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  • By Amy Halpern On Friday afternoons in pre-COVID days, much of the staff at The Meridian Group gathered on the company’s sprawling terrace high above downtown Bethesda, grabbed beers from the nearby kegerator, and decompressed on comfy outdoor sofas. Sometimes they’d play cornhole. “Everyone from the most junior person to the most senior founding partner” would be out there, says Vice President Adam Farbman, who’s been with the 40-person real estate development firm since 2015. The tradition is slowly returning, as are the catered lunches The Meridian Group has hosted three days a week for the past six or so years. “It’s been intereresting that during this weird transition back to work that people tend to come in on those days more than the others,” says Senior Vice President Cassi Poole Eaton. [caption id="attachment_256475" align="aligncenter" width="250"] Employees at The Meridian Group enjoy catered lunches three days a week.[/caption] Early in the pandemic the firm started sending employees themed gift boxes each month, including one with tools to better organize their at-home workspaces—and another with everything needed to make homemade ice cream. The deliveries stopped early this fall as more people returned to the office. But it’s not the free meals and other perks that make The Meridian Group a great place to work, Farbman says. Rather, it’s that everyone at the company can have an impact, even in areas that don’t align with their job description. “Whether you are on the deal team or the marketing team or the development team…every day we’re collaborating,” he says, recalling a marketing person early in the pandemic who came up with a way for commercial tenants in buildings owned and managed by The Meridian Group to track the occupancy levels of their gyms and other public spaces to help with social distancing.

  • By Amy Halpern In 2018, the Brown family—which has owned Aldon since its founding in 1947—brought in new management. Now, “there’s a lot more support, there’s a lot more training…people get listened to,” says Leslie Gutierrez, who joined Aldon as a leasing agent nearly a decade ago. Aldon, which has 58 employees, owns and manages residential and office buildings in Bethesda, Chevy Chase, Washington, D.C., the Carolinas and Texas. These days, the entire organization—from site-maintenance staff to leasing managers to the corporate team—gathers to “kick off” the first quarter and meets again for an end-of-year “rally.” Since the start of the pandemic, most of the events have been virtual, but everyone is still able to chat with CEO Todd Bowen and learn about the operations. There’s “more structure, better technology and a lot of transparency,” says Gina Junio, vice president of human resources. She describes staff gatherings as “parties with a purpose” because so much information is shared by management. Benefits have also improved, Gutierrez says, including the addition of “floating holidays,” an employer-funded health reimbursement account and a flexible spending account. “My plan is to continue to grow and learn,” says Gutierrez, now a community marketing manager.