that prioritizes making these opportunities to help our community possible - and for the chance to make genuine connections with some incredible people. I could go on about how important it is to share our time, our resources and energy to help our next generation of leaders grow up to be strong, kind and leave our world a better place, but Fred Rogers says it best:
“We live in a world in which we need to share responsibility. It's easy to say 'It's not my child, not my community, not my world, not my problem.' Then there are those who see the need and respond. I consider those people my heroes.” -Fred Rogers
To learn more about how to get involved with Bright Beginnings, or to make a donation, visit the website. Read more about Merritt Group’s culture of giving and why we’re named a best place to work year after year.