You’d expect it to be good for morale, but apparently it’s also good for business: Some companies are insisting—even forcing—their employees to take time off.
One is Quirky, a New York startup that closes down one week during each of the year’s first three quarters. CEO Ben Kaufman told Business Insider that his employees tend to work in 90-day sprints, during which pressure slowly builds, “culminating in an extremely stressful and magically productive final 2-3 weeks of a calendar quarter.” BI says knowing the breaks are coming works to “keep the intensity of this cycle going” as the business grows.
There’s more: In addition to getting those three scheduled weeks off, Quirky’s employees can take advantage of its unlimited vacation policy—as long as their work gets done.
Though the idea of mandatory vacation isn’t what we’d call mainstream, Quirky’s not alone in its efforts to encourage its workers to take time off. Netflix and Evernote have open vacation policies, and in 2012 the contact management software company FullContact went so far as to offer employees $7,500 to go away for a week.
Part of all this is driven by a growing recognition that workers who don’t take time off are less productive. A 2012 survey of 2,500 U.S. workers found that 57 percent of salaried employees don’t use all of their vacation time. But according to Cary Cooper, professor of organizational psychology and health at the UK’s Lancaster University, other research demonstrates that those who consistently work more than 40 hours a week are prone to getting sick, having family troubles and becoming less productive.
Obviously, companies want their employees to be productive. Evernote encourages its workers to take vacations by giving them $1,000 spending money when they do. “We’re not trying to be trendy or the most fun place to work,” CEO Phil Libin said in Forbes. “We hire people who want to work and be productive, so our job is to eliminate obstacles that may limit that work.”
Kicking in extra money to encourage vacations has another effect, as well: It helps combat the idea that truly dedicated employees stay connected when they’re supposed to be away. At FullContact, that $7,500 came with a big string attached: You have to completely disconnect.
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