The numbers are in—and they’re pretty darn bleak. Americans work more than anyone else in the industrialized world, taking fewer vacation days, working more hours, and retiring later.

Productive? Not really. Over-working leads to burnout, anxiety, career dissatisfaction or resentment, and ultimately, a loss of efficiency. So while we may be working more, we’re not getting more done.

But attention, hiring managers: There’s a way to ward off all these ills in new hires, infusing them with energy and enthusiasm before they arrive and, in the process, making your company a more desirable place to work.

Introducing the pre-cation. It’s a concept Jason Freedman, CEO of commercial real estate search engine 42Floors, came up with when trying to recruit a highly-sought-after employee.

The employee had left his previous job because he was severely taxed out; however, every company he was interviewing with was asking him how soon he could start. So Freedman offered him a job at 42Floors, with one caveat. The guy had to go on a two-week paid vacation—before he ever set foot in the office.

The morale-boosting results were so awesome that now every new employee at 42Floors gets to take a pre-cation.

From a financial perspective, Freedman believes this practice actually makes him money.

“The number one thing employers need to do if they want to get the most out of their workers is to get across that we care about their well-being,” he told Slate. “When they go home for Thanksgiving, we want their mom to say they’ve never looked so healthy. That’s why they stay in the job—and they’ll reward you with their passion and hustle.”

If you’re the one setting vacation policy at your place of business, then you might seriously want consider implementing pre-cations. However, even if you’re just an employee, you can apply techniques inspired by Freedman.

For example, consider suggesting your company hire a service like Surprise Industries, which offers mystery activities for groups that could be anything from ice sculpting to pizza making. All the fun and spontaneity of a vacation, minus the airfare and, you know, time off.

Or don’t be afraid to take your vacation days—since now you have proof that in the long run spending time away from the office will actually make you a better employee. If you set your own hours, you can even recalibrate your schedule to achieve a four-day work week.

We can’t all work at 42Floors, but we can all affect changes in our lives and offices to make ourselves less overworked, happier, and healthier.


Photo of man at pool courtesy of Shutterstock.