Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Unlimited Employee Vacation Policy

I ran across this story in Mashable last week about Netflix's unlimited employee
vacation policy. We've been operating with a similar policy since 2010 with great
results. Switching to a virtual office model – as we did in 2008 – forces a company to
put more trust in its employees. When you can no longer literally "keep an eye" on
everyone around the office, you end up rethinking a lot of your policies. Previously, each
employee was given a set number of paid time off (PTO) days each year, but we felt like
this traditional office practice didn’t fit into our modern, flexible culture.

Our current policy – like Netflix’s – doesn't set any limit to the PTO an employee can
take each year. Instead, employees are encouraged to take the days they need,
when they need them. Geoff is quick to share our success with this change, saying, "I
encourage people to take time off when they need it. What I don't want is people taking
time off arbitrarily because they think if they don't, they’re losing something."

Personally, I like being part of a company that treats us like adults and embraces
this “freedom and responsibility culture.”


Bob Boice said...

It would be interesting to hear how you track that time off and make sure your staff are indeed working as productively as possible. Unfortunately, not all staff in a larger company will be as trustworthy - likely to abuse the policy. There has to be some way to track this.

My initial thought when I read this was... is this why it's taking so long to get RS fixed, updated, in beta, etc.?

Alyssa said...

@Bob We do keep a record of days employees take off. Since we started the policy, we've actually seen a decrease in average vacation days for the whole company.

Travis said...

As frustrated as I sometimes get about progress, as I've gotten to (virtually) know the RS team they are pros and I can't imagine any abuse of this policy.

From my own experience with something similar, my concern actually goes the other way. The employees need to feel like they *still can* take vacation without feeling guilty about it. If employees never take any real time off even though it is "unlimited" it's bad for them and the business- totally burned out employees don't help anyone!

I think a policy like this is best, but you need consistent professionalism from both management and team members to do it right.

Rick said...

I let my coworkers take care of their time, not just the days off. The days off they must ask for, and negotiate. The time they want not always is a good time for the company, in special a small company. Almost always the company accepts the requested periods but we cant accept things like "hey, I'll take 10 days off starting today ok? Bye!" :)

Chris Musty Online said...

If a projects needs are met and the price agreed on the employee should be able to take the remainder of the time available to do what he/she pleases ie take a break.

Gerrut said...

I don't know if this is really such a great idea. It may even violate local work time laws.
What you should remember is that vacation is there for a reason - says someone who did not use enough vacation days himself. Trying to minimize the number of days employees take off with tricks like these may not be smart in the long term. You should actually encourage them to take a minimum of days. It might not always be convenient to the company, but it keeps your employees healthy.
At the moment I have to pay the prize for not taking enough vacation, work weeks of 60+ hours and having my own company on top of those, as well as being married to someone in the same company that let me take those 60+ hours who got burnt out before me because she did too much as well...
The bottom line is, people can't or don't always take care of themselves. It is good employership to spur them on to take rests even if they think they don't need it.

Geoff Perlman said...

The point of this isn't to get employees to take less time off. The point is to treat them like adults. What we found was that when people were provided with a fixed number of vacation days per year, they would take them whether they needed them or not. Or they would NOT take them when they needed them for fear they might need them later. Our policy allows people to take time off WHEN they need it. A side effect of this is that people, in general, seem to take less vacation. Not a lot less, but less. However, that's not the intent. The intent is for people to take as much as they need.

Could it be abused? Certainly. But if it is being abused, you have a different problem. Your employees don't like their work.

And yes, if an employee plans to take more than day or two off, they are expected to give some advanced notice. That's the courteous and professional thing to do.

Rottman said...

We recently opened an virtual office singapore cause some of our biggest clients are from there but we couldn't afford relocating just yet. That definitely solved our problems.Also, this allows us to go on vacations from time to time cause we know there's a backing office that can take care of business while we're away.