Patagonia gave 90 staff a choice — relocate across the US or leave the company. They’ve got 3 days to decide.

    The Patagonia logo is a status symbol for tech workers and mountaineers alike.

    Michael M. Santiago/ Getty

    Patagonia has told 90 customer service staff to relocate to one of seven locations or leave. The affected staff have three days to inform the company of their decision. The company is trying to improve team culture and support business needs, a spokesperson told Business Insider. 

    Sustainable outdoors brand Patagonia has given 90 US employees a choice — tell the company you are willing to relocate by Friday or leave your job.

    The employees all work in customer services, known at Patagonia as the customer experience (CX) team, and are able to work remotely to field calls and inquiries.

    They were first alerted on Tuesday morning when they received a text and email.

    “At 10 a.m. PST we will be hosting an important Town Hall Meeting,” read the internal email, which was seen by Business Insider.

    “We understand that some are scheduled to be off today, but please know that we will pay you for the day [8 hours] if you can make the time to attend.”

    Half an hour later, in a 15-minute town hall hosted by executives Amy Velligan and Bruce Old, staff were informed that the team would be moving to a new “hub” model.

    CX employees must now live within 60 miles of one of seven “hubs” — Atlanta, Salt Lake City, Reno, Dallas, Austin, Chicago, or Pittsburgh.

    Workers have been offered $4,000 toward relocation costs, and extra PTO. Those who choose to relocate must do so by September 30.

    If not willing to move state, staff must leave the company. They have been given 72 hours, until Friday, to confirm their decision.

    “It was very factual. If you don’t live in these seven metro areas, you either need to move there or give us your stuff and hit the brick,” one affected CX worker told BI.

    “If we don’t respond by Friday, they will assume that we have chosen the severance package and we’ll start that process.”

    The town hall was followed by a one-on-one meeting with HR, before access to company laptops and phones was shut off later that day.

    Patagonia verified the details of the announcement to BI, confirming that 90 of 255 CX staff in the US were affected.

    The brand has seven stores and outlets in California, but the state was not chosen as a hub.

    George Frey/Getty Images

    “I definitely feel like I’ve been laid off,” one CX worker told BI, asking to remain anonymous as they had yet to finalize their severance package. “I’ve never been late for work; I have gotten nothing but outstanding performance reviews.”

    The severance package was generous, the worker said, but added it was sad to see a company they had believed in “fall to the Walmart level.”

    Both employees BI spoke to said they were accepting the severance and did not know anyone who was considering relocation.

    Patagonia spokesperson Corley Kenna told BI several employees had already indicated they would relocate.

    “These changes are crucial for us to build a vibrant team culture,” Kenna explained, adding that feeling disconnected had been a common complaint amongst CX workers.

    The company hopes to bring staff together at the hubs at least once every six weeks for in-person trainings, company gatherings, or Activism Hours.

    Hub locations

    Patagonia chose the hubs on the basis of “where we have existing community and retail locations,” Kenna said.

    California, a state that is core to the brand’s identity and plays home to its corporate HQ in Ventura, as well as seven stores and outlets, was not chosen.

    Both employees who spoke to BI believed this was because Patagonia doesn’t want to handle the increased demands of employees in states with higher costs of living.

    “We’ve been asking for raises for a long time, and they keep telling us that your wage is based on a Reno [a city in Nevada] cost of living and where you choose to live is on you.”

    “Unfortunately, a California-based hub would not meet the criteria we set for a sustainable CX model,” Kenna told BI, confirming that the cost of living and other business needs contributed to the decision.

    “The reality is that our CX team has been running at 200% to 300% overstaffed for much of this year,” Kenna told BI.

    “While we hoped to reach the needed staffing levels through attrition, those numbers were very low, and retention remained high.”

    ‘Big corp in sheep’s clothing’

    The company, founded by rock climber Yvon Chouinard in 1973, was ranked the most reputable brand in the US in 2023, according to an Axios-Harris poll.

    Chouinard started the brand from his car trunk in 1973.

    Jean-Marc Giboux/Contributor/Getty Images

    Jokingly referred to as Patagucci, it has become the go-to uniform for style-conscious tech developers and mountaineers alike.

    Now a multibillion-dollar company, it is beloved for its focus on sustainability and efforts to develop a more ethical form of capitalism.

    “Let my people go surfing” was Chouinard’s relaxed mindset toward working culture.

    In 2022, the founder took the unprecedented step of transferring Patagonia to a trust and nonprofit, directing the profits toward combatting the climate crisis.

    “Instead of ‘going public,’ you could say we’re ‘going purpose,” Chouinard wrote at the time.

    Since September 2022, Patagonia has donated more than $71 million in earnings to charitable causes, the New York Times reported earlier this year.

    “It feels like they’re full of shit, that they would rather spend their money on the world instead of their people,” one worker said in response to the restructuring.

    “Let my people go surfing” was founder Yvon Chouinard’s attitude to company culture.

    The Washington Post/Getty Images

    “I think that the company has changed a lot since it sold to Mother Earth,” agreed the second CX employee. “Since Yvon stepped away, it’s been a slow burn of shifting away from caring about employees.”

    The rhetoric around attendance is tougher, and for the last year, employees were told the company was over budget, the employee added.

    “Patagonia is not this small niche outdoor company anymore, it’s a big corp in sheep’s clothing. I still think they made good products, but I think they don’t treat their people as well as they claim to.”

    Are you a worker at Patagonia? Contact this reporter at [email protected]

    Read the original article on Business Insider


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