The Pre-cation: Fad or Legit Employee Benefit?

by Salary.com Staff - Original publish date: November 24, 2014

Paid Vacation Before Your First Day on the Job?

How does the idea of taking a vacation before you've started a job sound? The pre-cation is a fairly new development in hiring perks, and both new hires and the companies giving them out are reaping the benefits. Pre-cations may be particularly valuable to new hires that have recently left a job that was very frustrating or energetically draining. These workers are often exhausted to near burnout, and although they are grateful to have a new opportunity, they are often not in the best shape (physically and mentally) to start out on the right foot.

That's why some companies have come up with an intriguing solution.

An Instant Reward for New Hires

The solution? Instead of asking, "How soon can you start?" some companies are now offering an unexpected stipulation for the haggard hire before their first official day on the job: a paid vacation. Pre-cations may be a win-win for both the employee and employer: the employee gets to decompress from their old situation -- and gets paid to do so. The employer gets an energized, refreshed new hire ready to hit the ground running when they return.

Slate magazine has reported that 42Floors, a search engine for commercial real estate, is now offering a pre-cation to each new hire. When employees get their offer letter, they often feel as though they've won a contest; they get to travel and/or relax for two weeks, all on their new employer's dime.

Battling Workplace Stress

As a country, we're busier than ever. Productivity has increased by around 80 percent since the 1970s, but 40% of Americans get under seven hours of sleep a night. The pre-cation may be a wonderful and unexpected perk in these stressful, overworked times. While we as Americans pride ourselves on our work ethic, the stress is affecting our health in profound ways.

The Carrington health blog has reported that new research from Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital is offering a clearer picture of just how stress impacts our physical well-being. Their studies found that workers in an ICU, a very high-stress work environment, had significantly higher white blood cell counts than their off-duty counterparts. Elevated stress levels caused more inflammatory leukocytes to be produced -- a type of white blood cell that's usually produced to fight disease. Produced in excessive amounts, however, it can lead to plaque buildup, stroke and heart attack.

Is Pre-cation Becoming a Trend?

These statistics lend further support to the idea of the pre-cation as a viable means of cultivating a culture of employee health and well-being. Companies are more aware than ever that for workers to be at their best and able to commit to employment for the long haul, physical health is paramount. The National Institutes of Health says that stress suppresses the immune system, and this can lead to illness, poor performance, and missed days from work. Managing stress levels is crucial for physical health, and adequate time off from work is one of the key components of stress relief over time.

At this time, pre-cations are offered primarily by businesses that are riding a wave of success and abundance, including Silicon Valley standouts. However, not all companies can afford to enact a pre-cation policy. While businesses like software provider Atlassian can afford to provide pre-cations in addition to personalized end-of-year packages with champagne, fancy chocolates, and grants of equity in the company, not every business is in a position to make such extravagant overtures.

What's the Downside?

As stated, this is not a trend that we’re likely to soon see hit every corporation in America, and there are a number of reasons for this. Monetarily speaking, a business would need to have the funds that would allow them to provide paid time off, which isn’t the case for every company out there. Having a more flexible vacation days policy may be a budding trend in the startup world, but it hasn’t extended much further.

Additionally, some workers may not be able to fully relax on a vacation if they’re stressed about starting a new job. For some, putting work out of your mind can be difficult, regardless of when your vacation falls. So for workers with that mindset, preparing for a new job might be a better way to relax.

Making Workplace Health a Priority

Not surprisingly, companies like Atlassian, who offer unlimited vacation days, are included on lists of the best places to work. While 42Floors CEO Jason Freedman feels the pre-cation policy cost is far outweighed by its benefits in worker productivity and morale, other companies are just not in a position to take the gamble.

While the pre-cation has yet to become a major business trend, a focus on employee health and well-being can – and should – be a priority everywhere. Healthy workers are happier, more productive workers -- and that benefits everyone in the long run.

Negotiate No Matter What

At the moment, the chances of finding a company willing to give you a pre-cation are pretty slim. But just because you can't negotiate this particular perk, doesn't mean you shouldn't negotiate at all. You definitely should try to sweeten your deal, and Salary.com can help you get paid fairly what you do.

The first thing you should do is research, so you're able to come to the table armed with the knowledge of what your job is worth. Use our free Salary Wizard below to find out what's a fair salary for your position. You can enter your location, education level, years of experience and more to find out an appropriate salary range before you negotiate.

Good luck.

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