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Bursts of Color - Holidays and PTO

Bursts of Color - Holidays and PTO
By Geoff Donaker • Issue #67 • View online
Over the river and through the woods…
It’s that time of year for both stress and excitement about the approaching holidays. Here are some thoughts and benchmarks for vacation policies, as first posted in 2020 and updated here.

My own little turkey from a past Thanksgiving
My own little turkey from a past Thanksgiving
If Your Company’s Holiday Schedule Isn’t Clear
…folks may have divergent assumptions that cause stress and ill will. An extreme example I’ve seen: one co-founder worked every day during Thanksgiving week and only paused for turkey on Thursday; the other co-founder went completely off-the-grid for the full week. They each thought they were doing the “obvious” thing and barely discussed it beforehand, which left them both ticked off and the remaining team members bewildered about what’s okay. It doesn’t matter what the policy is: the important thing is simply to have a point of view and clarify it for the team.
A Default Holiday Schedule for 2021
If you have not yet nailed down a holiday schedule for this year, here is a starter proposal based on what seems to be common:
  • Thanksgiving Break from November 25-28
  • Year-End Break from December 24 - January 2
  • Offices closed during these windows, and no Slack/email/etc expected for most employees
Unlimited PTO: Great For Certain Companies
Beyond the holidays, now may be a good time to clarify your overall policy for time off. For smaller companies made up only of exempt employees (salaried folks not eligible for overtime), the obvious choice nowadays is to start with “unlimited” Paid Time Off. The upside is that this sounds good to recruits and it saves you a bunch of hassle and expense. The downside is that it can be confusing for folks to understand what’s considered acceptable: one person leaves for three weeks in Patagonia while the next is terrified to take off a single Friday. Of course, founders can mitigate this by setting clear expectations around norms for when and how to request time off.
For The Other Companies
For all the other companies – with hourly employees and/or a larger footprint – you’re probably going to need a real policy that includes vacation days, sick days and complies with employment laws wherever you operate. I once posted A Default Vacation Policy for Start-Ups, though it’s now dated and only references California. The critical thing for these traditional time-off policies is that someone in the company (usually all people managers and central HR) must track these days off. Nobody wants to do this, but the downside is unpleasant and hey, it’s management 101.
Good luck with your holiday scheduling.
And Happy Thanksgiving!
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Geoff Donaker

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