What would you do if your boss suddenly told you that you could take as much vacation as you wanted? Would you be filled with excitement? Or would you be afraid of taking too much time off?
Well this scenario is reality at about 2% of American businesses. A new trend is emerging in corporate America—a policy of unlimited vacation. According to a recent Wall Street Journalarticle, the idea, which originated in the nineties, is especially popular among high-tech and professional-services companies.
Companies such as Netflix, which has instituted the policy, say that the idea fits their company culture of encouraging an open-ended workday. People at Netflix tend to work around the clock, using laptops and cell phones to stay in touch. Because of this, the company stopped tracking employee vacations, preferring to measure only results.
According to the Society of Human Resource Management, about 2% of companies offer a “results-only” work environment. In such a company, workers are in control of vacation dates and lengths, while their bosses only look at performance, ignoring the number of hours logged.
But will this idea catch on in mainstream corporateAmerica? People already have a difficult time using defined amounts of vacation. According to a survey by Expedia.com, only 38% of Americans use their allotted vacation time each year.
Why? The reason seems to be rooted in fear. Employees are afraid that if they are away too long, they will be the first to go in potential layoffs. Additionally, because few employers cross-train workers to know other duties, many employees dread returning from vacation to piles of unfinished work. Employees also don’t want to let down their teammates by dumping them with additional work.
The Value of Vacation
Many employers are also beginning to see the value in having employees take time off. Obviously, vacation gives employees a chance to recharge their batteries and come back to work refreshed. But there are more subtle reasons for employers to value time off. Vacations require workers to learn each other’s jobs, so that no one employee becomes indispensable. Some financial services corporations even require employees to take at least two weeks, giving the company time to expose any clandestine back-office irregularities.
The policy of unlimited vacation won’t work for every company. It seems to work best in environments where employees are measured by what they get done, not by how long it took them to get it done. Its success also requires managers to put in place specific metrics of employee performance, so workers know how they are doing and feel comfortable taking time off when it’s needed. If approached with the right attitude, unlimited vacation can be a win-win for all.