One of the most common reasons cited for failure to vote in the 2016 election was work obligations. At Four Kitchens, a distributed company since well before the pandemic, we realized early on that voting was going to be complicated for some of our team members, who are dispersed across the United States.
Logistical burdens are heavy enough in our pandemic climate, with masks, social distancing, sanitizing, and sometimes transportation to worry about. That’s why we decided to do something more to be part of the solution, instead of relying on the flexibility of our workplace and generous time-off policies we already have in place.
First, to address our ability to vote, we gave each team member a floating day off so they could vote without worrying about how to fit it into their work day. We didn’t want work to be a barrier to anyone being able to vote how and when it was best for them, whether that be in person or by mail.
We also encouraged everyone to spend the remainder of their voting day doing some sort of volunteering for the election—phone banking, driving others to vote, registering voters, and helping others make time and space to vote. This allowed Web Chefs to Give Back, one of our Core Values, through active civic engagement. All we had to do was give them time.
We will also collectively take a day off to rest on Wednesday, November 4, when, whether we know the outcome of this year’s election or not, we recognize that not having the pressure of work will be a welcome reprieve.
Many of our team members have already voted in the election, some without difficulty and others facing adversity. One Web Chef is in the process of moving to a different county in Texas. Unsure if they would be able to register in their new county in time, she and her spouse decided not to take any chances and to make a day trip to cast their ballots. This stressful situation—moving during a pandemic mere weeks before an important election—was made less so because she was able to schedule her floating voting day with her team, and felt supported in taking the time to drive across the state to vote in person during early voting.
Similarly, a Web Chef currently staying in upstate New York, found it important to return to her district in New York City, the 14th Congressional District, where she prefers to vote. Another Web Chef, who was set to spend a good chunk of time in the woods of California to escape the monotony of home for a bit, changed the start date of his road trip so that he and his spouse could vote in person in Texas. He and his manager quickly and easily worked out changes to his time-off plan so he could make sure his vote was cast before traveling cross-country.
Perhaps most exciting of all is the story of one Web Chef who will be using their floating day off to vote for the first time as a U.S. citizen, followed by a few hours of volunteering in her home state. There are other Web Chefs who will vote on Election Day, and have made plans with their project teams to be unavailable for the day.
As an organization, we are proud to have built a work environment that isn’t a blocker to civic participation. As individuals, having the support of the company and our community of Web Chefs is invaluable. The added logistics of accommodating many different voting needs, while still meeting client expectations, and adding the day after Election Day to our official holidays this year, has been an operational puzzle. However, we’d rather the business take on that burden in service of enabling our team to participate in a critical election. It’s part of our everyday culture to ensure the pressures of modern life aren’t any more than necessary, and this is just one way we’ve put that into action.