Paying Employees to go on Vacation? Yup. It's a Thing.

What if your company paid you an additional $1,000 to take a vacation -- yes, on top of your already paid vacation time? Sounds too good to be true, but to encourage better work-life balance, some companies -- like Basecamp, Buffer, and Evernote -- are offering such generous incentives.

North America is a breeding ground for burnout. In fact, a recent study showed that 90% of working Millennials would prefer to take a vacation over a pay raise. If those figures are indeed true, it might make sense to allocate funds reserved for bonuses to something like a vacation fund instead.

Let's explore that idea.

The standard vacation time in the US today is a measly two weeks, but many workers aren't even taking that much time off. In fact, 42% of Americans didn’t take any vacation days in 2014, according to Skift.

The repercussions of skimping on holidays are not just felt by tired employees -- the entire company is impacted if people become unproductive, depressed, or lose enthusiasm for the job. 

To counteract this and ensure employees take sufficient time off, some audacious companies are actually paying their employees to take time off through vacation stipends. 

Basecamp, for example, offers three weeks of paid vacation, and also covers the costs of an annual trip for employees who've been with them for over a year. (They also offer 4-day work weeks from May through August, a live and work wherever you want policy, and 1-month sabbatical every three years to thwart burnout.) 

For the last three years in a row, we’ve worked with a professional travel agent to prepare a buffet of travel packages that employees could pick from as a holiday gift. Everything paid for and included. Having it be specific, pre-arranged trips — whether for a family to go to Disneyland or a couple to tour Spain — has helped make sure people actually take their vacations.
— the Basecamp blog

As Jason Fried, BaseCamp's CEO, told the Huffington Post, "We want you to take vacation. Please get out of here!" 

Another company offering paid paid time off (in addition to unlimited vacation) is Evernote, which offers "an annual $1,000 bonus for five or more business days in a row spent out of the office" -- and, as the Washington Post explained, "if you don't take a solid week off, you lose the bonus."  

In an on-brand move, Airbnb offers a $2,000 annual stipend to stay at any Airbnb listings around the world. This incentive is a great cultural alignment, turns employees into passionate brand ambassadors, and gives employees a chance to reset as they experience the company's "belong anywhere" mission firsthand.

Similarly, Afar, an SF-based travel magazine, offers a $2,000 annual vacation stipend to go anywhere they haven't been, then write about it on their website. Talk about a travel junkie's dream job.

Taking vacation stipends to yet another level is FullContact, a Denver-based tech company that offers a minimum 3 weeks vacation, along with a $7,500 annual vacation bonuses. As early pioneers of vacation stipends, FullContact first began offering the perk in 2012, as explained in this blog post by CEO and Co-Founder Bart Lorang.

There are just three rules, Lorang explained: "No checking work emails, texts, or calls. No working, period. You have to actually go on vacation or you don't get the money." 

A framed photo at the FullContact HQ of Lorang acts as reminder to actually get off the grid once in a while.

A framed photo at the FullContact HQ of Lorang acts as reminder to actually get off the grid once in a while.

Before implementing the policy, Lorang discussed the concept with notable entrepreneur turned VC Brad Feld, who strongly endorsed it. 

"I love the Paid Paid Vacation concept and totally agree with it," Feld said. "A lot of people won’t spend the money because they don’t have it or think they’ll be happier if they save it. But they miss the value of disconnecting."

Do you offer paid paid time off at your company, or would you consider it? We'd love to hear your candid opinions on why or why