A CEO who gives his employees $2,000 to go on vacation says people are more productive than ever
Milla DeynPublished in December 2020 / Updated in December 2020
A happy worker is a productive one. Keep that in mind if you’re running a business, and here’s all the proof you ever needed.
Mark Douglas, CEO of SteelHouse marketing and advertising firm, recognized that his workers deserve vacations, so he’s giving them 2000 dollars each year to take a break. But it’s not just paid vacations since this company truly wants you to be happy and healthy. Why? To make even more money based on your productivity, which seems fair enough.
Encouraging employees to take vacations
Douglas started SteelHouse in 2010. He realized that employees not only need to be given paid time off, but they need to be actively encouraged to take it.
His solution, though simple, seems too good to be true. The workers get unlimited vacation plus 2000 dollars each year.
Here’s how Douglas explained his management philosophy to the Business Insider. :
“If you have a caged lion that was born in captivity, and then you open the cage, they back up more into the cage. They don’t start running free,”
“When we first started telling people they had an unlimited vacation, they didn’t even know how to interpret that.”
Once the workers started taking vacations, productivity, and workplace satisfaction went up. People don’t leave this company; in fact, employees’ turnover rate is incredibly low, around 98%. Those who leave do it for other reasons, not because they found a better job.
The Travel Stipend Based on Trust
Douglas is on a quest to make his employees, most under 30, to achieve the perfect work-life balance. He hopes that one day when his workers become CEOs or managers, they’ll do the same for the new generations.
How does this whole thing work? First, you buy a ticket, and the next business day, you get a refund. Once you’re back from your trip, you submit your expenses to be paid up to the $2000 limit.
If you can’t afford the destination of your choice, you put it on the company credit card, and the money will be “removed” from your travel budget.
The whole thing seems to be working smoothly, and Douglas seems to understand human nature more than other CEOs. He stated:
“It’s one thing to say ‘You have three weeks vacation,’ like most companies do. It’s another thing to say, ‘You have cash, and if you don’t go on vacation and spend this money, the money literally goes to waste.’ It’s another level of saying this is real.”
He’s pushing his workers to get more free time and to enjoy themselves. How cool is that?
Other SteelHouse Employee Benefits
Apart from having a CEO who cares about your life, and mental well-being, and a paid vacation, those who work for SteelHouse also get:
Flexible spending accounts
100% healthcare coverage
The company-wide 3-day weekend every month
$500 contribution to Acorns portfolio
Fully-stocked kitchen, outdoor bbq, food trucks
Outdoor dog park (in Los Angeles area)
A free laptop (after six months of employment)
Custom in-office brewery
Weekly fitness classes
Sadly, the vast majority of Americans will never experience anything similar to this working environment. The biggest companies are often under fire for exploiting their workers, yet no one can do a thing.
American dream or toxic work culture?
Not only that Americans work more than Europeans, but there’s a common misconception that taking time off is a sign of weakness.
Companies don’t talk about vacations, and they often discourage their workers from having a life outside the office. At the same time, the employees are scared about their workload post-vacation, and they are pressured into thinking that the company will fall apart if they take time off.
The toxic business culture gives American workers 16 days of vacation, on average. Some get none. The laws are behind this mess: American employers aren’t required to give you any paid vacation time at all.
The rest of the world sees Americans as workaholics for a good reason: 52% of US citizens never take vacations. About 708 million vacation days go to waste every single year.
How does it compare to European countries?
For example, in Austria, workers have, on average, 25 paid vacation days, plus 13 days for holidays. If you’ve been working in the same company for 25+ years, you get 30 paid vacation days.
In the UK, you get 28 days of paid vacation, but no paid holidays are required. The situation in Estonia is, on average, a bit better. The workers get 20 days of paid leave, plus 11 days for holidays.
Finally, France, Finland, Germany, Spain, Denmark, and the UAE get 30 days, not including public holidays.
Your vacation days are highly beneficial
That whole yuppie image from Wall Street, which was celebrated in the 80s, belongs to history. Your vacation, as well as your days off, will affect productivity, and overall health, in the best possible way.
If you’re a senior leader, you’re giving younger ones a chance to be more creative and become problem solvers.
CEOs show that they trust their employees by letting them show their capabilities, build skills, and gain confidence.
As a manager, the more you encourage workers to take vacations, the more they’ll show their gratitude by improving their skills and productivity.
More than anything, time off has numerous health benefits. Some of them are:
When you consider all things, whether you’re upper or lower management, a mailman, or someone about to retire, taking time off will make working more humane.
Less stress will provide a healthier heart and better sleep. Relaxing promotes happiness, and when your work-life balance is satisfying, you will be a better worker. As you contribute more to the company, you will be earning more than you spent on that one vacation per year.
SteelHouse and many European companies, who put their workers’ well-being first, should become the norm. Show your employees that you care, and you’ll soon see significant improvements in their work.