Gary, The Intern

Gary, The Intern

Have you ever found a corporate policy that you loved? Most corporate policies are boring, irrelevant, bureaucratic, or thinly veiled “benefits” that are designed to keep you in the office working more (damn you unlimited cereal dispenser in the break room), often for good reason. Corporate policies are designed to benefit the corporation – this is obvious when you say it out loud, but is worth stating in case there is any doubt. But…. what if a company’s policies had other goals, and I don’t mean an interim goal on the way to corporate benefit (I see you WFH policies that just require you to be plugged in and responding 24/7). I mean goals that prioritized your employees, the planet, nutrition, time with family, or a side interest in becoming an amateur archaeologies a la Indiana Jones… OVER corporate benefits.

My favorite example of this is from the absolute legend, founder of Patagonia, and personal hero, Yvon Chouinard and Patagonia’s “Let my people go surfing” clause that stated that if the waves in Ventura, California were six feet or higher, the entire office was closed and people could go surfing instead.


“Remember, work has to be fun. We value employees who live rich and rounded lives. We run a flexible workplace, and we have ever since we were a blacksmith shop that shut down whenever the waves were six feet, hot and glassy. Our policy has always allowed employees to work flexible hours, as long as the work gets done with no negative impacts on others. A serious surfer doesn’t plan to go surfing next Tuesday at two o’clock. You go surfing when there are waves and the tide and wind are right.” – Yvon Chouinard


What if you only went to work when the business waves and tides and winds are right?….that would be something. I looked at a Forbes article, ranking the “Top Ten Most Valuable Employee Benefits”, and the top three are #1 Flexible work hours, #2 Company-sponsored retirement plan #3 Leave early on Fridays. Can’t we shoot higher than these three?

#1) Flexible Work Hours I agree with flexible work hours, but that flexibility should be dictated by the work that needs to get done, and other more important priorities (like your own, one-shot at it, life), and it needs to be okay that you are not working between the normal “9-5” if you plan to work later. In my experience “flexible work” never adheres to this and instead results in people working constantly, plugged in all day and night, and jumping at every buzz and bing on their phones. Yay, flexibility

#2) Company-sponsored retirement plan Is this one still necessary to be on the list? Are employers surprised that employees don’t want to work at their company until they are 105 years old, and instead might want to spend the third act of their lives helping others, or educating the young, or drinking Mai Tai’s at Jimmy Buffet’s retirement community called “Latitudes” (I kind of wish I was making up that last one, but check it out, it is real, and glorious, and unfortunately for me minimum age of 55, and I truly think Jimmy Buffet might be the greatest business man of our generation). It saddens me that people feel the need for this to be #2, but then again, much of what feels obvious to employees is often completely ignored by corporations. I recently worked for a company that did not offer any parental leave, for neither males nor females. Just had a c-section? Birthed a 10-lb baby on Sunday? See you in the office Monday! And you have OKRs to achieve…..barf

#3) Leave early on Fridays. This is a “glimmer of hope” policy, where employees can’t wait to escape their locked-in, mandated 9-5 that the glimmer of hope of escaping to their weekend an hour or two early is the THIRD MOST IMPORTANT THING AN EMPLOYER CAN PROVIDE?! This is in the same category as “Casual Fridays” or “jeans in the office” or “polo shirts over the summer”… why do employers get to regulate when you work, where you work, how you work, and what you wear?

What kind of perverse, nonsensical “KPIs” are these. Let’s test them out. Pick a company or a job in your head (seriously ANY job, firefighter, insurance salesman, mobile dog groomer, whatever). Now imagine that you’re a senior executive at that job and you’re going to present a status update to the CEO. You didn’t really prep much, but you’ll fall back on your company’s policies as KPIs, “Boss, great news! The company is firing on all cylinders and is perfectly aligned with our corporate goals. All our employees were in their cubicles from exactly 9am-5pm, they were all dressed in slacks and a button-down shirt (no polo shirts here, boss). Betty had her new baby Wednesday night (thankfully not during working hours), and was back in her cubicle on Thursday morning. We’ve heard some feedback from the employees, and as a special treat, have decided to let everyone go home 1 whole hour early on Friday, and they can put on a Hawaiian shirt after they have left the office. Mission Accomplished”. Now, unfortunately there were 15 fires that the firefighters missed outside of the 9-5 time window, almost all insurance sales in Pleasantville are still done door to door so no new sales were generated while everyone sat in their cubicle, and there was only 1 dog grooming appointment for the week but all 5 dog groomers just sat the twiddling their thumbs all day, and poor poor Betty is sobbing into her latte waiting to get home to be with her new baby.

How do we prevent sobbing Bettys? Have policies that are founded in purpose, that prioritize your employees and your stakeholders over short-term corporate gain, and as the legend Yvon said “work has to be fun”. So, we’ve been trying out some new corporate policies at Origin, because we want this to be not only a company with good products, but a company that does good. Our latest policy allows our employees to count their commute to and from the office as working hours, ONLY if they commuted via their own power. Bike to work? Run to work? Eliptigo to work? All those hours you get paid for. Drive your car or private jet to work? Sorry, those hours don’t count. This allows us to incentivize our employees to exercise, reduce our collective carbon footprint, get the blood flowing at the office, and gosh darn it, it’s pretty darn funny when everyone roles in a little bit sweaty (sorry team, office showers will be fixed “soon”). But like all good company policies, there are loopholes, and that brings us to our intern Gary….

Gary started with us at the beginning of the summer and was a valued member of the team, bringing a much-needed energy and “vagabond-ness” to the crew. Unfortunately, Gary hasn’t been seen for almost 2 months, but keeps collecting his paycheck. You see, Gary moved at the beginning of the summer, and is now about a 4.5 hour bike ride from our office (you see where this is going, don’t you). By the time Gary gets to work, he needs to turn around and head home before the day ends. According to Gary’s Strava, he has broken almost every bike power PB he had, so I’m happy to say that his 9 hours a day of riding is really paying off, but we kind of miss Gary. So if you see a skinny, Hawaiian shirt wearing vagabond, wearing a pink brimmed Origin hat (for sale here….wink wink), biking around, please tell him we miss him. But you know what, I think we could all be a little more like Gary, and less like sobbing Betty (so sorry Betty, day is almost over). Be a little bit more of a weirdo, wear a Hawaiian shirt, spend 9 hours biking to and from your job each day, breathe in a little life, shed your skin and be a little more like Gary. We could all learn from a “Gary”.

Next week, back to sports nutrition blogs :). 

See you out there,