The Washington Post

At WiserTogether, birthdays are holidays


Location: The District.

Employees: 24.

For her 29th birthday last March, Katherine Stackhouse enjoyed what she called “a decadent afternoon.” She and a friend had lunch at a tapas restaurant in Georgetown, followed by a trip to a spa for massages and pedicures. In addition to the indulgences, she managed to knock out a few errands, including getting her car washed and going to the bank.

And thanks to a policy at her workplace, WiserTogether, Stackhouse didn’t have to use any vacation time to do it. The District-based company allows employees to take a paid holiday on their birthdays. If a birthday falls on a weekend, a staffer can take off another day of his or her choosing.

“It’s really nice just to have a day to yourself,” said Stackhouse, a senior research manager.

Shub Debgupta, chief executive of the health care analytics and strategy company, said he started offering the perk last year and that it has been popular so far with his employees.

“It personalizes the company in the eyes of the staff,” said Debgupta.

Debgupta said he prefers to offer modest, individually-tailored benefits such as the birthday holiday instead of grander offerings.

“I think Google and all those companies offering free food kind of spoiled it for everybody,” Debgupta said. “If you have overly generous perks, I think it changes the dynamics. I think you want the personal touches.”

The company, which started in 2008, also takes time to celebrate its own birthday. Most years, on or around WiserTogether’s founding day on Feb. 13, the staff joins together to spend a day away from the office to participate in a community service activity or charity event. Typically they select something that has a physical component, since Debgupta said that ties in well with the health-focused company’s mission.

Sarah Halzack is The Washington Post's national retail reporter. She has previously covered the local job market and the business of talent and hiring. She has also served as a Web producer for business and economic news.
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