Playroom June/July 2017

Take Five: Eric Breon

How do you manage a growing vacation rental company and three children under the age of 6? Eric Breon, Vacasa CEO and dad of three boys, talks with us about family-friendly workplaces and that elusive work-life balance.

Q: So what is Vacasa?


A: Vacasa is a tech-enabled full-service vacation rental company. We take on the hassle that comes with renting a vacation home, so our owners don’t have to. Guests, in turn, get a reliable, professional experience every time they stay in a Vacasa home. We are headquartered in the beautiful Pearl District, but we manage vacation rentals all over the world.

Q: Did you found Vacasa with the intent of it being a family-friendly workplace?

A: It’s no secret that technology has blurred the line between time at work and time at home, and the reality is that people are much more likely to be taking calls from home or answering emails between after-school activities. Taking that into consideration, we’ve always strived to build a culture where our employees can take the time they need for the moments that matter to them.

Q: What are some of the Vacasa employee benefits that are especially helpful for parents?

A: Our headquarters employees have the option to work from home where possible, and we use tools like Google Hangouts to make that happen. We also offer plenty of in-office amenities to make bringing the kids to work much more feasible. In addition to a dedicated nursing room, we also provide a separate family room with child-friendly amenities. Some of our employees will even hire child care providers to work from the office.


Q: How do happy parent-employees make your company run better?

A: If our employees are able to find balance in their work and home lives, they are almost always more satisfied and thus more productive. We are also much more likely to retain happy parent-employees, saving us in the long run and creating a much stronger culture overall.

Q: Men don’t usually get asked this question, but how do you balance running a company and being a dad to three boys?

A: My wife Alia is an emergency medicine physician, and Vacasa is growing at an unbelievable rate — so it’s a major challenge to make sure we’re giving every aspect of our lives the time it deserves. One thing we always try to do is work hard and play hard. We take lots of family vacations (luckily, many of the markets I visit for work are also beautiful vacation destinations, like Belize or Vail), and family time is so important to us. I think if you’re balancing the late nights with long weekends, you’ll find the right balance. It’s also immensely helpful to have a strong support system, and we’re lucky to have a full-time nanny who we couldn’t live without, as well as strong family ties that have come through for us many times. — Denise Castañon

Gear Guide: Get Out!

It’s sunny! Finally! It’s a tough call as to who is more excited for the kids to play outside, you or them. (Yup, probably you.) Keep them engaged outdoors with these fun additions to your backyard.

The best part of playing outside on a hot summer’s day? Getting wet. The two-level Step2 Rain
Showers Splash Pond Water Table lets your littles create showers and toy-twirling water-falls. Includes buckets, scoops and toys. $69.99.

If Dig Dig Digging is your child’s favorite book, check out Svan’s Ride On Crane Digger. This sturdy metal scooping machine lets kids dig in the sand to their heart’s content — and sneakily develops manual dexterity and hand-eye coordination. For kids 3 years and older up to 88 pounds. $49.99.

Ramp up your kiddo’s sandcastle game with the Melissa & Doug Sandblox tool set. Each sand mold ingeniously includes a plunger, allowing their hexagons, diamonds, rectangles and triangles to come out intact. $16.99. At Child’s Play, 2305 NW Kearney. — D.C.

TOP 5 …Father’s Day outings

➊ Cheer on Dad from the sidelines (or run with him) at the Grateful Dad, a half-marathon, 10K and 5K alongside the Columbia River in Gresham.
➋ Go camping at L.L. Stub Stewart State Park — bonus, you can borrow gear from the kind folks at Oregon State Parks as part of their Let’s Go! program. Family hikes and nature activities, too.
➌ Pre-game Father’s Day at the Portland Aerial Tram on June 10; the kids get to make a cool craft for Dad, and take a frame-worthy photo at the on-site photo booth.
➍ Visit some of the coolest outdoor model railroads around as part of the Rose City Garden Railroad Society’s annual home tour on June 17.
➎ Sign up the whole family for a free PDX Kids Build workshop with the Pacific Northwest Carpenters Institute on June 10. — Julia Silverman

We Recommend:

If convincing your kids to join you on a hike is getting to be more trouble than it’s worth, check out the new Super Nature Adventures delivery box created by two Portland parents. Designed to keep your kids engaged on the trail, each month’s packet will feature a new kid-friendly trail (not more than 2.5 miles long and all within 30 miles of Portland), a waterproof activity map, stickers for exploring the trail, an illustrated field guide and more. (June’s packet will highlight West Linn’s Camassia Natural Area, a gorgeous loop through meadows and wetlands.) Sign up at Starting at $18.95 a month, discounts for bundles. — D.C.

Chalkboard: Summer School

Yes, we know, school’s just about out for summer, and the last thing on anyone’s mind — least of all, your kid’s — might be going back to the classroom. But a summer school program that’s been up and running in the Portland Public School system for a half-dozen years or so and counting is proving that doing exactly that might be the best way a rising kindergarten kid can spend July. The formal name is the “Early Kindergarten Transition program” or EKT for short. It’s offered in 14 schools at PPS, all of them with high percentages of kids who are eligible for free or reduced price lunch. The goal is to reach out to kids who need a little extra help getting ready for kindergarten — maybe they haven’t gone to preschool, or English isn’t the primary language spoken at home, or maybe they’ve had some behavior problems flagged at a Head Start program. It’s designed for both parents and kids to learn something: Kiddos work with teachers to practice school routines, learn more about what’s expected at school and focus on early literacy. Their parents learn about how to support kids at school, most importantly by making certain that they show up on time.

Researchers from the Northwest Evaluation Association and the University of Portland drew on data from five years of the program, and found that kids who had gone through it were more likely than their school peers to meet early literacy goals and were less in need of intensive (and expensive) literacy support later on in elementary school. Their attendance levels went up, too. This year’s program is set for July 17-August 4 at participating schools. It’s free, but space is limited. To figure out if your school offers EKT and if it might be a good fit for your kids, visit — J.S.

Source: Northwest Evaluation Association, University of Portland.

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