People & Human Resources

Why this small business is taking its 20 staff members to Dreamworld for Christmas

Eloise Keating /

Most businesses take their staff out for dinner or put some cash over the bar when it comes to end-of-year work celebrations.

But one Sydney small businesses is going an extra mile, and then some, this year to make sure its employees know how much they are valued.

Tomorrow morning 20 employees of Filtered Media will meet at 5.30am at Sydney Airport for a flight to the Gold Coast, where they will spend the day at Dreamworld before returning home that night.

The workers found out about the surprise trip a few weeks ago via a game of pass the parcel that involved unveiling layer upon layer of clues.

There was a tube of sunscreen, a toy plane and a Queensland calendar that all pointed to their Christmas gift.

Heather Jones, co-founder of Filtered Media, told SmartCompany this afternoon she and husband Mark Jones, who founded the business four years ago, wanted to provide their employees with a memorable experience this Christmas.

“We thought, ‘how much would it cost to go up for a day?” Jones says.

“The social team came back to us and it was comparable to the budget we’d already assigned to if we were to go jet-boating and out for dinner, a more typical experience.”

In previous years, Filtered Media has taken staff out for Christmas lunches or given employees vouchers.

But Jones says there is plenty of research that backs up the power of providing someone with an experience “versus stuff”.

Jones says this Christmas is also the right time for a gesture of this size, with Filtered Media at a “tipping point” of becoming a much larger company with more staff.

“It was probably the last year we could do something like this,” she says.

“It starts with a respect for the individual”

Filtered Media offers marketing communications services to the likes of Telstra, Coca-Cola, Adobe and Xero, and is currently turning over approximately $2 million.

For Heather and Mark Jones, who founded the agency from their basement, creating a healthy business culture “starts with a respect for the individual” and gratitude.

“To everyone who joins us, we are grateful,” Heather says.

“We know they all have choices and they have chosen to spend the working hours they have available with us.”

“All our policies start from that place.”

Filtered Media’s other HR policies also include two paid “YOLO” of “You Only Live Once” days a year, which staff can use in any way they like, and one paid “Marilyn Day” to celebrate birthdays.

Named in honour of Marilyn Monroe’s famous serenade of US President John F Kennedy, this extra day of leave can be taken one week either side of an employee’s birthday.

Jones says these extra days are “not a huge cost to us as a business” but represent a “great return”.

“There are commercial benefits; it increase loyalty, productivity, retention rates,” she says.

“In the four years we have been officially incorporated, I don’t think we have lost one staff member voluntarily, beyond health or relocation reasons.”

As Filtered Media continues to grow, Jones says it was important for the company to bed down these policies.

“As a small business that is growing, we realised we need to crystallise that ethos or mentality into policies so that it can be scalable once we get to 50 people,” she says.

Jones has two pieces of advice to other small business owners wanting to work on the culture of their business.

“Live generously, both personally and professionally,” she says.

“And put people before policy. Work out what is best for people and then shape your policies.”

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Eloise Keating

Eloise Keating is the editor of SmartCompany. Previously, Eloise was news editor at Books+Publishing, the trade press for the Australian book industry.

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