Helping the Chronically Overworked Find Life Balance

Five Reasons To Offer Two Weeks Pre’cation Before the Start Date

Rocking Chair Crayon Box by Andrew Morrell Via Flickr CC

Rocking Chair Crayon Box by Andrew Morrell Via Flickr CC

Recently I published a post on the Pre’cation, the most innovative employee benefit I have seen in years. The pre’cation offers employees two weeks paid vacation before the start date. My post on the Pre’cation stirred up a serious debate on LinkedIn.

Any company that is serious about building a long term relationship with employees should consider offering a pre’cation; not as a feel good measure, but as a serious business investment. Here are 5 benefits for the employer of offering pre’cation:

  1. New employees will come to work rested and recharged. Many people changing jobs are leaving stale or toxic environments. It takes at least two weeks for the body to physiologically reset from a state of high stress.
  2. Pre’cation allows the employee to catch up on other parts of life that may have been neglected. This could range from laundry to a trip to Mexico with the significant other. As Barbara Fuchs pointed out on LinkedIn, a new employee is usually looking at months without significant downtime. Why not let them come in with a clean slate, without those nagging loose ends that can add additional stress to an already stressful life transition?
  3. A company offering pre’cation will have a significant competitive advantage in attracting top talent over a company that does not.
  4. Pre’cation sets the tone that employees are expected to take care of themselves. There will always be more work to do, but the best employees will make time for a healthy life outside of work, a source of strength to get through the challenges of the job.
  5. For people used to high-paced environments, a pre’cation can make them hungry for the excitement of the workplace, and they come in roaring to go.

Ray Lindberg, an employee relations expert, gave a spirited endorsement of the pre’cation concept on a LinkedIn discussion.  “Pre-cation is also a statement that the organization has high expectations and standards…which is also the case with all signing bonuses and robust employment contracts. It brings pressure to perform and deliver, no doubt, but I would argue that in many cases, it’s good pressure.” Interestingly, Ray also likes to tip his bartenders before they make him the drink. He sees it as a vote of confidence, and more than pays off in better service and free drinks.

The same concept holds for employees getting a pre’cation. Why not give them that vote of confidence? Companies that don’t really give a crap about their employees need not apply.

Who Else Wants Two Weeks Paid Vacation Before the Start Date?

Turpin-Chaplin-his-new-job_02

Chaplin should have taken 2 weeks off before starting his new job

I heard a crazy idea the other day: Offer people two weeks of paid vacation before they start work. Literally before they start work. After you finish your previous job, your salary and benefits begin two weeks before you come into the office. It is called a Pre’cation, the brainchild of Jason Freedman, who wrote about it on his blog 42Floors.com.

Freedman has an aversion to vacations. He is a serial entrepreneur, going from startup to startup. He gets into each company so much that he never wants to take a vacation. He ascribes this behavior in part to the very nature of a startup. He writes, “Startups are a mission; a belief that something impossible is actually possible.” But he also noted “that doesn’t mean startup people don’t need vacations – we clearly do.  If for no other reason than our best ideas come when we’ve been able to disengage from the problem in front of us.”

Freedman started offering new employees two weeks of vacation before they start, as a way to make sure that everyone has some time off and arrive rested. In some ways, a Pre’cation is no different than a signing bonus: a company expense that comes prior to an employee doing work. While the Pre’cation isn’t mandatory at 42Floors, there has been 100% adoption of the practice so far.

Who wouldn’t take this offer? (In fact, I’d worry about someone who didn’t). The real question is, what type of company would offer Pre’cation? A company that wants to attract the best talent, and a company that wants employees to bring their best to work.

I think the Pre’cation is exactly the kind of radical new idea that we need to make the corporate world both more efficient, and more humane. It is easy to dismiss this idea as something that could never happen in your industry. However, imagine that your biggest competitor adopted this policy. Which of these three best describes your reaction?

  1. Good! Let them waste their money.
  2. Crap, this will help them attract better talent.
  3. Hmm, I wonder if there is a job there for me.

I don’t know about you, but I was tempted to look at the 42Floors jobs page, and I don’t even know what that company does.

What do you think?

Image Credit: Turpin-Chaplin-his-new-job_02 By alyletteri via Flickr CC

How To Leave Work Early When Chronically Overworked

Build Your Community Part 6

In his book Happy, Ian K. Smith argues that happy people have more close relationships, the kind of friendships that take time to build and maintain. According to Smith, (who is quoting the research of Martin Seligman and others) “a strong social network is also associated with lower levels of stress and a longer life span.”[i]

For many in the corporate world, (including myself at one time) corporate idolatry makes close friendships outside of work hard to find.  This is the position Sue found herself in, when she worked herself until she was sick. (See this post in Chapter 6)

Smith advises that someone without a network of friends should “put themselves in a position to meet new people.”  Interestingly, this is exactly how Sue told me she started to get healthy again.

Sue told me her decision to make a change came on a business trip.   Free from the daily meetings that started at 7 AM and often went until 6, she realized that her life did not have time for anything else, and she needed “to go out and get a breath of fresh air.”  Sue developed a deliberate strategy to connect with other people.

She said, “I’m not a runner or biker and I needed something to do that I really enjoyed.  I like to learn, but I didn’t want to go back to school. I wanted to find something that would challenge me in a way that wasn’t drowning like work.  I started photography, I like food, and I love gardening.  I started getting involved in my community which is important to me, e.g. a committee to get a new park in town, which connected me to some other committees and projects.”

But it was Urban Farming  that really caught her passion.  “I change out of my skirt and Santana-Row shoes on Friday afternoon and go.  There is one woman who I hang out with.  We have become really close friends and I would never have met her in the tech industry.”
One advantage to leaving work early for a fun activity – the other people there also have made connecting with other people a higher priority than their company.  Those are just the people to hang out with.
You might also like: Discover How I Avoided Burnout

[i] Happy: Simple Steps To Get the Most Out Of Life by Ian K. Smith.  St Martin’s press.  (2010) p 190