We are a pretty relaxed shop. We break for monthly team lunches, close early on beautiful Summer Fridays, and let people scoot away to see those victorious Raptors when civic pride compels millions of our fellow residents to parade en masse. As long as the work is done, we support flexibility and enjoying as much of the rare great weather Toronto provides. But allowing employees to take time to strike for the climate is new, hot terrain.
It’s also part of what employees look for in an employer. Says Equinix CEO Charles Meyers:
Cutting down on carbon emissions is valuable in itself. But it also makes good business sense, both in meeting the demands of investors and customers pursuing sustainability strategies, and in Equinox’s ongoing search for new talent. They want to work for a company they feel is ideally doing good things for the planet, certainly not doing it harm.
Indeed, as employees increasingly value working for ethical employers, supporting the health of our planet on company time seems the obvious way of the future. An Australian consortium of forward-thinking companies has put together an effort called Not Business As Usual, where organizations can pledge to give their workers the opportunity to strike for climate. Here at Pilot, we’ve joined up. They write:
Every business can do something, whether it’s closing the doors, having a meeting free day, allowing a long lunch, or sending an email to make it clear teams will not be penalised for taking a few hours off. The reality is that while it’s not up to the private sector to lead climate action, we can do our part in this first of a kind moment.
While we agree that the private sector’s job is not to fill the role of policy makers and politicians, we do believe that companies can play a huge role in shifting attitudes and behaviours. Employers can support important change by giving their employees the agency to exercise political and social muscle. Strong, passionate, civically-engaged employees are good for business, too.
As a strategy and design shop we know that getting the word out is a huge part of the story. How can we help get Canadian business leaders on side? By making the idea of breaking for important causes normative. We let people go to all kinds of municipal gatherings. As civic actions become an increasingly effective way of voicing collective dissatisfaction, especially among younger people, companies will need to make time for these efforts.
Our role at Pilot is often about making the foreign or unfamiliar feel not only normal but deeply appealing. The idea of taking work time to stop working may feel anathema to business leaders at first, but like a sticky story that we design for maximum relatability and shareability, we believe the message can resonate and return value.
Ultimately, allowing employees to strike is allowing them the agency to take part in the biggest fight of our lives. But the best companies will know that it’s their job to step back and let employees dictate the terms. A prescriptivist approach never works. And enforced group political actions have the ring of factory calisthenics. Instead, providing opportunity and support to employees who want to act is the soundest approach.
So spare some time for the strike, if it’s in your power to do so.