Work Culture

The curious case of unlimited vacations

By on July 8, 2016

Unlimited vacations or unlimited paid-time-off. As incredible as it sounds, this phenomenon not only exists but is currently being implemented by about 1% of US companies, according to Society For Human Resource Management. Globally, that would be lesser than 1%.

The concept originated in Brazil in the 1980’s but came in spotlight only in early 2000. Netflix has been implementing it since 2004, and evidently it has been highly beneficial for them. There are various lists out there about other awesome companies who have successfully embedded this policy in their work culture. Some of the big ones are:

  • Netflix
  • General Electric
  • Virgin Group
  • LinkedIn
  • Evernote

How does unlimited vacations policy work?

It’s simple. You can take as many leaves for vacation as you want. The catch? Don’t let your absence be a roadblock to others.

The intent behind this policy is pretty straightforward. Make sure that your tasks are completed and your absence should not cause any inconvenience to either your team or your company. If you abide by these norms then you can very well take as many vacations as you want.

The policy-that-isn’t permits all salaried staff to take off whenever they want for as long as they want. There is no need to ask for prior approval and neither the employees themselves nor their managers are asked or expected to keep track of their days away from the office. (Source: Virgin group )

–  Richard Branson

However, it should be noted that companies do not want you to feel it’s a ploy to get more work done out of you just to make you vacation-eligible. This practice is genuinely directed towards employees’ needs.

Attract top talent

There is fierce competition among recruiters to attract the crème de la crème of talented employees. They quote exorbitant figures to entice this talent. But gone are the days when only salaries could determine the choice of potential candidates. They know that no matter where they go, they will be assured of great salaries because of their capabilities. It is the additional benefits that they look out for.

We have seen the list of top companies for attracting talent where they had a variety of unique perks and benefits to offer apart from great salaries. Unlimited vacation is one such benefit that can be highly desirable. When you are assured about your work efficiency, you won’t have a problem with taking leaves. There is no upper limit for taking leaves when the management can see your productivity.

Respect for personal needs and time off for vacations

Not everyone needs the same number of days to relax and unwind. Some may go for just a couple of days while some may go for 3-4 weeks. Besides you can’t predict when some emergency may demand you to take time off.

Companies are beginning to understand and respect employees’ personal needs to take time off. After all, if they are stretched and exhausted from continuous work, their creative juices will probably have dried up. How can they then be expected to work to their full potential?

In a rigid work culture where employees hesitate to take leaves, allowing them to take time off as per their schedule is showing that you trust them and making them comfortable.

Some companies actually encourage and pay employees (and the management) to take a vacation.

  1. Evernote gives $1000 to employees to spend on vacations.
  2. FullContact goes a step further with their perks and gives $7500 for paid vacations with a condition that they will absolutely do no work!
  3. Gusto buys couple plane tickets for an employee’s 1st anniversary to anywhere in the world!

No calculations of leaves

Traditional leave policies could become cumbersome when it came to calculating everyone’s leaves. Some took a lot, some hoarded for encashment whereas some simply forgot or ignored.

In such cases, it was necessary to keep track of everything lest there arose any problems. With unlimited leaves, none of this needs to be tracked. It is entirely up to the employees. It is assumed that they are accountable for their work and will take leaves responsibly.

While this does appear easy in theory, it is the responsibility of the managers to educate every employee about the policy. Employees should understand the do’s and don’t’s when it comes to actually taking leaves. If they are unsure, they might not take leaves at all and this would cause many problems to the management.

This applies to the top management as well. While they encourage employees, they should also take leaves and set an example for others to follow.

In the end, it also depends on the integrity of employees. They should not abuse this freedom. Develop a work culture where it’s a win-win situation for both the company as well as the employees.

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