Patagonia says customer service is experiencing a 300% increase in staff and is asking employees to relocate or leave.

For more than 50 years, Patagonia has built a reputation as one of the most respected brands on the planet. Aside from producing the ubiquitous fleece jackets found in corporate offices and mountain lodges, the outdoor clothing company is known for its outspoken statements on climate change and donating a portion of its sales to environmental groups.

Patagonia’s conscious approach to business has long extended to its employees. From the beginning, Yvon Chouinard, the mystic climber-turned-entrepreneur who founded the company, established flexible working hours that gave employees the freedom to chase waves when the waves were right, or pick up their children from school—all part of an alternative approach to business that Chouinard outlines in his autobiography. Let my people go surfing.

So it was no surprise that when Patagonia announced earlier this week that it was asking a third of its customer service employees to either move to one of seven U.S. cities or part ways with the company, the decision made headlines.

“We are thrilled to be working with Patagonia to bring this new generation of technology to the world,” said Corley Kenna, Patagonia’s chief communications officer. luck For most of the past year, the customer service team, which has been entirely remote since the pandemic, has been experiencing a 200 to 300% increase in staffing over the past year.

“A lot of times, employees only work about two hours a day,” Kenna said. This is not good for your career. This is 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 received about being completely remote.

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“a lot [employees] You 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 success and career growth and feeling a little isolated in that way.

Under the new model, 90 of its 255 employees would be required to move 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 be moved by Sept. 30. The company said it would help pay for the transportation cost.

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

“Making the decision to change your life and go to another city is a huge decision, 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 that the move to a hub model was something Patagonia was transparent about with its employees, and that 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 is some flexibility regarding the Friday deadline.

In 2023, Patagonia was ranked the world’s most recognizable brand, rising from third place the previous year, according to the annual Harris Poll on Corporate Reputation. It dropped to eighth place in 2024.

In 2022, Chouinard and his family donated their profits from the $3 billion company, dividing the company’s stock 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 conservation 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 earth our sole shareholder,” Chairman Charles Conn wrote in a letter to shareholders. luck opinion.

But in the wake of the company’s decision this week, 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’s actually inaccurate to say that Yvonne has stepped down,” Kenna said. luck“He’ll tell you he’s working harder now than ever.”

“Over the past three years, we’ve really worked to enhance 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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