The Important Truth In REI's Surprise Black Friday Move

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Every Thanksgiving, retailers try to outdo each other with Black Friday sales. Since the recession, they've tried to outdo each other by starting sales on Thanksgiving Day.

This year, one retailer said no. REI, the outdoor retail giant, recently announced that all 143 of its stores will #OptOutside on Black Friday. REI President and CEO Jerry Strizke explained his position this way: "A life lived outside is a life well lived."



What employee of an adventure-lifestyle retailer wouldn't rather spend Black Friday outside rather than in a store? It's a message well aligned to the organization's mission and values.

Perhaps it's too late for your company to follow REI this year. That doesn't mean you can't encourage other expressions of appreciation for "“ and by "“ employees. Here are some suggestions for the Thanksgiving holiday, and beyond.

Set Up Volunteer Programs

Volunteering is a thing many of us intend to do. But when push comes to shove, work or life or family takes priority.

One way to help employees volunteer is by making corporate social responsibility (CSR) part of the culture. Offer employees opportunities to work in a soup kitchen in the morning before work, to mentor kids during lunch, or to volunteer for a charity on the weekend so they can also involve their families. Meaningful volunteer work appeals to a broad set of employees. In fact, 88% of millennials gravitate toward companies with CSR programs.

Encouraging CSR through active volunteering also bonds employees. People from different departments can work together and share an experience for a larger social mission. A Deloitte study that found that 50% of millennial employees who volunteer are very loyal toward their company, are proud to work there, and satisfied with their employer.

Host Wellness Events

For many people, the workday is spent at a desk, and the drive to "get it done" exceeds the need to eat, go for a walk, or otherwise step away from work. Establishing a culture of wellness and recognizing that taking breaks is important to health and productivity, shows an appreciation for your employees. Or, more simply, it demonstrates humanity.

Encouraging wellness also benefits the bottom line. Johnson & Johnson estimates that wellness programs have saved the company $250 million on health care costs in the past decade, seeing a return of $2.71 on every dollar spent on wellness programs. Healthy employees cost you less and are more productive, happier, and more engaged in their work.

Encourage Friendly Competition

Friendly competitions and themed events are overall mood boosters. A Halloween costume contest and Halloween-themed lunch can go a long way toward lightening the work mood. Events like these break up the monotony of office work, reduce workplace stress, and offer friendly reminders that we're all people in addition to employees.


If your company chooses to follow REI's example"”or has always given employees a day off on Black Friday"”rest assured that you'll get something in return. The extra day off helps employees unwind and spend time with friends and family or in service to others.

After all, you want employees to feel refreshed on Monday and ready to finish the year on a high note. "‹

How do you show employee appreciation? Let us know @goodhiretweets #BuildGreatTeams

Lauren Small

Lauren Small


Lauren Small is a content and social media expert who writes about hiring, onboarding, and HR best practices. Lauren comes by her HR insight honestly, having observed the culture at diverse employers Amazon, HubSpot, and GoodHire’s parent company Inflection.

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