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Why Culture at 500px Goes Beyond Perks

"The perks are like sweets—they’re great to have and can give folks a rush, but they cannot be what you depend on as a company to endure."
Why Culture at 500px Goes Beyond Perks

by Melissa Ramos

Lorena Pacheco Scott works at 500px, a photography community and marketplace used by over 9 million photographers.

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What does culture mean at 500px?

At 500px, we’ve been more deliberate over time about communicating what culture is and what it’s not. We define culture as our way of life at 500px, which essentially breaks down to as a team, how we work, how we treat each other, and how even we have fun. Culture is at the center of all that we do. It is the values that glue us together, the attitudes we bring to work each day and the behaviors that enable us to be successful.

We’ve also talked a lot as a team about what culture is not, including the perks (the fancy chairs or the catered lunches). In fact, we’ve been more deliberate over the past couple of years (even with money in the bank) to avoid the fancy stuff and stay scrappy. Yes, we are intentionally more Ikea than Herman Miller.

Can you tell me a little about your role as VP of Operations?

That’s probably the hardest question on this list to answer because my job is always evolving, especially as our business grows and matures and as our team changes too. The one constant is I’m very people focused. But to answer your question, today, I’m responsible for Ops, People (HR), Finance, Accounting, and Legal. I am part of a small, lean team that makes 500px run and I love it.

How do you balance play with work in a forward-thinking work environment like 500px? What impact do you think perks (office animals, catered lunches, etc.) have on employee happiness and productivity? 

Creating an environment (culture, workspace, org. design) that empowers people to problem solve and enables them to do amazing work is what leads to employee happiness, to love their job and to have fun!

The perks are like sweetsthey’re great to have and can give folks a rush, but they cannot be what you depend on as a company to endure. Instead, if you allow your team to build (products or services) with purpose and have an impact – that’s the real sustenance that leads to happiness and the “right” fuel the team needs to drive hard and become more productive as well.

How do you measure employee engagement?

We poll the team and ask them to complete an employee net promoter score (eNPS). It’s one simple question: Would you recommend friends and family to work at 500px? It keeps us honest and it’s my most important KPI.

500px highlights the creativity of artists from around the world. Are there any internal initiatives at 500px that promote the same kind of creativity?

Absolutely, and the internal initiatives are constantly evolving because they are inspired and led by the team. At different points in time, we’ve had a Photo Guild (that was basically the entire team), and we still have Photo Challenges, Photo Walks, etc. It’s really up to the team how they want to be creative and celebrate what the artist in each one of us!

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