Paid To Play: PTO At Neon Roots

Ben Lee

Ben Lee

CEO and Co-founder of Neon Roots

Ben Lee is the co-founder and CEO of Neon Roots, a digital development agency with a mission to destroy the development model and rebuild it from the ground up. After a brief correspondence with Fidel Castro at age nine, Ben decided to start doing things his own way, going from busboy to club manager at a world-class nightclub before he turned 18. Since then, Ben has founded or taken a leading role in 5 businesses in everything from software development to food and entertainment.

Any successful development company has to be compiled of extremely hard workers, those that would code their fingers to the bone if asked. The trick to real success, however, isn’t asking them to do that, it’s creating an environment where they want to work hard, not one where they’re afraid not to. That’s why PTO has become so important to Neon Roots’ culture.

PTO (paid time off) has become increasingly popular with forward-thinking companies that see it as a progressive alternative to the traditional vacation plans that have been in place for decades. PTO rolls all vacation, sick, and personal days into one pool or PTO bank, allowing partners to takes days off as they need without having to give specific reasons why.

It’s something we’ve embraced wholeheartedly at Neon Roots for a number of reasons.

  • First, there is actually a reduction in sick days used. Instead of having to call in, put on a fake raspy voice, and tell your boss you feel like you’re dying, you can take the day off without questions (given you haven’t used all your days). So now instead of faking illness to use up their finite number of sick days, partners actually save those days to use for a well-deserved vacation.
  • Next is flexibility and diversity. Partners celebrate a wide variety of cultural and religious holidays, and with a PTO bank, they are free to choose which cultural events they’d like to recognize with a day off.
  • Equality is another very important aspect. Sometimes there’s a perception that partners with kids get more time off than those without. PTO makes it totally objective as everyone is on a level playing field with the same amount of time off regardless of circumstance.
  • Finally (and maybe the most important) is privacy. Partners may feel the need to lie about why they need the time off, especially if the request is sensitive in nature. PTO removes the need to over-explain why you need the day off and keeps your private affairs private.

PTO has worked incredibly well at Neon Roots, but we go a step further. We’re a family, we’re friends, we want to know what each other are up to when they aren’t behind a computer. That’s why we have casual PTO reports from those that take scheduled days off. We even give a reward to the person each month that we all believe made best use of their time off.

We also have specialized PTO, where time is given for our crew to take place in activities together as a team. You can learn how we turned a paid day off into some inspired game creation in our post “Experiments In Excellence: The Results of Neon Roots’ GamingPTO.”

For us, PTO has decreased the amount of unscheduled days that are requested off, nearly eliminating that morning surprise where you learn last minute that a valuable team member won’t be working. It’s also reinforced our philosophy that people work hardest when they are allowed to work in ways that best suit their personalities.