July 14, 2024

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Patagonia says customer service is experiencing a 300% overstaffing and is asking employees to transfer or leave

Patagonia says customer service is experiencing a 300% overstaffing and is asking employees to transfer or leave

For over fifty years, Patagonia has earned a reputation as one of the most respected brands on the planet. Aside from producing fleece jackets that are widespread in business offices and mountain lodges, the outdoor clothing company is known for being vocal about climate change and donating a portion of its sales to environmental groups.

What’s more, Patagonia’s conscious approach to business has long extended to its employees. From the beginning, Yvon Chouinard, the enigmatic climber-turned-entrepreneur who founded the company, set flexible working hours that gave employees the freedom to chase waves when the surf was right, or pick up their kids from school — all part of an alternative approach to beating the waves. The works outlined by Chouinard in his autobiography, Let my people go surfing.

So it was no surprise that the move made headlines when Patagonia announced earlier this week that it was asking a third of its customer service employees to move to one of seven cities in the United States or leave the company.

“We are thrilled to be working with Patagonia to create this exciting new generation of leaders,” said Corley Kenna, Patagonia’s chief communications officer. luck Its customer service team, which has been working entirely remotely since the pandemic, was experiencing a 200 to 300% headcount increase during much of last year.

“Oftentimes, employees only work about two hours a day,” Kenna said. “That’s not good for your career. That’s not good for business.”

The company began testing the “hub” model last year, according to Kenna. luck, This is largely due to the negative feedback she has received about fully remote work.

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“a lot [employees] “They missed a lot of the important cultural aspects that come with Patagonia and that come from being close to people. They were also concerned about career transition and career growth and feeling a little isolated that way.”

Under the new model, 90 of its 255 employees were required to move to within 60 miles of a new “hub” city – Atlanta, Salt Lake City, Reno, Dallas, Austin, Chicago or Pittsburgh. The workers were asked to make a decision by Friday, and if they choose to move, they must move elsewhere by September 30. The company said it would help pay for the relocation costs.

Some employees say the timeline they were given to make the decision was rushed and unreasonable.

“Making the decision to change your life and move to another city is a huge one, and you’re supposed to make it in two or three days?” one employee told The New York Times. Ventura County Star, Who announced the decision first?

Kenna said she understands why some employees are upset, but switching to a hub model was something Patagonia was transparent about with its employees, and given the company’s overstaffing problem, it could have happened sooner.

“We wanted to be really intentional, and we wanted to make sure this was the right model,” she said. luck. “We knew that was going to impact a lot of people, so we took it very seriously to think about all the different ways we could take care of our employees. So I think that’s a fair call, but I think that’s our real answer.”

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Kenna also said there was some flexibility regarding the Friday deadline.

In 2023, Patagonia was named the world’s most recognized brand, rising from third place the previous year, according to the annual Harris Poll on corporate reputation. It fell to eighth place in 2024.

In 2022, Chouinard and his family donated their profits from the $3 billion company, dividing the company’s shares into two new funds designed to address climate change. Since the restructuring took effect, more than $70 million has been transferred from the company to environmental groups and other nonprofits, according to The New York Times.

“Instead of exploiting natural resources to generate shareholder returns, we are turning shareholder capitalism on its head by making the land our sole shareholder,” Chairman Charles Cone wrote in a letter to shareholders. luck opinion.

But in the wake of this week’s decision, some affected employees say the company’s attitude toward employees has changed.

“I think the company has changed a lot since it was sold to Mother Earth,” said one employee Interested in trade. “Since Yvonne left, the shift away from caring for employees has been slow.”

Under the restructuring process, the Chouinard family still has strong control over the company.

“It is factually inaccurate to say that Yvonne has stepped down,” Kenna said. luck“He’ll tell you he’s working harder now than ever before.”

“In the last three years, we have really worked to strengthen how we communicate and care for our people,” she said. “And I’m sad to hear that people think we’re doing less because we’re working hard to do more.”

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