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Ep 4: The Vacation Effect: How Better Time Off Results In Better Time On

Post-COVID, why are Americans only using 45% of allotted PTO? How does employee vacation time impact profitability? What should you do to make the most of your next vacation?

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Meet Rilee Buttars, CEO & Co-Founder @ Dónde

Follow Rilee on LinkedIn

Rilee is a competitive, problem-solving achiever who somehow convinces others to join the fray. Her first time abroad was to India, and it was incredible. Sure, she spent the first two days inside with culture shock surviving on chips and Diet Coke. But working there changed her, and she left knowing her heart belonged everywhere else but home. She has spent the most time in Jordan and dreams of driving the desert highway to Wadi Rum, windows down, listening to the Eagles.

Rilee has a Sociology MS, traveled the world evaluating nonprofits, and spent most of her career as a project manager. She’s married to her co-founder, Tommy, and mom of two.

About Dónde

Dónde is a fintech/travel startup transforming PTO culture. With Dónde’s end-to-end platform, employers provide their team members a simple and exciting way to maximize their time off. Better time off means better time on.

Learn more at: godonde.com

Episode Highlights

How Can Culture Drive Greater Profits?

Matt Vance:  I've helped consult several different companies through company culture transformations. To date every single time that I've helped with an engagement survey, the two top themes that come out of employee feedback is pay and PTO. There are two currencies of value: money and time. That's what people care for, that's why they're there for a job. Your team at DONEDE is innovating and providing a platform that helps companies do better with PTO for their people. With that in mind, I'd love to hear your perspective Rilee, how you feel company culture drives greater profits?

Rilee Buttars: I think the first thing is recognizing that those are actually tied together. If you build a great culture, then you can have a good profit. 

Three reasons profits erode because of employee burning out:

  1. We often think of input and effort, how many hours are we putting in? And therefore, how does that drive profitability? We've now created culture and structures that support that notion. Okay, so let's work nine to five. Let's work overtime. We have this entire culture of the time that we spend at work. That then leads to a culture of overwork where we treat workaholics like heroes.
  2.  And then we also now have this idea that it's about the performance of work. It's about how many emails did I send? How many slacks did I send? And it's not really about the quality of that but it was the quantity. How many hours am I spending and what am I doing with those hours? 
  3. And then the last thing I've noticed is that, we have these tools that we adopted that enable us to work anywhere and any time. So we can write emails at any time. I can work in my project management system at any time and what that did is essentially turned work into this flood that soaks into our entire life. 

Essentially we became burned out. That has led to less productivity, less engagement, higher rates, of depression, higher rates of people leaving.

Matt Vance: It feels like we’re measuring the wrong performance indicators based on time and tallies of things, instead of the objective impact that work inputs have on results.

In the US, how much PTO goes unused and what's the impact on people and business?

Rilee Buttars: One of the latest studies done across the US reported that there were about 768 million [PTO] days left. What does that actually mean for the company? [That’s] 65 billion in lost benefits to the employees. They're losing out by not taking those days. And then, that was over 200 billion in company liability because many companies actually have to pay out their employees for not taking those days off. So if an employee leaves some days on the table because the culture, the companies often have to pay out.

Talk to us now and all the listeners as employees. How can we get the most out of our vacation time off and minimize burnout?

Rilee Buttars: It's just important to take time off. If you want to talk about how to optimize it, there are a couple things.

Length: The optimal length is about eight days and the study shows that gives you enough time to travel. So if you're going international or you're going to cross the country or something, it allows you to travel to that location and to start decompressing. So you're able to get there and then have a day or so where you're just kind of chill or you're jumping in and you're fully immersing yourself. But at least you've got that time to arrive. Then you've got a couple days where you're fully in the moment. What we try to suggest is one good vacation a year where you've got that eight day vacation you're fully disconnecting.

Debt-Free: We all know that finances are one of the things that cause the most stress. And so if you're traveling, it's not going to be beneficial if you're putting it on a credit card. You may mean to stretch and pay that over a certain amount of time, right? You're gaining the interest you're eventually going to pay more for that trip and that's not good for anyone. So it needs to be debt free.

Far Away: If you take time off and you just go to a doctor's appointment or say you use that to go do errands here and there or maybe you do just a DIY project. That is not going to solve your stress. That is not going to reduce burnout. [Being] far away allows you to fully disconnect from your everyday life. And this is important because the tasks and the responsibilities that you have in your everyday [life] actually add stress to you and sometimes that's good stress for sure. And we need to do it, but when you're able to fully go somewhere, where it's new or say, it's not new, but it's familiar and you're able to settle into that. That really helps the psyche. It is really important for you just to create that full separation to create space for your brain and for your heart and for your mentality to just let go.

Disconnect: Some people will say: “I like checking my email [on vacation]. I like just staying in the know.” I think that that's okay. It's not like a strict “No talking. No slacks, no emails [rule]”, but it does need to feel like a break. This is the point of taking time off. So you need to figure that out. Maybe it's just, you check slack, and email for an hour on vacation every day or figure out what works for you. But you do need to disconnect.

Stress-Free: That means you need to plan it. You need to know what you're doing. You need to think about security, you need to think about, what are the finances? How do I budget for it? Who am I meeting? If you're going somewhere new, what are the routes that you need to take? Where you are going and with who? You [will] feel better about the logistics so that you can let go.

Crista Vance: I think once-a-year frequency is often enough that you have something to look forward to. In The Happiness Advantage, a book that I read, one of the top things that contributes to happiness is just having something to look forward to.

Why should companies encourage employees to use all their PTO?

Rilee Buttars: As a company, you need to realize that this is the deal that you brokered with your employee when they took that job. When you talk about PTO, this is what they expect. This is not something that you do only as a recruitment tactic. This is how they will experience your company., It is not a nice-to-have. PTO is something that everybody wants. It matters to everybody and how you handle it will directly impact how they do their work, but also how they think about your company. So I think that just the first thing is that they will expect to take those days off and when you don't let them, you've now broken your promise. PTO is one of the things that is fully not taken advantage of. It has so much potential and it is at the company's power to do that. This is a tool to create the culture, the productivity and profitability that you want.

Do you have any favorite companies that champion time off?

Rilee Buttars: We have so many great leaders in the Utah ecosystem. I was thinking about who to mention and there's a [few]:

Job Nimbus: They're amazing. They've really focused on experiences and enabling that for their employees. They give a bonus into Dónde every year, and they have high adoption among our platform. What I love most about it is that they announce it every year at a big all-hands meeting and they're usually somewhere really fun when they do it. So they're not only talking about the future and the upcoming year and where their employees can go but they're also fully living it. They're experiencing something together, they're announcing the Dónde benefit and they fully just live that ideal.

Crumble: They give their employees a bonus into Dónde to help offset the cost of travel and to fully experience it. But what I love is that they announce it during Memorial weekend. So this is the kickoff of the summer, right? They're saying. Okay, we just had a really tough winter. We've been working really hard and now is the time for you to go and experience things with your family and friends and so they literally give them the money just as we're about to kick off into the season of holidays and experiences. And so I think they send a really clear message that we want you to have these experiences.

Traeger: They have these beautiful meals and they've created this culture that is really centered on what they do with the Traeger and how it brings people together. They offer a Dónde match. This is something where the employee can put money in, [and] the company matches and that's really cool because they're helping their employees save. And they're part of that story, they're saying: “Hey, we want you to be able to do this. If you put a little bit in, we'll pull it. And together, we'll work up towards that vacation.” So, I love that structure.

Lendio: It's a private school. Teachers are really burned out. They give so much to those students. I think where the school [is] really standing out they acknowledge that our teachers deserve more. We want to give them more and so they give a sizable bonus into the Dónde account for these teachers. I love that because [teachers] are so incredibly important in our ecosystem and they deserve more.

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