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All Employees Deserve Paid Sabbaticals

I've learned so much from my own wanderlust that I decided to pass it on to my employees: Everyone gets a free one-month trip every five years. Here's why.
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Plain and simple: Sabbaticals make business sense.

Bolivia, Morocco, Vietnam, and many other exotic locations worldwide, have taught me valuable business lessons. That's because I would throw most of my income from my first business into yearly treks that would flood my head with business ideas. These annual, three-month trips never failed to rekindle the fire in my belly needed to lead a fast-growing company.

My biggest light-bulb moment—the one that spurred the idea for my company—happened on Red Frog Beach in Panama. I was thinking that marathons and 5Ks had become, well, boring. It was time to inject military-style obstacles, mud, and beer. We created an event called Warrior Dash, which did just that. In three years it became the world's largest running series.

I gained so much from my wanderlust that it only made sense to offer this benefit to my employees, my Frogs. Every five years they (and a guest of their choice) get a fully paid one-month trip to the destination of their choice. One catch: North America and Australia are off limits (most Frogs already go to Australia for our events there). This isn't a cocktail-umbrella-on-the-beach sort of trip.  It's a push-yourself-outside-of-your-comfort-zone, culture-drenched, that-just-changed-my-life trip. Those trips bring home game-changing ideas. Those are sabbaticals.

My leadership philosophy has always been that when you treat your employees well, they'll perform well (see Give Your Employees Unlimited Vacation Days and Why Your Employees Need a Treehouse). Start a sabbatical benefit for your employees because:

  1. Everyone needs to recharge. Frogs can disconnect for a full month every five years. A month away allows enough time to come back hungry to tackle the next big project.
  2. Appreciation goes a long way. I give tremendous latitude, sabbaticals included, and it's appreciated. People who love their job perform better.
  3. They gain worldly perspectives. Learning new cultures only helps bring fresh thoughts to the table on your next project.
  4. Valuable family or friend time. Red Froggers flat-out work hard. A month away every five years allows time to reconnect with a loved one.
  5. Going outside of your comfort zone elicits unconventional ideas. Being away for a month breeds creativity. My best ideas come during extended time away.

Africa is calling.  My wife and I are headed there next winter and I guarantee I'll come home with plenty more than pictures of giraffes.

Last updated: Feb 15, 2012

JOE REYNOLDS | Columnist | Founder, Red Frog Events

Joe Reynolds turned a $5,000 investment in an event production business called Red Frog into a thriving $45 million company in just four years. Red Frog Events was named the 2011 U.S. Chamber of Commerce Small Business of the Year.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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