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'Is This Real?': Denver Company Makes Vacation 'Mandatory'

By Mark Ackerman

DENVER (CBS4) - A Denver tech company may have one of the most generous vacation policies in the country.

FullContact, an app developer that helps professionals manage their contacts, has a minimum vacation policy where employees must take at least three weeks of vacation. On top of that, FullContact gives its employees a $7,500 bonus to help them enjoy their time off.

CEO Bart Lorang says there is one catch to the policy he calls, "paid paid vacation." To cash in employees must fully disconnect from the office. According to the company's website that means "No emails, no calling work, ABSOLUTELY NO WORK. How does that sound?"

FullContact (credit: CBS)

So why would a tech company that puts your contacts at your fingertips force its workers to turn off their cellphones and "go off the grid?"

"You have to disconnect to fully connect," said Lorang, who says it takes about three days to digitally detox. "They sort of wake up and say, 'Hey, there's my husband, my wife, my kids.'"

Lorang says people may have the vacation days, but generally don't save very well for vacations.

"We are putting our money where our mouth is and telling people to disconnect," he said.

FullContact CEO Bart Lorang
FullContact CEO Bart Lorang (credit: CBS)

With the vacation bonus his employees have traveled to dream destinations like Norway, Finland, Indonesia and Costa Rica.

Jessica Nolan, the head of product at FullContact, typically checks her phone every few minutes while at work. She admits it was initially difficult to cut the cord when she used her work perk to travel to Brazil and Argentina. But she called the experience a "really important exercise" for employees who sometimes have a "hero syndrome."

"You force yourself to know that no one is going to die if you are out," said Nolan, who says that no one person's absence stops progress at work. "Part of it is learning to let go and trust your teammates have it covered."

FullContact employee Jessica Nolan
FullContact employee Jessica Nolan (credit: CBS)

Human resources expert Elaine Varelos says policies like this keep employees refreshed and productive.

"Burnout is a huge risk for organizations. People don't work to full capacity because of mental exhaustion," said Varelos, who thinks a mandatory vacation policy might catch on.

She said forcing employees to take vacation would be better in the long run than previous trends like the "unlimited vacation policy."

"Senior people who don't take vacation really send a message to their junior people not to take vacation."

She explained the unlimited policies actually resulted in employees taking fewer days because of peer pressure inside the workplace.

"I get more productive, happier employees," said Lorang. "I'd rather they be super productive and charged up when they are working then constantly at a 70-percent state."

Nolan says it's a great worker retention tool.

"It shows the company is investing in its employees."

And if her friends are any indication, it also could be a recruiting tool, "Oh my gosh are they jealous," she said. "'They're like, 'Is this real?'"

Mark Ackerman is a Special Projects Producer at CBS4. Follow him on Twitter @ackermanmark

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