The Age of the Protest & The MicroAge of the Paid Protester
It’s the age of the protest. And as a result, the paid protester. This is undeniable if you have your pulse on politics. Starting with the Arab Spring a handful of years ago, the types of protests that led to the situation in Syria, for example, and going through the election of Donald Trump, protest is the new brunch, the new social networking, the new age of democracy, the new everything. The day after Trump’s inauguration, America saw its biggest protest in history with attendance at the Women’s March outstripping the attendance at the inauguration easily (despite whatever alternative facts you may have heard).
One interesting and exciting thing that is possibly coming out of this renewed sense of political vigor is how employers are responding to it.
On top of being more politically engaged, aware and active, people these days tend to have more of an expectation for flexible work schedules and autonomy. This has led to many companies in a variety of industries expanding sick days and vacation days, as well as adding considerations for pet deaths, mental health or “unsick” days and even for the chance to protest.
At the forefront of this particular trend, as they are with most trends today (because of Internet) is Silicon Valley. In particular, May 1st saw massive pro-immigrant protests in honor of May Day with Silicon Valley employees, in particular, taking time off to protest the anti-immigrant policies of Trump’s administration. Silicon Valley famously depends on international talent for developing, inventing and perpetuating the latest technological advancements, gadgets, events and so forth. Facebook publicly declared that any employee wanting to participate in the May Day protests would have a paid-day-off if they did so. Google has also been working on similar considerations for its employees, should they also want to protest without risking their financial stability.
Big Names Can Afford Activist’s Schedules, But They Can Find Paid Protesters
These are big-name companies who can likely afford to pay employees who aren’t around for a day; but, smaller startups are also taking on such policies for their employees. Startups in the Silicon Valley, in particular, are making it possible for their employees to take a day off for civic participation with pay and without any negative ramifications when it comes to their job.
To be sure, you cannot mandate such participation, or what type of partnership it may be.
It’s about freedom and autonomy; seeing your employees as well-rounded individuals whose entire being is not necessarily wrapped up in your brand and your business.
This goes along with much of the research surrounding happy employees and thriving businesses. When employees are happier at work, they are more productive. When employees are given more autonomy, freedom, and flexibility, they are happier at work.
Autonomous Paid Protester
Autonomy includes these types of policies, ones that consider the kinds of people working for you. Fewer people are having children and getting married these days, and that means that a lot of your employees will have pets, instead, who feel and are treated like family. Allowing time off, without reprimand or financial burden, for the death or sickness of a pet is much like allowing for such when a family member is ill or has died. This is just good business sense. Look at the lifespans of Italians!
Autonomy means being confident that you can schedule something of your own free will without having the burden of a rigid, inflexible schedule keeping you from happiness and satisfaction outside of work and sending paid protesters in your stead. Autonomy means less micromanagement; it means your managers and your company have confidence in your employees to the degree that you trust them to get their job done appropriately, even if they are paid to be off of work. They are more likely to be less burnt out, more satisfied and happier when they are at work and to, therefore, be more pleasant, cooperative, productive and creative, all of which strongly benefit your business.
Who is Marginalized & Who is Protesting for the Marginalized?
These days, what is being protected by the paid protesters affects the marginalized in our society most strongly—women, people of color, and immigrants in particular. Giving them paid-time-off to protest or perform civic duties (like voting) is particularly remarkable because they are more likely to work in lower-paying jobs and positions, have a harder time at upward mobility, as well as being less liable to see themselves in positions of power and influence. They are also the ones most likely to suffer if they decide to miss work even if they aren’t going to be paid, or to have to choose not to protest (or vote, or what have you) because they cannot afford to miss a single day of work.
Civic Engagement As A Right, Or At Least A Plan Of Action
I often say that without customers, you wouldn’t have a business. It is also true that without employees, you wouldn’t have a business, either. And without happy, satisfied, well-rounded and safe employees, your business is much more likely to founder. Consider these factors as your create your employee handbook and policies. Talk to your employees about whether or not this type of consideration would be something they’d appreciate. Find an open, non-harassing and reliable way to verify that these policies are not being taken advantage of.
You can take this even further by considering helping with civic engagement as a business. It ‘s hard to get involved politically, depending on what your particular business is; but, it is not impossible. Taking donations or advertising that part of your profits will be donated to a precise cause is one easy way to engage your employees who may be particularly civic-minded, as well as to reap the benefits of good press and good feelings on behalf of you customers. Make sure your employees know that you have an open-door policy when it comes to civic engagement of whatever kind. So that, if for example, there is a major protest that many of your employees would like to attend, you could consider being closed on that day or changing your hours of operation or getting those shifts covered so that your staff don’t have to choose between one aspect of their livelihood or another.