Time away is like aspirin for wellness, it only works if you take it


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This is a draft excerpt from the upcoming book, What’s Your Green Goldfish? Beyond Dollars: 15 Ways to Create Employee Loyalty and Reinforce Culture

1st inchOnboarding

2nd inchFood & Beverage, Shelter / Space, Transparency / Openness

3rd inchWellness

The third INCH (continued)

The third inch on the 9 INCH journey to the heart of your employees involves Time Away from the office.

It Matters

A recent survey polled over 200 employees from 98 companies to find out what rewards they valued the most,

Across all ages and cultures, time off was absolutely number one,” according to Cindy Ventrice, author of Make Their Day! Employee Recognition that Works.

Time away from the office is not only valued by employees, its regenerative.

Like Aspirin

An old boss of mine used to mandate that we took all of our vacation days. In Dave’s opinion, time away was like aspirin . . . they only work if you actually take them.

Let’s look at a Baker’s Dozen of companies who place an emphasis on enabling employees to take time away from the office:

Paid, Paid Vacation


The CEO of Denver-based internet start-up FullContact API (#19) said in a market that is competitive for top talent, he wants to keep his employees happy and refreshed. The flip-flop wearing founder offers his employees $7,500 for what he calls “paid, paid vacation,” however there are rules. “One, you actually have to take a vacation to get the money,” Lorang said. “Two, you have to disconnect from work, so that means no calls, no emails, no tweets, no work of any kind.” Even Lorang admitted he has trouble following his rules. “I suck at it,” he said. He has a picture with his fiancee Sarah at Egypt’s great pyramids. Lorang is checking his email in the shot. Not surprisingly, employees said they loved having the company pick up the tab for their vacations.

It’s a real break for your brain. You come back refreshed and reinvigorated and more excited about the stuff you were working on when you left.” said Robbie Jack, a FullContact API employee. (Source: Yahoo.com)

Evernote green goldfish vacation #81

Taken from an NY Times interview by Adam Bryant with CEO Phil Libin:

In the words of Phil,

We recently changed our vacation policy [at Evernote #81] to give people unlimited vacation, so they can take as much time as they want, as long as they get their job done. If you want to take time off, talk to your team, but we’re still measuring you on the same thing, which is, did you accomplish something great? Frankly, we want to treat employees like adults, and we don’t want being in the office to seem like a punishment. We always try to ask whether a particular policy exists because it’s a default piece of corporate stupidity that everyone expects you to have, or does it actually help you accomplish something? And very often you realize that you don’t really know why you’re doing it this way, so we just stop doing it.

Question: Is the unlimited vacation policy working?

So far. We had to modify it slightly because one of the first things I started worrying about is whether people would actually take less vacation. I don’t want people not to take any vacation because that’s just bad for them, and it’s bad for me. You’re not going to get a lot of work out of someone if they haven’t taken a vacation in a while. So we started rewarding people for taking at least a week at a time on a real trip by giving them $1,000 spending money. That seems to be going well. (Source: NY Times)

Milestone Rewards

Passport required for this benefit. New Belgium Brewery (#392) rewards employees with a trip to Belgium with cofounder Kim Jordan on their 5th anniversary.

Seven Wonders of the World

Employees at the consulting firm Mark G. Anderson (#273) enjoy an all expense paid trip to one of the Seven Wonders of the World for their ten-year anniversary. (Source: Washingtonian Magazine)

This UK IT hosting provider UKFast (#421) provides a holiday allowance from 20 to 30 days. In the case of wedding bells in a given year, newlyweds get five extra days. (Source: The Sunday Times)

Employees at Element212 (#777) get three weeks vacation to start and their wedding anniversary day off. (Source: Todd Rimer)

If unlimited vacation is not incentive enough, after five years of working for Red Frog Events (#796), employees are rewarded for their loyalty with a four-week, full-paid trip to Africa, Asia, Europe or South America for them and a friend. It’s no wonder they only hire one in every 750 applicants who apply to work there. (Source: TheGlobeandMail.com)


Bain & Company (#715) offers several opportunities for employees to take a break from demanding roles to help them sustain long-term careers at Bain. These include externships, in which employees can enrich their business knowledge by taking up to 6 months to work for another company, and leaves of absence. (Source: PR News Online)

Bank of Canada (#683) allows employees to work on exchange with other central banks and finance organizations. (Source: eluta.ca)

Employees at the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (#684) can apply to take an unpaid leave of absence, extended unpaid education leaves of absence, and even a self-funded leave of absence so employees can enjoy additional time-off with pay. (Source: eluta.ca)



Kimpton (#6) is in the business of pampering guests, and it doesn’t skimp on its staff, either. The San Francisco-based operator of 55 luxury boutique hotels—including three in Manhattan—provides one-month paid sabbaticals to managers and executive chefs who have been with the company for seven years. (Source: CrainsNewYork.com)

Employees at New York, NY-based Deloitte (#197) don’t have to sacrifice their life’s dream for their careers because they enjoy the benefit of sabbatical leave. Deloitte offers four unpaid weeks off to do whatever they wish, and three to six months (yes, months) of partially paid leave to volunteer or pursue a career-enhancing opportunity. (Source: Salary.com)

Every seven years, designer Stefan Sagmeister closes his New York studio (#461) for a year long sabbatical to rejuvenate and refresh their creative outlook. He believes the value of time off is often overlooked. (Source: TedTalk)

Morningstar (#80) employees are eligible for generous sabbaticals. Six weeks paid time off every four years. In addition, employees can “take as much time as they want” for vacation. Rather than seeing that as a perk, employees were confused and tended not to take enough time. Now, the company specifies that the open vacation policy means at least three weeks off. (Source: TheDailyFinance.com)

The Alcool NB Liquor (#676) offers a self-funded leave program that lets employees defer a portion of their salary and take extended time off for up to one year with pay. (Source: ChicagoBusiness.com)

Generous Allowances

kpmg green goldfish vacation

Right out of the gate, KPMG (#125) offers five weeks off in year one of employment. (Source: TheCareerRevolution.com)

Twenty-five vacation days from Strava (#397) right from jump street.

Media Temple (#216) is a web hosting and software application services company. After only your third year of service, you are eligible to take a full month of paid vacation to renew and rejuvenate efforts. (Source: Los Angeles Business Journal)

The biodmedical software provider 5AM Solutions (#254) offers eight weeks of vacation after ten years of service, the ability to telecommute at least once a week, and three paid days a year to volunteer. (Source: Washingtonian Magazine)

Today’s Lagniappe (a little something extra thrown in for good measure) – Here is a great Slideshare by CEO Reed Hastings on the culture of Netflix. Since 2004 the company has offered employees unlimited vacation (Slide 65). Part of an interesting approach of empowering freedom and responsibility by diminishing process:

All of the examples in this post were taken from the Green Goldfish Project. The Project is a quest to find 1,001 examples of marketing lagniappe for employees. Green goldfish are the little signature extras given to employees. They help differentiate a company, reinforce culture, increase retention and drive positive WoM. The book, “What’s Your Green Goldfish?” will be published on March 29, 2013.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Stan Phelps
Stan Phelps is the Chief Measurement Officer at 9 INCH marketing. 9 INCH helps organizations develop custom solutions around both customer and employee experience. Stan believes the 'longest and hardest nine inches' in marketing is the distance between the brain and the heart of your customer. He is the author of Purple Goldfish, Green Goldfish and Golden Goldfish.


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