Patagonia, the popular outdoor retailer, is providing its employees paid time off on November 6th so they are able to vote in the 2018 U.S. midterm elections. Following the same initiative for the 2016 presidential election, the company will close all its stores nationwide, its support center in Nevada, and its headquarters in California to give personnel uninterrupted time to travel to the polls.
According to a 2014 Pew Research Center study, 35% of eligible voters said they were not able to vote in that year’s elections due to scheduling conflicts with work or school. In her own, candid words, CEO Rose Marcario encouraged other companies to follow along this year: “There are a number of ways to boost voter turnout. While some states are going in the wrong direction, adding new obstacles to voting like ID laws that discriminate against students, poor people, and people of color, other states are making it easier…there’s even talk about making Election Day a national holiday. But until that happens, it’s up to those of us in the private sector to do our part.”
It’s no surprise that Patagonia is encouraging its employees to fulfill their civic duty. The company is renowned for its high ethical and environmental standards, actively trying to make products that “cause no unnecessary harm” to the outdoor world or its inhabitants. The company doesn’t shy away from political issues, even speaking out against the Trump Administration last year over plans to reduce national monuments.
Activism & Work-Life Initiatives
Patagonia has been similarly progressive in building its workplace culture. When it comes to work-life balance for its employees, company founder Yvon Chouinard laid out a crystal-clear philosophy in a 2005 book, Let My People go Surfing: “We run a flexible workplace, and we have ever since we were a blacksmith shop that shut down whenever the waves were six feet, hot, and glassy. Our policy has always allowed employees to work flexible hours, as long as the work gets done with no negative impacts on others.”
Patagonia’s focus on work-life flexibility, as well as its sense of activism, are certainly appealing to many younger employees in the modern war for talent. But it remains to be seen how other companies will respond to Marcario’s calling. Offering free Fridays is a great move, but closing down on Election Day might grab more political attention than some organizations want. At Salary.com, we will continue to monitor new initiatives folks in the private sector are experimenting with in this hot-blooded economy and political climate.
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