Fintech Startup Sorbet Reimagines And ‘Normalizes’ Paid Time Off To Ensure A Healthy Work-Life Balance For Workers


Paid time off (PTO) has always been an issue. Candidates with 10-plus years of experience, at the end of a long interview process, would receive an offer and then inquire about benefits. It would be common for the human resources person to say that you will be afforded two weeks’ vacation with a small amount of PTO.

In response to the scant amount of time off, the experienced professional rightly feels aggrieved and understandably complains that it is too short of a period to adequately decompress, destress and is unfair given their tenure. It’s also tone-deaf, as we are now in a tight labor market, in which companies need to do whatever they can to attract, recruit and retain employees.

On the other end of the spectrum, some businesses offer unlimited paid time off. While this sounds great at first, there’s a catch. Most people don’t use the PTO, as they’re afraid they’ll be negatively judged. This is particularly acute for remote workers, where there is some bias already in the minds of managers over how hard they are really working.

Sorbet, an Israeli fintech startup, offers a solution to PTO issues. Veetahl Eilat-Raichel, CEO and cofounder of Sorbet, is on a mission to encourage and incentivize time off to improve wellness, productivity and performance.

Eilat-Raichel points out that during the pandemic no one was taking any time off. This included both employees and the leaders themselves. It was clear to them that with working from home, sheltering in place, kids not at school and tremendous uncertainty all around, this was becoming a huge wellness issue with potentially severe consequences.

There were deep fundamental issues that were in question: what does a day off mean when you work from home? When does a day start? When does it end? What’s the point of taking a vacation when you can’t travel anywhere? And what would it look like if I take time off when no one can see what I’m doing all day?

These questions and many more made it clear to us that this was not simply a small payroll issue, but a dramatic shift in behavior, which requires a disruptive approach to paid time off, which hasn’t been disrupted in decades.

Sorbet’s research shows that taking breaks is essential for your well-being. With time off, many companies are trying to juggle their genuine concern for their employees’ well-being with the very natural focus on business success, including performance, meeting deadlines and hitting goals, especially during these uncertain and challenging times.

A solution is to offer the benefits of incorporating “micro breaks,” which are incredibly effective at increasing wellness and improving performance over time. This way, employees have a chance to recharge and recover without compromising their work.

Leading by example, Sorbet announced its new PTO policy, which exceeds the average American company by 40%, for its own employees, which includes 25 PTO days per year and the ability to cash out up to 10 of those days. In the United States alone, the value of unused PTO totals $270 billion and employees are often unable to cash out their PTO until they resign or are fired.

For long-term employees that have been at the company for over three years, the policy gives an extra five PTO days, bringing their total allowance to 30 days per year and their cash out eligibility to 12 days. This novel approach to PTO recognizes that every employee has their own needs and may want to spend time differently from others and should be legitimized to do so whenever possible.

To normalize self-care and ensure people take the time they need without any second-guessing from managers, managers are required to track PTO usage and will be reviewed annually on their employees’ utilization of PTO, which will influence their annual performance review.

Employees will receive the Sorbet app, helping them plan by proactively suggesting when they can and should take time off. This allows them to seamlessly cash out on days the Sorbet algorithm predicts they will not be able to use and spend the value of cashed-out days on unique travel and wellness rewards and perks through Sorbet’s partnerships with national and localized brands. An average employee in the company will gain access to an extra $3,000 in cashed-out days a year, which otherwise would have been lost entirely (under use-it-or-lose-it plans) or locked up until they left the company at an unknown point in the future.

Sorbet’s PTO benefits policy is a model for HR leaders seeking to empower their employees with more choices, change long-held unhealthy perceptions about work and create an environment that prioritizes a work-life balance.

“Employees today are looking beyond outdated one-size-fits-all PTO benefits plans, which is why we’re thrilled to give our employees more opportunities to make their own choices and take control of their hard-earned time off, no questions asked,” said Eilat-Raichel. “A common problem with PTO is employees often do not feel comfortable asking for time away, citing fears of retribution or replacement. An integral part of Sorbet’s culture is understanding it’s in everyone’s best interest to take appropriate time away from work. We want to lead by example and show how we give our team the ability to rest and recharge, which boosts productivity and overall job satisfaction.”


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