🍾 Bottomless Prosecco! 🍨 Boundless Ice Cream! 🥗 All-You-Can-Eat Buffet! ☀ Unlimited Paid Time Off!
One of those things strikes fear into people professionals and business owners alike (well, maybe two, depends on your policy on alcohol with lunch 🍻🍷). But, is an unlimited vacation policy really something to be afraid of? After all, some of the biggest organisations in the world have embraced the idea and have grown both their workforce and stock price.
🌴 What is an unlimited vacation policy?
It’s as simple as it sounds. It’s a vacation policy that states there are no limits on the amount of holiday that an employee can take. The majority of policies will say something along the lines of 20 working days (plus public holidays) a year and, taking more holiday than that allowance will mean either taking unpaid leave or buying extra holiday from the company or colleagues.
Unlimited PTO policies will vary company to company though - perhaps you’re able to pick and choose, at short notice when you take holiday. Perhaps you still need to book it in and have your manager approve it, but there aren’t limits on how many days you can take. Either way, the point is, no one is counting how many days you take.
😎 How does this benefit my employees?
Aside from a reduction in anxiety about taking holiday, accruing holiday and making sure you have enough, the benefits of an unlimited PTO policy for your employees are pretty clear. No longer does it burn through your PTO allowance if you need to go to the dentist, or take time off to care for a dependant.
You can level-up your skills by taking time off to _do more work_, but of an academic nature. Take a few days for professional development, or to visit a conference or whatever you need. PTO is no longer just for sitting on a beach or sliding down an icy hill.
There’s also the benefit of being able to take it whenever you need it, instead of waiting to accrue holiday. Perhaps you’ve started at a new company and haven’t accrued enough hours yet, or you’ve already taken four weeks in Bali, but suddenly, your sister decides she’s getting married to her yoga instructor in Paris and needs you there for a week.
👩🏭 How does an unlimited PTO policy benefit my company?
This is where the real gold is. Most of the benefits of an unlimited PTO policy fall with the employer.
The obvious advantages are engaged, well-rested and happy employees. I won’t go into those too much, but unlimited PTO is a wellness perk that really pays dividends.
Additionally, you’ll also lower the cost per employee (depending on where you’re located). You’ll never have to pay out untaken holiday to someone leaving your organisation. An unlimited PTO is also, right now at least, a great perk - it’ll mean you can attract some talent that you may not otherwise have attracted (I mean, you’ll need to make sure that all other aspects of your offer are up-to-par, but you may get a great candidate, who is on the fence about two offers, only yours has an UPTO policy, so it’s a no brainer).
The real benefit to your company though is the shift of focus to what is really valuable. Without unlimited PTO, it’s easy (and real lazy) to fall into the trap of assuming if there are bums on seats, people are working towards your company goals. With unlimited PTO, you’ll need a framework for your people to be able to demonstrate that they’ve done valuable work, or that their third trip to Disneyland this quarter won’t affect their ability to deliver that key project.
Unlimited PTO forces you to measure the value your employees create with metrics that actually mean something. Metrics that allow you to really understand progress towards goals and targets and not just whether or not they turn up to work.
The benefit of this re-focusing onto what matters is that you turn your employees into stakeholders in your company. The level of trust and inclusion that you communicate by allowing employees to control their own working patterns will, in turn, create a level of commitment to the company that may otherwise be missing. They’ll be more focused on what the right thing is to do in order to move closer to the goal and not just how to fill the hours before they next go on holiday.
😡 How do you know the system isn’t being abused?
It’s fine to have concerns over whether or not this system might be abused by your employees. But, look - what you’re doing is offering them a sign of trust that is impossible to get in other ways
“You’re adults, we trust you to manage yourselves accordingly.”
With a decent system in place of performance measurement, that is actually measuring performance and not the amount of time someone spends at work, you’ll be more comfortable about rolling this kind of thing out. You’ll have actual, verifiable metrics to ensure things are heading in the right direction and that your people aren’t abusing the trust.
That said, you might want to consider how your employee contracts and the UPTO policy is worded. If you’re super worried you can put limits in, for example:
- No longer than four weeks at a time.
- Must give two weeks notice.
- You supervisor can reject your request if:
- Your peers are off at the same time and your roles overlap
- The requested period has deadlines or other compelling reasons to not be off
- They’re an ass.
I ran an UPTO policy as part of a role several years ago. It worked really well. In fact, the only problem we had was that people didn’t take _enough_ holiday. So we had to contractually oblige them to take a certain amount of holiday once a quarter.
📃 Understanding Expectations
Whether it’s what you need your employees to do, or what your employees need from you, it comes down to how much effort you put into communicating your expectations. This is likely a strange, new concept for many people, so easing them into it and setting the boundaries - as fluid as they may be - is important. People will feel like they’re abusing the system because they’re used to the old system, so it’s about articulating, repeatedly, what a UPTO policy means and how they can function inside of one without fear of being penalised.
📪 End #post