News & Views
Perks and pre-cations

Last week, Richard Branson unveiled his latest ploy to keep the staff of his empire happy and motivated: unlimited paid leave days. He was reportedly inspired by Netflix, whose holiday policy has been in place for years. Cynics might point out that there is a risk that some (or many) will take liberties with the new rule – but Branson, known for shirking traditional business models, trusts that his entire workforce won’t be jetting off to the Bahamas en masse:

“It is left to the employee alone 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 they and their team are up to date on every project and that their absence will not in any way damage the business – or, for that matter, their careers!”

In the tech world, this approach to personnel management is more commonplace than elsewhere, with Tumblr and Foursquare sharing a similar policy. And some start-ups are going even further, offering paid vacation to employees before they join the company; it’s called a pre-cation.

Jason Freedman, CEO of commercial property search engine 42Floors, recently told Slate that he was eager to secure a candidate, but didn’t want to bring anyone into the company who was still suffering from burnout from their last role. So he actually made a two week vacation part of the deal – and surprise surprise, the candidate snapped it up.

“The day they get their offer letter, it’s kind of like Christmas morning, in that they have a new job and they’ve already thought through the vacation they’re about to go on,” says Freedman. “We have a guy who’s about to start next week, and he’s in Thailand right now. It’s like, ‘Yeah, have a great time! And when you get back here, work your ass off.’”

And now the pre-cation is taking off in Silicon Valley. “We want people to bring their best every day, and we want them here for the long haul,” says Jeff Diana, from enterprise software company Atlassian. “Changing jobs is an important shift, and we want to give people time to recharge, spend some time with family. Because once you start a new job, you kind of jump all in.”


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