Advances in technology and connectivity has allowed many people to work from home by telecommuting, or strike it out on their own in a collective, coworking scenario. But according to a recent study, that same connectivity and ability to work from anywhere in the world has translated into an increasing inability to digitally unplug and break free from work, resulting in Americans wasting a record 658 million days of paid vacation in 2016, despite evidence suggesting that taking time off is necessary for happier, healthier living.
Now, Seattle-based startup PTO Exchange is hoping to allow companies and their employees to tap into that stockpile of unused vacation days, by buying up those wasted days off and exchanging them for cash back, or for flights and hotel stays, instead of rolling it over to the next year.
The startup's model could offer some relief to the over-half of American workers who do not take most of their allocated vacation days during the year. As well, it would offer alternatives to companies that are financially obligated to either keep unused paid vacation days in their books, or to pay out cash when the employee quits or is let go.
Converting vacation days into other useful thingsAccording to the company, an employee's unused vacation days would be converted into a dollar value, and could be then used to purchase flights or accommodations in a hotel, thanks to the company's partnership with Priceline Group Inc. But if a vacation is really not in the cards, they still won't be squandered: they can also be converted into contributions for retirement savings plans and health savings accounts.
If companies are concerned that employees will still not take their vacations and burn out spectacularly as a result, well, PTO Exchange plans can be tailored so that only a portion of unused time can be converted and put toward contributions. Another possibility is for generous employees to donate their unwanted vacation days to colleagues who might be needing more time off, a practice that some companies are already engaging in.
"No-vacation nation"Of course, while this startup's approach is novel, it's not enough to tackle the root of America's reputation as a "no-vacation nation". For the 77 percent of Americans working for a private company who do get paid vacation days, that reluctance to drop everything and take some well-deserved time off can be traced to an office culture where workaholism is rewarded.
And with the US' dubious status as the only advanced economy that doesn't guarantee workers paid time off, what about the estimated quarter of working Americans who don't get any paid time off at all? It means that there's a much larger issue here than just unused vacation days -- so while this kind of exchange is a start, there's still a long way to go.
To find out more, visit PTO Exchange.