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Would You Take $7,500 Bucks to Go on Vacation If You Had to Totally Unplug?

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A guest post by Claire D. Ratushny.

Are we over-communicating? Too accessible? Too on-call? Working too many hours? Bart Lorang, the principal officer of software company FullContact, thinks so, and he decided to do something about it. The company is offering to pay employees $7,500 a pop to take a vacation. Why $7,500? The company figures that’s a good number for a family of four to take a decent vacation.

So, what’s the catch?

FullContact will shell out the dough to employees if they do three things. First, they must go on vacation. Secondly, they have to totally disconnect---no cell phones, Blackberries, nor iPads allowed. Just think: no phone calls, no emails! Lastly, work is not allowed. Not one little tiny bit of work can be done.

Does it all sound too easy? Think again. In this 24/7 world where we’re available all of the time, unplugging from work is easier said than done. Think about it: Could you take a week off—or more—and unplug completely? It’s harder to do than it sounds.

What’s Lorang’s point in doing this?

Cynics say that in the uber-competitive world of software providers, paying employees $7,500 to go on vacation is really just a publicity stunt. After all, this announcement has generated a lot of buzz in cyberspace. When put on the spot in an interview, though, Lorang made a few simple points, and I have to say, he sounded sincere. He also made a lot of sense.

Lorang's points are...

  • Employees are happier and healthier when they take vacations to reenergize.

  • Employees who are happy, healthy, and rested are more productive.

  • Productive employees who are happy and healthy reward companies with higher retention.

  • Companies make sure to pair employees, so that other team members can ably cover and service the customer without lapse during vacation absences.

The PR that this move generated doesn’t hurt the company’s chances to gain a competitive edge either. Lorang pointed out that software businesses are competing furiously for talent; there’s a shortage of great software engineering talent out there with the most advanced skill sets. Given the PR, would job seekers choose Company XYZ with an unknown C-suite and culture, or FullContact, a company that treats their employees like human beings rather than mere units of production? I think we know the answer to that one. By the way, Lorang says he’s looking to hire about a dozen new employees in the next few months... What are his chances of hiring over competitors now?

What does this have to do with running a business? And marketing? Everything. Not to mention brand-building. Culture building. Storytelling. PR. How about social media? The Lorang interview that I caught on a cable business show wouldn’t have happened had the news of Lorang's offer to employees not gone viral. It spread like wildfire on the Internet and, as Lorang noted, it wasn’t just because of the cash he’s offering. The whole idea of unplugging from all of our communication devices from time to time is also being hotly debated.

Some questions to ponder are...

  • Is this move on the part of FullContact altruistic? Calculated and self-serving? Or both?

  • Do you agree that this initiative is a business and brand builder for FullContact---or do you have a different perspective?

  • Would you be more likely to seek out a company like FullContact and stay there for a long time, or would you still move to another company for more money or a promotion?

  • Could you unplug for a week or more? Or would you grin and bear it for $7,500 bucks and a free vacation? (C’mon: be honest.)

I look forward to reading your comments.

Claire Ratushny provides outsource content marketing and PR services for businesses. She blogs on her website @

(Photo courtesy of Bigstock: Man Unplugged)

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  • by AnnMarie Wed Aug 22, 2012 via blog

    I am capable of completely disconnecting. There's nothing better than leaving work at work and home is home. It creates balance. You are healthier, happier, and less stressed out. It does make you more productive providing the work environment is non-toxic, non-abusive and the break just lets you detox. Studies have proven that two weeks lets you truly unwind. In order to really benefit you need three weeks off in a row. America does it wrong with time off. We seem to think as a country the more time spent at work the more productive you are. WRONG. When you streamline operations, do things in a detailed way, do not all peoples controlling issues or egos in the picture things are productive. It's how much you do in the 8 hours you have not how much time you spend at your job. Americans need at least 4 weeks off no matter where you are in the company. Companies need to close down between christmas and new years, give us 5 sick and 5 personal days. Work weeks need to be cut down to 30 or 35 hours a week. No one is truly busy all 40 hours a week. That's a myth.

  • by Burhan Wed Aug 22, 2012 via blog

    I believe that any move towards caring for your employees leads to positive results even if it is altruistic or not. Employees are the backbone of the company (customers are important but they only get the treatment depending on the condition of the employees - try going to a McDonalds and then compare it to a Family Restaurant).

    By offering employees a break from work, it would only lead long term positive results and more companies should realize that Brands can only grow stronger by concentrating on their employees needs as they become advocates in the industry and are the face to the customers and clients as well (Moment of Truth I believe Jan Carlzon called it)

  • by Paul Barsch Wed Aug 22, 2012 via blog

    Hi Claire - provocative topic! I must admit that in the go-go Silicon Valley days, I chose one company to work for because they would annually take the whole company to Maui, spending several million dollars to do so. Sadly, the one year I worked there was the last year of Hawaii trips as the dot-com era imploded. But it was fun while it lasted.

    There is something to this idea of recharging by removing all the stimulus in our lives. I admit that for me it would be easy to remove mobile and internet for a week. But were I to do so, it would have to be during the NFL off-season because I couldn't live without my Denver Broncos!

  • by Vera Wed Aug 22, 2012 via blog

    I think it's beneficial to both the employee and the employer. Yes, this company gets the benefit of media attention, just like anyone else who is first in the market with a new concept. The true benefits will be borne out over time and we will have to see if other businesses sign on.

    We all need to unplug a little more often, even if it's for a day. I recently went on the first two-week vacation of my working life (!!!) and was unplugged. I rented a global phone for emergencies -- since payphones are no longer part of life -- and did no work the entire trip. I was able to fully enjoy meals, experiences, and views and returned with new perspective and a clearer mind.

    I'm certainly happier than I was before I left and will hopefully be more productive!

  • by Jeanne Wed Aug 22, 2012 via blog

    I lived in Europe for many years and enjoyed four week plus vacations - that you HAD to take, plus generous sick and maternity leave (9 months maternity at full pay AND your job back when you returned).

    These benefits were available to all employees and creativity, productivity and burn-out were seldom a problem. It was great to take three or four weeks off at a time and come back rested, recharged and full of new ideas. Everyone benefited.

    I would turn off my cell phone and unplug my devices in a heartbeat to get that opportunity again.

  • by Amy Fowler Wed Aug 22, 2012 via blog

    I always do this when I go on holiday.

    Well, I do go on the internet a few times - but it'd be no big deal for me not to. My phone disappears entirely.

    The only real piece of technology I use is my Kindle, which I assume this deal would allow.

    Can't understand why anyone would object to this. Particularly if it's your employer that's telling you to do it.

  • by Claire Ratushny Wed Aug 22, 2012 via blog

    Agreed, AnnMarie. We do need to disconnect and achieve balance in our lives to be happy. It's tougher to do these days, it seems. We're always packing more into our days. People need time off to refresh themselves and I do believe we're more productive when we do. I can't remember the last time I was able to take a two week vacation. It's been eons. Maybe it's time! I personally don't have a beef with a 40 hour work week but I do believe we need to truly observe holiday breaks and vacation time to recharge our batteries and be "unavailable" for work related issues during those times. Thanks for adding well-thought-out insights to my post, AnnMarie.

  • by Claire Ratushny Wed Aug 22, 2012 via blog

    You said some important things, Burhan, and I couldn't agree more. Love this: "Employees are the backbone of the company" and they do represent their brands to customers. Being treated as human beings, not merely units of production, matters. Thanks for adding this important dimension to the discussion.

  • by Claire Ratushny Wed Aug 22, 2012 via blog

    Wow, how cool is that? Who wouldn't love to work for a company like yours, Paul? I've never had this experience although my husband had a very generous boss once who did the same thing. We had company-paid vacations in places like Key West for several days. People don't forget companies like that. Love the comment about being able to let go of the cell phone and iPad for a week, but um, no, I can't because NFL season is about to start and who can miss a game when my favorite team is playing? I hear you. For me it's the NE Patriots and I'm a pretty rabid fan, I must admit. Thanks for sharing your observations, Paul.

  • by Claire Ratushny Wed Aug 22, 2012 via blog

    You're so right, Vera. What refreshes employees; makes them happier and more focused is a great benefit for them and for their employers in the long run. Good for you! Hope you went someplace awesome like Tahiti. I remember being totally out of touch for a trip to Egypt in 2010 and only used the global phone a couple of times. It was awesome! Thanks for bringing back such pleasant memories, Vera.

  • by Claire Ratushny Wed Aug 22, 2012 via blog

    This has been common practice in Europe for a long time, Jeanne. I know what you mean. But with most of Europe's struggling economy, I'm not sure how much longer this will be the norm. Having said that, we're super productive on this side of the puddle as it is and we need to find the balance and take more time off rather than less, which has been the trend. We need to unplug once in a while--even for a day--as Vera suggested. I think we'd all be happier. Thanks, Jeanne.

  • by Tom Wed Aug 22, 2012 via blog

    I commend FullContact for awarding their employees this type of benefit. When the offer is genuine and employees have the balance and supporting infrastructure to act on the offer, the entire workforce is transformed, employees more fulfilled and productive. We give our employees the freedom to unplug at The M Group and we see people come back to work refreshed and having new perspective both for their life and work. More companies should strive to foster a workforce that encourages life outside of work.

  • by David Lemley Wed Aug 22, 2012 via blog


    We live in a culture that has hypnotized us into thinking that we must be connected to be relevant.

    I side with Ann Marie (above) in that human beings need time to recharge and being unplugged is the best way. People who work insane hours are not as productive as a well organized machine. When I was working with a team of 70+ people on one of the largest global brand repositioning projects of this decade, there were only 3 nights in 100 where approximately 5-6 people worked overtime.

    I know that people are looking at companies/employers who add value and meaning to their lives beyond the paycheck. The great ones have plenty of options. Today, a thoughtful, human-centered policy around work-life balance is an essential brand building tool for the modern world.

  • by Claire Ratushny Wed Aug 22, 2012 via blog

    It's hard for most people to disconnect entirely, isn't it? I love what you said, Amy. How relaxing it is to take out the Kindle and do some reading rather than emailing, texting and doing all of the things we do every day--just once in a while. Especially on vacations. Ahhhhh

  • by Claire Ratushny Wed Aug 22, 2012 via blog

    I agree that this action is commendable, Tom. Loved your last sentence, too: "More companies should strive to foster a workplace that encourages life outside of work." Small companies don't even need to make the grand gestures that companies like FullContact made if it's beyond their financial capability. Little things: an occasional personal day with pay, getting a birthday off, etc, would be unexpected pleasures for employees. But you're right: it's important to put infrastructure in place to cover adequately for employee absences, regardless the reasons why people are out of the office. Customers need to be properly serviced while employees are away. Thanks, Tom, for your insights.

  • by Claire Ratushny Wed Aug 22, 2012 via blog

    I like your thinking, David. We all expect to put in some overtime on demanding projects from time to time, but it shouldn't be all of the time. Some companies are running so "lean and mean" since the recession of 2008 that fewer people have to continue to do more all of the time. That isn't good; it's the reason for high burn-out in some businesses. Love your last line and agree completely. Businesses need to strive to institute policies that enable employees to find the all-important balance between work and personal life. Thanks for your observations, David.

  • by Jill Thu Aug 23, 2012 via blog

    I recently spent 10 days cruising in the South Pacific. I switched the mobile phone off when I left Sydney harbour and didn't give it a second thought for the entire trip. I set up a polite automated response telling everyone who emailed me or called that I was taking a break and unable to be contacted. No lives were lost as a result! It does you the world of good to disconnect for a while.

  • by Darije Djokich M.D. Thu Aug 23, 2012 via blog

    That the productivity is higher with appropriate Rest&Recovery has been a proven fact for centuries - RR is actually a military term, funny how that notion has been lost in some cultures (namely the US work philosophy). And to RR properly not only one has to unplug electronically, one has to unplug mentally too. Since that cannot be done on a flip-of-switch but it takes a couple of days to happen (and a couple of days before returning to work one is already plugging-in mentally), actually a one week vacation is not e real rest: it takes at least a TWO WEEKS work absence to rest for a week.
    Also, it seems from the discussion above that some do not have a proper understanding of the term "productivity": how much You produce in absolute terms is "volume of production", while "productivity" is a relative term, it is how much You do with what effort (in time and material applied). Thus more productive is the one that does the same amount of something with less applied or more with the same applied; those that do more with more applied are just producing more but are not more productive. Example: what European nation is working the most hours weekly? One would have problems guessing, it is the Greeks! And the ones working among the least? The Norwegians (25% less than the Greeks); yet by the working hour the Norwegians produce three times (!) more than the Greeks. Now guess who is more productive and whose economy is in better shape. And yes, the Norwegians have labour rights covering vacations that the US can only dream about.

  • by Claire Ratushny Thu Aug 23, 2012 via blog

    Mmmm, fantastic, Jill. Sounds like a dream vacation. You're right: we have to prove to ourselves that life goes on if we disconnect for a while. It's great for our mental and physical health to take a total break every so often. Good for you.

  • by Claire Ratushny Thu Aug 23, 2012 via blog

    Interesting discussion on production and productivity, Darije. It sounds as though you've really studied this. I suspect that cultural differences play a large role in productivity and the sheer amount of production and you might speak to that, as well. You may be right in saying that it takes two weeks rather than one since it takes time to unplug mentally and then time to ramp up to go back to work again. Unfortunately, in this harried world, I see people taking fewer vacation days than ever. We need to reset our thinking, it seems. Thanks, Darije, for sharing another perspective on this issue.

  • by Ryan Mon Aug 27, 2012 via blog

    I'd gladly take $7,500 to go on vacation and unplug. I just got back from a week down in the Smoky Mountains. I took my laptop thinking we were going to have wi-fi. Turned out we didn't. It was fine with me. My cell phone battery also went dead and I kept forgetting to plug it in. After a day or so, I didn't even worry about it. It felt nice to be unplugged for a few days.

    All I have to say is who cares if this company is doing it for them or the employees? The employees are going to benefit from it regardless and who cares if the company gets a little press? I'd gladly work for a company like this. I can't tell you how much I'm approaching burn out at my company where I don't have vacation or sick days and where we're rarely closed except for main holidays. I'd give anything for a week or two off paid. Where can I apply? :-)

  • by Claire Ratushny Tue Aug 28, 2012 via blog

    Sometimes life's little inconveniences end up becoming a blessing in disguise, right, Ryan? What's cool is that you realized it was actually a good thing to be unplugged for a few days when your laptop and cell phone couldn't be used. Agreed: it's great when companies like FullContact do this for their employees. To be fair, some companies don't have the resources to do this, otherwise I'm sure more would. Still others are struggling in this sluggish economy and they can't even offer paid vacations, sick days and the like. Let's hope the economy improves so that companies can stop sweating making payroll and start focusing more on employee well-being. In the long run, happy employees produce and retention isn't a bad thing, either. Thanks for weighing in, Ryan. I enjoyed reading your comments.

  • by Reggie Dover Sun Sep 2, 2012 via blog

    $7500? I would take this in a heartbeat. It seems like we are drifting further away from the true purpose of the limited window of time we have each year to escape from our offices. I will purposely choose vacation spots that have no wireless access, just to remove any tempation for me and my wife. Granted, these spots are becoming fewer and farther between (Thank goodness for the Olympic National Forest, though). I admit the first day on a vaction can give a few withdrawal pains, but nothing beats that clean slate feeling you can get from completely detaching electronically.

  • by Claire Ratushny Tue Sep 4, 2012 via blog

    I'm with you, Reggie. I'd take the money and run away without any electronics gladly for a few days. Life is more complicated and busier than ever, it seems. I agree with you: it's hard to truly get away from it all and there's always the temptation to reconnect due to accessibility. Thanks for reminding us that in the end, we can totally refresh ourselves and renew our purpose and focus if we totally disconnect and rest the body, mind and spirit.

  • by Tinu Sat Sep 15, 2012 via blog

    I'd go without ELECTRICITY for a chance to properly unplug. Last year during a trip to visit family in Africa, I had to, unexpectedly. During that visit we were not only without devices that worked, we were often without electricity for hours. There was nothing to do but relax, reflect, and *gasp* talk to each other.

    And I lost a client when I literally could not connect, for the first time in years (yes, I warned them beforehand and had a plan). Oh but I got my life back. Life went on without me and was still there when I returned.

    If the leadership at this company knows what a fully restful experience that is and how stress reduces health care costs and employees taking leave, that $7500 probably ends up being a bargain to them.

  • by Claire Ratushny Mon Sep 17, 2012 via blog

    Loved your comments, Tinu. I'm sorry to see that you lost a client during the time you weren't able to connect, but glad that you were able to reconnect meaningfully with your family. It sounds as though you were also able to refresh in a holistic way--body, mind and spirit. To me, that's priceless. I'd also like to comment on another point you made so artfully when you stated, "There was nothing to do but relax, reflect and *gasp* talk to each other." So many times, I've observed people who are together yet not together. For example, how many times have people been at lunch together when one party takes a phone call that isn't an emergency, talking for a lengthy period of time when their friends sit silently by and eat alone? Ditto when young people at a family meal sit and text the entire time and don't speak to anyone around the table? By being available all of the time, are we really connecting more, or is the reverse true? Are we engaging in conversations that can wait so that our personal lives are given more time and attention? Those are my questions. Where's the balance? Thanks, Tinu, for your insights and for bringing this point up.

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