One of Stevens’ Core Values is to “love what you do” and it’s not a hard task; we work in one of the most exciting and creative industries for clients we love and believe in and with people we respect and enjoy.
It’s no secret that I’ve always placed Patagonia, and its founder Yvon Chouinard, on a pedestal – and many of their business philosophies have helped shape my own. One of my favorite quotes from Let my People Go Surfing is this: “A master in the art of living draws no sharp distinction between his work and his play; his labor and his leisure; his mind and his body; his education and his recreation. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence through whatever he is doing, and leaves others to determine whether he is working or playing. To himself, he always appears to be doing both”. And I think that’s right. If we truly love what we do, not just “at work” but “at life” the two can harmonize.
But it goes further than that. We recognize that people are much more than the sum of their “work skills” and – especially in our business where creativity, fresh thinking and various viewpoints and interests are all needed – we know that happier, more fulfilled and balanced people can deliver better work. And better work produces better results, which in turn makes for a successful business. Pretty simple, really. That was the genesis of our unlimited paid vacation policy.
“Patagonia has always allowed employees to work flexible hours, as long as the work gets done with no negative impacts on others. The Let My People Go Surfing flexitime policy allows employees to catch a good swell, go bouldering for an afternoon, pursue an education, or get home in time to greet the kids when they come down from the school bus”. Much like Patagonia’s thinking, Stevens has worked to create a flexible, family-like environment full of happy and engaged team members which in turn produce great work for our clients.
‘If I want to keep employees passionate and engaged, I’ve got to let them go, to make sure they have time to live their lives, have adventures in the world, and come back refreshed’
Let’s look at some facts:
Fast Company: A recent study by economists at the University of Warwick found that happiness led to a 12% spike in productivity, while unhappy workers proved 10% less productive. As the research team put it, “We find that human happiness has large and positive causal effects on productivity. Positive emotions appear to invigorate human beings.”
Shawn Anchor, author of The Happiness Advantage, has found that the brain works much better when a person is feeling positive. At those times, individuals tend to be more creative and better at solving problems. And additional research has shown that when workers are happy they’re more effective collaborators working toward common goals. As Anchor sees it, the incentive for organizations is clear-cut—“happiness leads to greater levels of profits” for companies that take the right steps.
Let’s look at a real-life example. Clif Bar openly espouses a work-hard, play-hard philosophy that has been paying dividends. From their website: “We believe that time off enhances the productivity and creativity of our employees”
Management’s holistic attitude toward employees extends outside the office too. Every seven years workers become eligible for a six-week paid sabbatical. “Gary realized, If I want to keep employees passionate and engaged, I’ve got to let them go, to make sure they have time to live their lives, have adventures in the world, and come back refreshed,” offers Jennifer Freitas, Director of People Learning and Engagement at Clif. Chris Randall, a 16-year company vet has already taken two sabbaticals. The first time was spent at home with his wife and newborn son. (“We got through those moments of sleep deprivation without having to think, ‘Gosh, I’ve got to go to work teary-eyed, and all of that,’” recalls Randall.) His second paid leave included 17 days in Hawaii and a trip to the East Coast. And even though he has five years to go, Randall is already thinking about the next sabbatical. By then his two sons will be just old enough to car-camp at Yosemite National Park or maybe even backpack through Europe.
So about those dividends I mentioned. Consider this from Fortune Magazine: “What began as a small bakery mushroomed into a private, family-owned business that makes healthy, organic snacks and has become a global brand. Indeed, since expanding beyond its original energy-bar product to other nutritious nibbles and drinks, Clif Bar has reported 20% compound annual growth for the past 10 years.” I’d say that’s pretty impressive.
Much like Patagonia, having such a radical policy at Stevens only works in an environment of trust. Trust that the people we employ will not abuse the system and will always consider what is in the best interest of our clients and their co-workers in the decisions they make. Because we hire people as much for their outlook and culture fit as we do for their degree and skill set we’ve found that it works and works well.
So next time you send an email and get an “out of office” message back, rest assured that while the person you reached out to is recharging, the rest of the team is energized, balanced and ready to jump in with both feet to provide solutions – and that person you are reaching out to may just be formulating the next big idea with their feet in the sand, backpack on their back or kids on their arm.