Ignore the Clock

Secret 5

Richard Woolcott     Photo: Photograph by Tom Carey

Summer hours. Flex time. Telecommuting. Almost every company on our list finds a way to help employees get out of the office, often so they can do something fun. Among our favorites: #12 Osprey's "stress-free holiday season" approach, which gives employees time for obligations at home—like stuffing their Thanksgiving turkeys.

Trusting your team to manage their own hours—to come in at 10:30, say, after skiing fresh powder, and then stay until 8—flies in the face of a trend toward squeezing every waking minute out of your staff, but good companies manage to do it while maintaining high output. "This is a results-oriented workplace," says Mona Patel, the executive VP of people and organizational development at LiveStrong (#32), which allows employees to take unlimited paid time off, with the understanding that they won't abuse the privilege. (Nobody has.)

As these companies see it, letting workers make time for family or fresh tracks keeps them energized. In some cases, a few hours here and there aren't enough, which is why Rutabaga (#36) will hold a job open for up to a year if a dedicated worker needs a walkabout. "People need growth to be happy," says company owner Darren Bush. Patagonia (#30) seconds that notion. Founder Yvon Chouinard, who detailed his own path to responsible business practices in 2005's Let My People Go Surfing , allows employees to take four-month leaves of absence. Last summer, Patagonia customer-service employee Adam Bradley used his leave to set a new record for the fastest unsupported through-hike of the Pacific Crest Trail: 65 days, nine hours, 58 minutes, and 47 seconds.

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