05 Jun The Revolutionary Work Culture at Gravity Payments and the Strides They are Taking to Spread Mental Health Awareness
Chloe Vega, HR Generalist at Gravity Payments
Photo credit: Jessica Dho of Gravity Payments
By Nidhi Khurana, Sung-Soo Devine, AbdulShakur Ali, Connor Haney, and Daniel Zhuge
UW Bothell School of Business
In this two-piece series, students from Professor Laura Umetsu’s business writing course at UW Bothell explore what it’s like to create workplaces that are inclusive and supportive of employees with mental illnesses through talking to employees at Gravity Payments.
“Take care of your team, and they’ll take care of your clients.” This motto is the basis of Gravity Payments’ work culture. Gravity Payments is a business-to-business credit card processing service based in Seattle, Washington that places priority on their employees’ mental health and well-being through innovative HR initiatives.
Chloe Vega, Gravity Payments HR Manager
Our team got the opportunity to interview Gravity Payments HR professional Chloe Vega, who has watched with pride as Gravity Payments grew from a relatively obscure company in 2007 to a rapidly growing business known nationwide for its excellence in employee wellness. She provided our team with valuable insight on the company’s culture.
Vega began by telling us how small Gravity Payments was when she first began working there. The company rapidly grew as years went by. During our interview with her, she also explained how everybody at Gravity Payments is sort of like “their own CEO”. Everyone is encouraged to think independently and become empowered by what they do to affect the company in a positive way. When we asked her how Gravity Payments contributes to employee well-being, Vega put a lot of emphasis on the work culture there.
Accepting, Open Doors and Philanthropic Work Culture for Employee Wellness
Vega told us that unlike many companies, Gravity Payments has an open doors policy to strive to keep all conversations transparent as possible with all of its employees. For example, if someone who suffers from a mental illness is not having the best of days, that employee can let co-workers know they are having a bad day and their coworkers will give that person space. Employees like Vega can attest that the supportive culture at Gravity Payments has had positive effects on their mental health and overall well-being.
Gravity Payments offers a culture that allows employees to feel secure and comfortable with the idea of mental illness, and they are striving to find more way to make it easier for employees with mental illnesses to not feel anxious about opening up to their co-workers. Our writing professor, Laura Umetsu, mentioned to us how Gravity Payments is starting to look for ways to use knowledge from NAMI Seattle to provide mental health training to their HR staff to improve the company’s mental health support system for its employees who may be living with a mental illness. We were excited to hear of this because specialized HR training in mental health is training that we’ve not heard of in many other workplaces.
Another reason that Gravity Payments is so unique in terms of employee wellness is how committed their employees are to giving back to their communities through their philanthropic program, Gravity Gives. Gravity Gives finds creative ways to give back to the communities in which employees reside. Each year, Gravity Payments will give each employee at least $500 to donate to the charity of their choice, along with plenty of volunteer opportunities. We were impressed by this initiative, given the multitude of studies that show that giving to charity increases individuals’ positive social connections and overall mental wellness.
Increasing Employee Well-Being Through Reducing Financial Stress
Gravity Payments’ CEO and founder Dan Price has taken many innovative wage initiatives to reduce financial stress in his employees throughout the years. In times of economic recession, Price took massive pay cuts to ensure that his employees could continue to work and maintain their salary. Price took that value of employee financial wellness a step further and made international headlines in announcing a company-wide minimum annual wage of $70,000.
The positive effects of Gravity Payments’ $70,000 minimum wage on his employees’ wellness and financial stability were drastic. In a 2018 interview with the Huffington Post, Price said that “Babies being born at the company went from zero to two a year to, since then, about 20. So that was really exciting. Our home purchases ― it’s a very unapproachable market in Seattle ― really significantly increased. I think that’s been great.”
Most of us writing this piece are college students living under moderate to significant financial stressors, including ballooning threats of student loan repayments in a high cost of living area like Seattle. Thus, we understand and appreciate how significant it is for a younger professional to have a living wage in terms of reducing significant mental stress.
National Reputation for Innovative Employee Care and Customer Excellence
Vega told us that Gravity Payments is constantly striving to grow, innovate, and offer a great service while genuinely caring about their employees’ mental health, happiness, and job security. In addition to striving to provide employees with a comfortable environment to discuss issues of mental health and their minimum wage initiative, they also provide employees with open paid time off, medical, dental, and vision insurance, and employer sponsored outings.
Many national media outlets have lauded the positive workplace culture and service that Gravity Payments delivers. Gravity Payments was awarded the 2014 & 2015 Best Workplaces Award, the 2013 Hire Power Award by Inc. Magazine. The company also received significant media recognition for their minimum wage initiative from national news outlets like ABC, NBC, and CBS News. Mr. Price himself has been awarded the Entrepreneur Magazine’s Entrepreneur of 2014, the 2014 Seattle Business CEO Excellence Award, GeekWire’s 2013 Young Entrepreneur of the Year, and the 2010 SBA National Young Entrepreneur of the Year presented by former President Obama.
Our team left our meeting with Vega convinced that Gravity Payments is definitely one of the best companies to work for in the Seattle area, and they have the accolades to show for it.
Chloe Vega is an HR generalist at Gravity Payments. She first started working for Gravity Payments in 2007 as an intern and since then has worked primarily for Gravity Payments in HR, Recruiting, and Management.
Nidhi Khurana, Sung-Soo Devine, AbdulShakur Ali, Connor Haney, Daniel Zhuge are students in Professor Laura Umetsu’s Spring 2019 UW Bothell business writing course. As part of a writing partnership project, students from Umetsu’s class wrote a series of organizational press releases featuring the work that NAMI Seattle and their community partners are doing for the local mental health community.