Imagine this scenario: You have been working hard for weeks and decide that you need some time off. A few days? A week? Nope. You want to take three weeks and drive the Pacific Coast Highway in a convertible. And what does your boss say to this plan? Sure! He wishes you well and asks to see the pictures when you get back. And how much vacation time will you have left after this sojourn? As much as you need because your company has an unlimited vacation policy.
Sound far-fetched? It might, but is also an actual reality for many workers today. Companies like Netflix and LinkedIn have a flexible vacation policy - take as much time as you want as long as the work gets done (and done well). Netflix is also fairly lax with the number of hours an employee works in any given week, as long as the work gets done.
While the idea of offering employees unlimited vacation time seems counterproductive, Netflix executives actually saw spikes in both productivity and work quality when they introduced the new vacation policy. Other businesses that have switched to the open-ended vacation time (and flexible work schedules in general) tout its effectiveness. By offering employees more autonomy with their time and schedules, the employers boost morale and gain both loyalty and higher quality work.
One NY-based marketing firm with an unlimited vacation policy actively encourages their employees to enjoy time away from the office by blocking vacationing employees from accessing company email and/or servers. They want their people to focus on relaxing and recharging. Since enacting the practice in 2004, they have never encountered a single instance of “vacation time abuse.”
One of the keys to making unlimited vacation days work is communication. Netflix managers require their people to be consistent with their communication. Good communication builds relationships and morale - two things which managers and executives believe keeps employees from abusing the open vacation policy.
The days of working like Ebeneezer Scrooge (or more likely, his assistant Bob Cratchit) may not be completely in the past, but more and more companies are seeing the benefit of giving their employees time to relax and recoup from the stress of their jobs. In fact, Basecamp even pays for the vacations in addition to paying for the time off. HubSpot has an open vacation policy with one main stipulation - employees are required to take at least two weeks off every year. They call it the “two weeks to infinity” plan.
Time off is good, and not just for the worker bees. Managers and executives are also taking more time away from work. Netflix CEO Reed Hastings takes up to six weeks of vacation, and his company is not going under because of it. Seems like an open vacation policy may really do the body/mind/business some good.