How Vacation Helped Launch These Top Companies

Business leaders who fully embrace the power of vacation hold the key to much more than the benefit of happy and well-rested workers. Vacation provides perspective as well as the time and space to just think, outside of the day-to-day grind.

In fact, eighty-four percent of managers agree that when employees take time off, they return to work with improved focus and creativity. “Vacation is one of the few times, especially if someone has a full-time job, to be able to think deeply about a subject and create something new. Because many things are new on vacation, it naturally encourages people to transcend their perceptual thinking ruts…which can be great fodder for new ideas,” said Bryan Mattimore, author of Idea StormersHow to Lead and Inspire Creative Breakthroughs.

'Gram a picture and share it to the cloud while sipping your pumpkin spice latte? Not without vacation. A change in routine and the freedom to think led to the birth of some of today’s most admired companies.


Instagram, the image-sharing app with 500 million people users, came to fruition while founder Kevin Systrom and his now wife, Nicole, were walking on the beach in Mexico. Back in San Francisco, Systrom and his team struggled to revive a failing location-based app, so he probed the subject with Nicole during their stroll. She said, “I don’t want to take photos, because my photos don’t look good.” After explaining how filter apps helped enhance some of the photos posted, she said, “Well, you should probably add filters then.” Systrom calls it a true eureka moment that transformed never-heard-of Burbn to Instagram. Sometimes all it takes is a walk on the beach.


For Drew Houston, he was trying to get in a few more hours of work before on the bus from Boston to New York City when the idea for Dropbox surfaced. As he opened his laptop to get started, he realized he forgot the USB with the code he needed to work on. To make the most of it, he started building the code to access files over the web and, thus, Dropbox was born. 


Not too long ago, Starbucks Coffee Company was only known locally for its Seattle-based coffee products. It was on a trip to Italy in 1983 when Howard Schultz, former marketing director now Chairman, experienced the true romance of espresso and never looked back. He gives credit to a day spent in the Verona hills, tacked on to a business trip, simply observing the operation and community of local Italian coffee shops when he felt the strong desire to instill a similar energy in Starbucks.

Though the owners ignored his enthusiasm at first, Schultz managed to buy the corporation and create the vision himself. “We began to elevate the romance and theater of the beverage, integrated with the merchandising and storytelling of roasting and selling whole bean coffee. It’s all steeped in that trip to Italy in 1983. Everything is about that,” said Schultz. I say a silent thank you to Schultz nearly every day while I wait in line at Starbucks for a tall soy latte. 

Another thing I am grateful for is the 'Hamilton' soundtrack and I'll admit to being one the millions of fans vying for a ticket to the Tony-winning Broadway musical. So it’s not much of a surprise that the idea for this brilliant work, too, came to creator Lin-Manual Miranda while on vacation in Mexico.

Vacation provides a change in routine for workers that opens the door to unrestricted thought and idea-making. In a Monster Insights survey, employees rank vacation as the second-most valued workplace benefit. Instagram, Dropbox, and Starbucks make the case for why employers should feel the same way. Time off, in many cases, has proven to be much more valuable, not to mention profitable, than the policy alone lets on.

December 12, 2016