Worker stress and anxiety levels today can run high, at a time when around 24 percent of working professionals in the US will not use their earned Paid Time Off at all throughout the span of an entire year. On top of this, many professionals today only use their paid time off to do necessary things that they can’t fit around their normal work schedules. There are many reasons why these trends are growing, but regardless of the cause, the lack of employees taking true breaks is exacting a mental toll.
Erica Pearson is the Founder and CEO of Vacation Fund, a Toronto Founder Institute portfolio company working to make employer-matched vacation saving a new standard in employee benefits.
To date, Vacation Fund has received a great deal of praise and recognition for their worker wellness solution. They recently won the FFCON19 pitch competition in Toronto; won RBC’s Women in Fintech & AI Award at the Canada Fintech Summit; and were featured on Bruce Sellery’s Moolala podcast.
Vacation Fund is an employer-matched travel savings program.
The startup's simple platform allows employees to direct a portion of their paycheck into a separate Vacation Fund Account, and allows their employer company to then match a portion of the worker's contributions.
This system works in theory just like a 401K, where a company elects to match a percentage or amount of dollars that an employee saves towards their planned vacations. Similarly, the company can also choose to instead offer their funds as a simple bonus, to allow employees to better save towards a particular vacation goal. And deliberate vacation savings are absolutely necessary when the average vacation costs $1,145 per person, or $4,580 for a family of 4.
More than the price tag of vacations though, Vacation Fund is focused on helping companies encourage their employees to actually use their earned days off, to relax and travel somewhere, and to have a substantial break and a meaningful experience.
Today’s traditional vacation model has most employees accruing a certain amount each year, which will rollover, and eventually hit a ceiling for how many days the employee can retain. From there, some organizations will offer a paid time off buyback option; or worse, the accrued vacation simply goes away. Vacation Fund is a much more proactive approach, because the employee is actually saving from each paycheck towards their vacation. It’s a simple solution that allows the users to effectively plan, save, and actually take the time off for the vacation they deserve.
Everyone Needs an Occasional Vacation
This comes at a time when burnout culture is very much a real phenomenon experienced by many—and when some misguided organizations even encourage it. Unfortunately even for entrepreneurs, the “hustle” or “grind” is often framed similarly, but imposed by self-discipline instead of an employers’ policy: working long hours in the pursuit of something greater. There are some who can function indefinitely inside that breakneck deliverables mentality; but for most, it can be unhealthy, and breaks are required for employees to achieve peak function. Research shows that time off and away from work yields a more productive and creative workforce. According to Project: Time Off, what has been on a decline for years has at last seen a slow increase, and workers are finally starting to take a little more time off, now up to 17.2 days per year per professional as of 2018.
Beyond the needed cultural shift that Vacation Fund is helping to put into motion, the company is also working within a large financial market. Because of the ~25 percent of US professionals who do not take a vacation in a given year, there is around $255 billion in missed economic opportunities that have the potential to produce another 1.9 million new job—so remember that when you’re next lounging on the beach: you’re also helping grow the local tourism economy!
At the end of the day, CEO Erica Pearson, an avid traveler, launched Vacation Fund to “help people live each year of their lives to the fullest.” Today, Vacation Fund is actively fulfilling that mission everyday, while also helping companies to maximize both their employees’ happiness and at-work productivity through fulfilling their travel dreams.
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