Company pays employees $7,500 to go on vacation

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Today's workforce is struggling to balance 24/7 work demands, with emails and constant communication interrupting time out of the office. Marketing company FullContact is giving their more than 200 employees a financial incentive to power down with $7,500 bonuses for travel, but with one caveat: they can't look at work emails while on vacation.

American workers left 768 million vacation days unused in 2018, according to a study by the U.S. Travel Association. But even when employees do take their vacation, 44% of them still check their work emails daily. Michelle Warren, senior director of human resources at FullContact, says this practice is causing employee burnout.

“Knowing that it’s ok to unplug is really important for the employees’ well-being,” Warren says. “If they’re always connected to work, it’s hard to recharge and come back to work with new ideas.”

Warren spoke to Employee Benefit News about her company’s retention program, and how other employers can help their workforce unplug during vacation.

Why did FullContact decide to offer bonuses so employees can travel?

It was our CEO and cofounder’s (Bart Lorang) doing. He was riding a camel next to the pyramids while trying to solve a work problem and he asked himself, “Oh my gosh, what am I doing?” So he really understands the importance of unplugging during your time off.

It sounds crazy, but we call this benefit “paid paid leave.” We give employees $7,500 so they can take the vacations they really want to take, whether that’s outside the country or within the U.S. When people come back from vacation, we hear things like, “I feel rested and ready to dive back in, and I’m excited to tackle the challenges ahead.”

How does the benefit work?

After full-time employees have reached one year of employment, they’re eligible to receive the bonus to take a vacation. Employees receive the bonus every year after in one lump sum before they go on vacation, but only if they agree to completely unplug from work. And even though it is a bonus, we require employees to use it to travel somewhere. We’ve been doing this for about seven years, and I can’t think of anyone who hasn’t taken advantage of it.

Ensuring that we’re providing an awesome employee experience is a priority for us, so this program is prioritized in our company budget.

Why do you think it’s difficult for employees to unplug during vacation?

I think sometimes people feel they’re the only person who can do something, especially in smaller organizations. It’s kind of a hero mentality. But it’s not productive to have points of failure like that.

I think the most important step is to plan in advance. The best way to do that is create a group of employees who are backup so employees have permission to unplug. Have employees provide documentation on how to perform their role so others can pick up where they left off and things won’t fall apart.

It’s good for employee development to learn things you don’t do every day. It’s definitely good for employees’ future careers. At the end of the day, it’s good for business and the organization.

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