Last summer, my co-founder Frederick Blackford and I launched Swing, based in Silicon Valley and London. It’s an app – with hardware coming soon – that lets you create ‘living’ photos. Together with our chairman, Twitter founder Biz Stone, we set out to reimagine photography. We also agreed some core values for our company: insist on the impossible, sustain a caring meritocracy, champion artists.
In the past few months, it has not been possible for our colleagues in the U.S. and UK to focus entirely on that artistic vision. There is a consensus in the Swing team that shared values of equality and openness are at stake across the world. People don’t leave those thoughts behind when they come to work, and we don’t want them to.
That’s why today we are launching paid time off for civic engagement. In addition to vacation days, sick leave and family time, we will support our employees who want to volunteer, run for office, write letters or protest.
Over 60 million Americans volunteer each year. They need greater support from employers, as do private sector workers who want to get involved in politics in their spare time.
We think it’s the right thing to do. We are announcing the policy publicly in the hope that other technology companies join us.
We also think there is a commercial imperative to act. Research for my book ‘Connect: How Companies Succeed by Engaging Radically With Society’ found that deep societal engagement helped corporations outperform peers on the stock market by 20 percent over a decade.
Tomorrow’s business leaders will be ‘tri-sector athletes’, as versed in government and social sectors as they are in the commercial world. A common theme among the 80 CEOs Lord Browne, Robin Nuttall and I interviewed for ‘Connect’ was their lack of preparedness to deal with societal stakeholders when they reached the top job. That needs to change.
So we think paid time off for civic engagement is win-win. But more importantly than that, it is our duty as a company which benefits from advanced societies and rides the wave of an unparalleled technology boom.
Dwight Eisenhower said it best: “Politics ought to be the part-time profession of every citizen who would protect the rights and privileges of free people.”
Tommy Stadlen is the co-founder of Swing and co-author with Lord Browne and Robin Nuttall of the international best-seller ‘Connect: How Companies Succeed by Engaging Radically With Society’