Okta CEO Todd McKinnon fought employee burnout by asking for vacation plans


Okta Inc. Todd McKinnon, CEO and co-founder of Todd McKinnon, will speak at the BoxWorks 2019 conference at the Moscone Center in San Francisco, Calif., On Thursday, October 3, 2019.

Michael Short | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Okta co-founder Todd McKinnon, as CEO of San Francisco’s high-growth software company, which employs 3,500 people and recently completed a $ 6.5 billion acquisition, has a lot to worry about.

But these days, it’s rarely related to him as much as an employee’s burnout.

The company allows unlimited vacations, but McKinnon knows how difficult it is for people to make innocent plans and stop worrying about product updates and deliverables for days. This is especially true in the bay area. In the Bay Area, 16-hour day and weekend work is often the same.

So at a recent all-out meeting, he talked to Okta employees about planning a family trip in Napa as a way to relieve pressure and remind them of the importance of log-off.

But he didn’t stop there.

He then asked everyone to email him their upcoming arrangements and provided as many details as they wanted.

“I received a lot of email,” McKinnon said in an interview in late June before leaving town and unplugging. At that time, he received about 950 messages from his employees, of which about 300 passed. “They are still coming in little by little,” he said.

McKinnon read some excerpts from his inbox notes. An employee went to Maui and was looking forward to Mai Tai Bar. Another was planning to travel to Europe. Others are only making up for the time lost from the pandemic.

“It’s a lot,’I’m going to see my family, I didn’t see my parents for a year,’ he said.

Throughout the tech industry and the wider office world, coronavirus stress and 16 months of forced remote work are joining the existing work-life balance struggle. With the closure of children in zoom schools and sports leagues, parents had to maintain their interest while trying to stay productive. Young urban workers have been trapped in small apartments with few social means.

Meanwhile, Okta and many other cloud software companies suddenly have more work to do. As the employees of Okta’s client companies were scattered, the demand for better collaboration, communication, and security tools surged. Okta’s identity management software helps businesses deploy apps securely and manage their use.

In March, Okta agreed to purchase the identity service Auth0 for $ 6.5 billion. This is the largest acquisition to date and one of the largest technology deals of the year.

“The acquisition is a big change,” McKinnon said. He added that the company has hired a number of new senior leaders, including global partner managers and new financial managers. “They promote people and attract new people,” McKinnon said.

Modeling behavior

McKinnon acknowledges that burnout and mental health are separate issues. Okta’s chief human resources officer, Kristina Johnson, told CNBC at the end of last year that it increased its investment in digital mental health and wellness services Modern Health and the meditation app Headspace to enhance support for blocked employees. Told.

Mental health involves a complex set of issues that medical and behavioral professionals need to address, but burnout is primarily the responsibility of management, McKinnon said. Employees must really be encouraged to take vacations and managers must adjust the project accordingly.

“We need to balance expectations, so we’re not in a position to frustrate people,” McKinnon said. “We don’t want to frustrate you. It doesn’t benefit anyone.”

McKinnon said it’s important to model the behavior that top leaders want their employees to see. So he is very open about vacation planning. That’s also why he hasn’t returned to working full-time in the office.

In August, Okta told employees that most of them would be able to work permanently from wherever they wanted. The San Francisco office was reopened a few weeks ago and is available to vaccinated employees. Due to the reorganized space, there are no desks assigned and there is room for collaboration.

McKinnon said he sometimes works in the office but doesn’t spend most of his time there because he doesn’t want to feel the pressure to return prematurely.

“I don’t want to imply that, well, the CEO is back, so you should go back,” he said. “Once people settle in this new ditch, I’ll be back a lot. My personal preference is to go back.”

McKinnon said the company has promised to maintain a flexible work plan, but a healthy number of employees want to return home for at least part of the week.

“Even I am constantly surprised by the fact that they forget the positive feelings of being around them,” he said.

to see: The strengths and weaknesses of the hybrid workforce are:

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