I was really pleased to see Richard Branson announce an unlimited vacation policy I wrote about this strategy a few years ago, and although the idea may seem radical, it forces a culture of hard working and dedicated individuals in an organization – which ultimately drives company success, evolution and innovation. In light of his recent announcement, I thought it was relevant to share my article, because the concepts and ideas behind it are still as valid today, as when I first published it. I look forward to seeing more companies adopt this kind of policy – what do you think?
12 Most Convincing Arguments for an Unlimited Vacation Policy
For the majority of leaders the suggestion of offering employees unlimited vacation is laughable. They would likely prefer to hear about flying pigs.
However, before you dismiss an idea like this one which has been working successfully in several companies and industries already, you need to ask yourself some questions: Is your company performing as you would like it to? Does your staff perform like you would expect them to? Does your company have an advantage in recruiting that is setting you apart from the rest? Business has changed with the times, are you are changing with them — or simply trying to get the best of all worlds, without changing anything at all?
The success of any company lies in its people. An unlimited vacation policy allows for more appealing lifestyles for your employees and also enables several formidable business advantages as well.
For the open-minded and forward thinking, here are the 12 Most Convincing Arguments in Favor of an Unlimited Vacation Policy at your company.
1. Cultivate an environment of people who feel good
Well rested, fulfilled people perform better. Being overworked and feeling like you need time off but can’t take it creates a very unhealthy situation. People start to feel mental exhaustion or duress. The body starts to get tired and people become more prone to catching colds or becoming sick. When people feel the freedom to take time when they need it, the entire energy surrounding time off changes. You will see people enjoying coming to work because if they didn’t want to be there, they would not be. When people feel good, the others around them feel good and the positive energy is contagious. Cultivate this feel good environment and the results will show in your numbers.
2. “Radical Trust”.
A term taken from Brett Hurt, CEO of Baazarvoice as interviewed in “In some business models, unlimited vacation is a thing of the future” where he shared his experience. In his words:
“When you treat people like adults, when you treat them with radical trust, they in turn do the same for you.”
The most essential component in any relationship is trust. This applies not only to personal relationships but business relationships as well. So much time is spent monitoring others to ensure that no one is “taking advantage of a situation” – or addressing office politics that stem from lack of trust. Take a leap in the direction of “Radical Trust”. When the trust levels increase, time and money is saved simply by eliminating all the energy and effort that goes into this “trust no one” mentality. Place your trust in your good employees and the work levels and contributions they make to the company will increase.
3. Eliminate slackers
One of the biggest arguments against giving employees unlimited vacation is really based in fear: “If everyone can take unlimited vacation, it will be abused, no one will come to work, business will suffer”. This is only true if the people you employ have little to no respect for the work they do and view it only as a 9-5 means of picking up a pay check. This is not the type of employee that outstanding, successful companies are made of. People who feel accountable for and proud of their work are really the people you want on board. This is an opportunity to truly review who is bringing value to the table, and who is just along for the ride.
4. Increase communication
In order for a policy like this to work there has to be strong communication among team members and throughout management. Performance expectations have to be defined clearly and people need to collaborate to ensure success. Feedback becomes essential to staying on track. With feedback and communication comes efficient identification of issues, resolutions and development of trust.
5. Reward efficiency not “clocked time”
It is very easy for a person to fill their time and make their day “full”. There is a difference between filling your day with tasks and productively moving through your day to get results. As people start to take control of their time, it is naturally advantageous to be as efficient and as effective as possible during working hours so that time away can truly be enjoyed. By instituting an unlimited policy, you are letting people know you value their work and you give them a chance to reward themselves when the work is done with some well deserved time off. What they are contributing becomes the priority focus.
6. Absenteeism will decline
When people feel over-stressed or over worked it often stems as a result of not taking down time. The general feeling that they can not take vacation time can drive people to another means which they rationalize as more acceptable for example — sick days. It is much easier and more efficient to manage planned time away than to deal with unexpected absences.
7. Natural selection of top performers
Going back to point number three, any of the employees in your company who are not self motivated and driven to succeed will likely be the first to irresponsibly manage their time and take advantage of the unlimited time off. When you examine this, you will find these same employees will likely be those who have the lowest results in comparison to their peers. Their mentality and resulting behavior will not work with the unlimited vacation policy, they will be eliminated and you can replace them with people who will fit your forward thinking culture.
Performance often drops when people are unable to balance the various aspects of their lives. Just because an employee is at their desk or in the office does not mean that they are present in their work. Being “absent” of mind is far more costly to businesses than physical absence itself. Efficiency drops dramatically and this can bring down the morale of the entire staff. Allowing flexibility in time off will ensure that people feel they can take care of things that would otherwise be perceived as “personal” as part of your work culture. This gives people the opportunity to balance their lives. Balanced people can focus on the tasks at hand and be present. Wouldn’t you rather have a team of focused individuals, than people wishing they were somewhere else?
9. Competitive advantage
Top talent is always in demand. Finding people to fill valuable roles is often difficult. How does unlimited vacation sound as a perk to attract talent? In the same way you might have laughed at the suggestion, your employees or potential hires are sure to perk up at the idea of this incentive. Give yourself this advantage, it sounds like a pretty sweet deal.
10. Improve your hiring practices
When you cultivate a dynamic and challenging environment in your company, you must raise the bar on your hiring practices and ensure that the people you are bringing into the company truly fit the mold. University degrees and records of employment are not enough to meet the criteria. Hiring will have to focus more on the individuals personal style, motivational factors and abilities. By being more selective your success in hiring will improve and this will reduce turn over costs and increase profitability.
11. Work hard — play hard
People love to feel accomplished, to come into an environment where things are always buzzing and moving forward. Environments that encourage people to work hard and play hard are hard to come by. Unlimited vacation policies ensure that when people are at work they want to be there. People can celebrate success because it means something, being part of a winning team means always delivering your best and working with others to see achievements. Its a different energy than someone punching in the clock, counting the hours or days until they can escape with a vacation. Which energy would you rather cultivate?
12. Corporate unity
When everyone is united with common goals the strength of a team is amplified. Knowing where you stand thanks to increased communication and having a truly ingrained commitment to results creates a synergy that unifies everyone. Knowing that being at work means being present brings everyone together. Everyone is working toward the same goals, everyone feels good.
These are 12 points to improve your business while creating reward for your employees. Do you think you are ready to take that on?
Does this list point towards other areas you need to work on in your environment before you even consider something like this? What do you think, is your company ready or structured to handle unlimited vacations? Very few are, yet the ones who do have outstanding success. What’s your take on it?