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What if You Offered Unlimited Vacation Days to Your Employees?

Posted by John Powter

May 28, 2014 1:12:16 PM

Sounds crazy huh?  Maybe not!  Nearly 70% of all Americans don't use all the vacation they are allotted.  In some cases, those days can roll over.  Many are start ups (Just try taking a vacation in a start up!); however, big companies such as Netflix, Best Buy, and the rating firm Morningstar are, as well. Should you?

For starters, says Lotte Bailyn at Quartz, "numerous studies have found that time away from the office and more frequent vacations lead to greater productivity, improved job performance, and lower levels of stress." Therefore, more vacation equals a refreshed, creative, and resourceful office. Not having to track vacation days, or pay out employees for unused days, can also save a company time and money. And current and prospective employees generally appreciate it when their company treats them like grown-ups.

EE_Vacation_Image

Here is Netflix's comments starting at slide 67:

We don't track hours worked per day or per week, so why are we tracking days of vacation per year? We realized: We should focus on what people get done, not on how many days worked. Just as we don't have a 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. workday policy, we don't need a vacation policy.... There is also no clothing policy at Netflix, but no one comes to work naked. Lesson: You don't need policies for everything. [Netflix]

Just this last Memorial Day weekend we told the entire staff there was mandatory training at noon.   Instead of the training session, we told the employees it was required they take the afternoon off and get an early start on the summer.  What transpired next was fascinating - we expected people to wrap up any outstanding project and set their "Out of Office" and be there for 30-45 minutes. At the hour mark, no one had left. The second mention, we strongly told the employees again; soon after the first person left.  As Derek Sivers points out in his famous TED Talk, we had the start of a movement.  Then the next employee left. Now we had some traction, it was safe to leave - even the executives were telling them they had to go - there still was a pressure to stay.

Within the next 15 minutes, the majority of the employees had left. However, instead of leaving at noon, after being told they had to leave, it was at 2:00 or later - which is when most companies close in our industry. 

I am not sure unlimited vacation days are the answer.  We don't watch our employees to make sure they aren't drinking beer during the day because that isn't professional.  Perhaps taking off too many days and the competitive pressure to keep up with your peers is, as well. If 70% of all vacation days aren't taken then it's the 30% of your workforce you would have to worry about. What kind of quality could you recruit if your offering was unlimited vacation?  Would it be enough to weed out the people that would take advantage of it?  Time will tell.

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