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Employee Wellbeing

Inside Patagonia’s Corporate Culture That Prioritizes Flexibility and Work-Life Balance

Dean Carter

Chief Human Resources, Legal, Finance and Shared Services Officer, Patagonia

Patagonia, the outdoor apparel company, based in Ventura, California, was founded over 40 years ago by climber and outdoorsman Yvon Chouinard. Known for quality products and a commitment to the environment, Patagonia says they’re “in business to save our home planet.”

Part of Fortune’s list of the “100 Best Companies to Work For” for six years, the company employs over 1,500 employees across 33 worksites and offers 100 percent health coverage, college tuition reimbursement, on-site yoga and fitness, on-site child-care, a fully organic café, and many other perks.


The biggest draw is its corporate culture, which has never been traditional. They want to develop new ways to do things, which can be seen in how they manage their workplaces.

“We allow flexibility time, even the middle of the day,” says Dean Carter, Patagonia’s chief human resources, legal, finance and shared services officer. “If the swell is up, it’s not unusual for there to be a lot of wetsuits and towels hanging around the building here.

“It would be cruel to hire people who love to be outside and just keep them captured in these buildings all day.”

Turnover in the corporate office is only about four percent, compared to 27 percent at other companies nationally.


Back in 1984, Patagonia opened an on-site childcare center, which is still thriving. Many current Patagonia employees attended the childcare as kids.

Having children around the office makes it feel more like a family than just a workplace.

“Every single day when you come to work, you see children and you are reminded of the mission and the purpose of why we’re here,” says Carter.

At the corporate office and in their Reno, Nevada, office, the retention rate for mothers returning from maternity leave is 100 percent. If a breastfeeding mother needs to go on a business trip, the company pays for the mother, baby, and a nanny to travel for that trip.


Patagonia offers 15 different schedules for warehouse employees, as well as guaranteed schedules up to three weeks in advance for retail employees.

Three years ago, the corporate office moved to a new schedule. Employees work a nine-hour day with a three-day weekend every other week.

They reported better relationships with their spouse, better connection to their children and the ability to manage their time, such as going to doctors’ appointments or grocery shopping.

The company benefits from a lower ecological footprint. They reduce their energy use because they don’t have lights on in the office on the days they’re closed.


When Carter is reading resumes for potential Patagonia hires, he always heads straight to the bottom. He wants to see the applicant’s hobbies and passions to help him determine if the candidate would be a culture fit for the office.

“It’s not unusual for some of our positions to be open for a year,” he says. “We wait a very long time to find the exact right person for every role.”

Even internships are competitive. Ten thousand people applied for the company’s 17 summer internships. 

Work-life balance

Carter said companies frequently come to him wanting to know how they can build a business that’s employee-friendly. He says the key is to offer employees balance and the opportunity to live full lives.

“They want to be wildly productive at work, and they want to make a difference,” he says. “And they also want to be outside, they want to be healthy, they want to spend time with their family.”

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