This all started back in 2012 when
, a Denver-based software provider company, offered their employees a $7,500 bonus to go on vacation, on top of their normal vacation pay. Yes, you are reading this correctly. The company's CEO and founder Bart Lorang calls it a "paid, paid vacation."
There are three requirements to get this benefit: 1) employees must completely go off the technology grid, no e-mail, texting or phone calls; 2) employees are not allowed to do any work while on their trip; and 3) employees must actually go on a trip.
Why is CEO Bart Lorang doing this? He came to this epiphany when he was on vacation and he was pictured texting while riding a camel. Today, with modern technology, everyone is expected to be connected 24/7. People need to unplug and unwind so that when employees come back from vacation, "You're so much more invigorated, recharged," said Robbie Jack, a software engineer. Lorang also hope this will also attract top talent, since he is having trouble finding qualified engineers.
conducted a survey of 971 employees and found that 13% of managers were less likely to promote employees who took all of their allotted vacation. The DIW Economic Bulletin published a German study in 2012 that indicated employees who took fewer days off earned almost 3% more than those who took all their vacation time.
How did our work philosophy become working 12 hours/day, 7 days/week? It was once thought that this work ethic lead to more productivity, more promotions and more profits. But this only led to fatigue, burnout, and other major health issues such as heart problems, obesity and mental health issues that can lead to morale issues in the office, all leading to overall reduced productivity.
Evernote, a software services company based in Redwood City, California, has an unlimited paid vacation time policy and the employees received $1,000 after they have taken a vacation for a week.
Reed Hastings, CEO of
, started the unlimited vacation trend based on his 2009 "
Freedom and Responsibility
" practices. His philosophy is about trusting your employees to make the right decisions. So much so that Richard Branson of Virgin airlines incorporated the same philosophy.
"It is left to the employee to decide if and when he or she feels like taking a few hours, a day, a week or a month off, the assumption being that they are only going to do it when they feel a hundred percent comfortable ... that their absence will not in any way damage the business - or, for that matter, their careers!" Branson wrote in an excerpt from his new book,
The Virgin Way
, published on Virgin's blog.
Here are some words of wisdom from
, Chair and CEO of Deloitte Consulting, that he got from a partner at his firm. The partner told him that "as a senior leader, you can't control the day-to-day all that much, whether you're in the office or on vacation. The decisions and strategy you set a year ago are what really dictate daily results. The only people who can really determine how things work in the near-term are the managers closest to clients and daily operations. If that's not you, stop worrying and start trusting."
"If you've done your job right, you've hired the right senior leaders and given them the direction and resources to do that work well. If you didn't do that by the time you got on the plane for your vacation, a few emails from the beach or the links won't do the trick."
"If you really unplug, you will start thinking about the long term, strategic issues, and what we have to do to be successful over the 9-to-24-month period, and that is essential."
"A true leader steps back, trusts his or her people, and allows them to succeed. By taking a break from the day-to-day operations, not only was I spending some much-needed time with my family, but also I was able to focus on the bigger picture of where we were and where our business was heading."
While not all companies are adopting the unlimited vacation policy, insurance companies are trying to boost their wellness programs in getting their employees and policy holders to take better care of their health. Last year,
John Hancock Financial
started a first-of-its-kind program called "Vitality Healthy Food" that will give life-insurance policyholders cash back when they buy healthy food at approximately 70 participating grocery stores such as Wal-Mart, Stop & Shop, Wegman's and Roche Bros. Part of the Vitality Wellness Program, it enables policyholders to track exercise and doctors visits and earn points that can be redeemed for discounts on insurance premiums and rewards and discounts on food items.
John Hancock's aim is to encourage its policyholders to improve their diets, thus helping them to live longer and cut down on the insurance benefits it has to pay out, according to
, senior vice president of marketing and strategy. "Every company says its interests are aligned with customers. In terms of life insurance and its customers, we are perfectly aligned to see our customers live a long, healthy life," he said.
Mark Bertolini, head of Aetna, a U.S. health insurance company, recently introduced a program that pays employees who get seven or more hours of sleep a night on a regular basis. This CEO believes that employees who get 7+ hours of sleep/night will in turn increase productivity.
"If they can prove they get 20 nights of sleep for seven hours or more in a row, we will give them $US25 a night, up to $US500 a year," said
CNBC's Squawk Box program
"Mr Bertolini believes there is a direct link between sleep, employee productivity and increased company profits. He claims his employees improved their productivity by 69 extra minutes per month, as a result of the company investing in wellness and mindfulness."
""If we can make ... business fundamentals better by investing in our people, then that's going to show up in our revenue. It's going to show up in our bottom line and [Wall] Street's confidence that we can do it quarter, after quarter, after quarter; year after year.""
"We are now in this amazing transition period where more and more companies are beginning to realize that living like that and working like that has actually terrible consequences - not just on the health and productivity of their employees but also on their bottom line," said Arianna Huffington in an NPR interview with Mark Bertolini. "We hear employees being congratulated for working 24/7, which now we know is the cognitive equivalent of coming to work drunk. But it's changing."