Sitting in an office all day every day isn’t a great way to yield inspiration. As any creative person will tell you, inspiration is found out in the world. It comes from new experiences, not staid routines. What’s a creative agency to do?
ThinkPARALLAX,, an 11-person creative agency in Southern California that focuses on building brands with purpose, decided to send its employees away from the office. A new initiative, launched this year, gives each employee a $1,500 travel budget to go anywhere in the world. There are a few stipulations: Employees have to go somewhere they’ve never been before, the destination has to be outside of their comfort zone in some way, and they have to go between September and December.
“When you don’t put a timeline behind things, people tend not to do them,” says Jonathan Hanwit, a co-founder at the company. “It also forces everybody to realize that they can pick up the slack, and creates a more cohesive work environment.”
So far, employees have gone to Holland, Germany, and Macchu Picchu in Peru. Every employee keeps a blog of their travels on the company website. Anna, a project manager who went to Macchu Picchu, wrote that her journey “inspired me to get out of my comfort zone, take risks, and look at my surroundings and resources with a new perspective. If the Incas built Machu Picchu on the side of a mountain, there must be a way.”
“She did things she never thought she could do. For her as a project manager, that directly translates to her performance here at work,” adds Guusje Bendeler, co-founder at thinkPARALLAX.
During Hanwit’s European vacation to Germany and Holland, he found things that could be directly integrated into thinkPARALLAX’s work. “I saw a barcode in Europe designed into a certain image, not a rectangle. I saw things in signage that we can literally translate into a project we’re working on,” he says.
ThinkPARALLAX isn’t the only company to offer enticements for employees thinking about going on vacation. TED gives its employees a mandatory summer vacation, and Airbnb gives workers a $2,000 travel credit (to stay at Airbnb sites, of course).
For Hanwit and Bendeler, who are partners in both life and business, the perk makes a special kind of sense. “We met while traveling,” explains Bendeler.