Americans are famously overworked and terrified of taking vacations. And that is no different in Silicon Valley, where young code jockeys are expected to put in long hours on projects that rarely pan out, leading to burnout and high turnover. But startups are testing a new way to milk more work from their staff: paying new hires to take vacations before starting work.
The latest sign-on bonus gimmick is being dubbed "pre-cation"—a program of paying employees to take two weeks of vacation before marching into the salt mines. According to Slate, one of the perk's pioneers is 42Floors, a commercial real estate startup that has pulled in $17.4 million in venture funding.
[42Floors CEO Jason Freedman] decided to begin offering pre-cations to all his new hires. "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. 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 when you get back here, work your ass off."
That attitude is how we got to "pre-cations" in the first place. Tech bosses believe that workers should be married to their jobs, and regularly expect them to grind out the late nights that come with the commitment. Those are expectations that single 20-somethings straight out of Stanford might be able to meet, but they ultimately lead to discrimination against older employees and people with families.
In the long run, Freedman is convinced the policy boosts his bottom line. "The number one thing employers need to do if they want to get the most out of their workers is to get across that we care about their well-being."
Scooping up frazzled startup veterans and dangling a paid vacation in front of their eyes might be a good way to lead them into a job—and it may keep them from burning out after a month. But this is less about solving the problem than it is a cheap, short-term "hack."