Unlimited Vacation? Sign me up.

working vacationOh man, it’s Labor Day weekend already. The end of summer and summer Fridays is upon us. Hopefully, you got to travel somewhere nice and enjoy a break from your daily responsibilities.


How long did you take, BTW? And were you able to truly check out? I ask because this article has surfaced on many blogs lately about the trend in companies adopting an unlimited vacation policy.


Unlimited means no more specified number of PTO days. So long as you can manage your workload and team, you can take as much paid time off as you want. It’s true! In fact, one of my clients is doing it.


I’ve re-posted the article below, with the author’s take on why unlimited vacation is a brilliant idea. For the opposing side, check out this August 21 Boston Globe article.


But I’m curious about your own experiences. Vacation time has long been a bargaining chip in my world of offer negotiations a perk employers could use to sweeten a deal or reward outstanding performance. What happens when you take this off the table, and let employee’s individual work ethics prevail? And what’s the catch? If we’re moving toward a telecommuting, always-on kind of society, when is it permissible to enjoy some time off the grid?


Tell me what you think.


Re-posted from AOL Jobs: 3 Reasons Why Unlimited Vacation is a Brilliant Idea


1. Trust is a great motivator. In the absence of real reasons to require someone to be onsite at certain times, limited vacation and sick day policies signify a belief that you think people will behave like truant children if not carefully policed. Sure, some people can’t be trusted not to claim to have the flu 365 days a year…but maybe you shouldn’t hire people like that. You can also have ways to weed out anyone who doesn’t meet expectations.


2. An unlimited vacation policy requires an emphasis on expectations and results. Why, exactly, do you need this number of people in your department? What should they be accountable for doing? What’s a challenging but achievable goal for each employee for each week, month, year? Communicating expectations, and holding people accountable to them, is part of good management. It’s also less prevalent than it should be.


3. An unlimited vacation (and sick day) policy removes problems that don’t have to be problems. I remember reading an HR publication’s Q&A, in which a manager wrote in asking if he should count an employee’s absence as a sick day – the father didn’t come in because his kid had been up sick all night – vs. a vacation day. This struck me as a lot of bean-counting and bureaucracy. In a different world, that father might be trusted to make up his work after he’d taken a nap. No one would worry about how to attribute the day.

Of course, there’s a downside to being held accountable for results…which is that you actually have to achieve results. And that doesn’t always allow for taking chunks of time off with no communication. When vacation time is accrued in the traditional way in traditional jobs, you’re entitled to it. If your job involves manning the cash register at a store, you clearly won’t be doing that on vacation. The lines are cut and dried. You can tune everything out. If you have to achieve certain results – but can take off whatever time you want – you may be checking email once a day, and handling anything directly related to those required results while on the road.

But personally, I think that’s a good trade off. Since I work for myself writing things (rather than, say, fixing toilets or running a bakery), that’s pretty much how my work works. I go or do whatever I want…but I’ll send emails from a beach house at night, or file a story from a hotel. People who’ve worked with me on projects have worked the same way. Maybe it’s not pure vacation, but I also get away from my desk a lot more often that way.


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