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Friday, May 27, 2011

What If You Had Unlimited Vacation?

What if you had unlimited paid vacation days? Would this be a good thing, or it would it just bring additional frustration, because who has time to take a day off work?

What If You Had Unlimited Vacation?


Class factotum said...

I am, alas, no longer part of the W2 world. But my husband has a very difficult time taking vacation. The first night of our honeymoon, he was in the lobby of our Madrid hotel working until 4 a.m.

He officially (as in, he is no longer being paid) started his three-month sabbatical on Tuesday, which meant he was up working only until 10 p.m. on Wednesday. He is worried that the work won't get done because everyone he works with is stretched so thin.

Mike said...

As a manager, I care about results. I never have wondered much where someone is. It is my job to keep my finger on the pulse of activity, to see who is over and who is under employeed. So in this vein, I would not have a hard time with flexible vacation.

It seems to be a current mantra among many people in business (especially in IT) that they are too busy. I believe busyness is a state of mind, a choice. It is all mindset.

fposte said...

Or a workplace different from yours. Many of us have jobs that don't involve people who can cover for us when we're out, so we have to decide between doing additional work before or after, taking it on vacation, or not going. Not that I disagree with the theory of unlimited vacation, and I like your approach to management--I just disagree with your characterization of scheduling.

(I actually like my job very much, for the record, and it has other flexibilities. But I'm definitely in Suzanne's second category.)

Mike C. said...


Busyness is just a mindset? A choice? What makes you believe this?

You understand that hours worked is something that's tracked internationally, right? Have you seen any of the literature about reduced productivity through the use of extended overtime and understaffing? Hit up if you disagree.

You imply that we all have some sort of control over our workloads or the pressure some of us face when review time comes up and someone actually used their vacation time this year.

Frankly, your post sounds like a winning start to a game of buzzword bingo.

Kerouac said...

I agree with the "mindset" comment, actually. My most productive employees are the ones who complain the least about their workload. No one ever says "I'm not getting my job done because I'm inefficient and untalented." It's always that they're overloaded.

Mike C. said...


That's a load of crap. Sure no one says, "I'm inefficient and untalented", but plenty of people say, "I need a better way to manage my time/I need to find a better process" or "I could use more education/training/experience".

You have an incredibly skewed view of the private world. Given the huge job cuts everywhere, it's common for employees to be doing the work of two or even three people and to be taking on more and more overtime (paid for or not). "Mindset" isn't going to change this simple and widely reported fact.

Talking about the issue as if it's simply a matter of "mindset" ignores all but the rarest of edge cases. Yes, I'm sure we could find someone out there who has a reasonable workload but is an unrealistic complainer, but on the whole this nation works an incredible amount of hours compared to other developed nations. We work longer weeks, we take fewer vacations and we tend to not make that much more for the effort.

But let me give you another shot. We have the post from Class factorium at the top of the page talking about how work was being done until 4am on their honeymoon. If you Cf's spouse, how would you "change your mindset" to avoid working so late into the morning on the first night of the honeymoon? What specific techniques do you have to deal with these issues?


As to the issue at hand, there's no way my place of work would allow it. We already have the majority of people working six day weeks and 10+ hour days. Such a plan would require management to actually treat us like responsible adults and I'll sooner believe that the rapture is coming. I think self direction in general is a great idea.

Heck, a workplace like that could easily keep people working if they allowed employees to take advantage of Google-style "N% time" policies. These let employees work on their own (or team) projects for N% of their time to improve the company, develop new products and so on. Everyone who's worked a job knows a thing or two that can be improved and this allows them the ability to do it.

Bali villas said...

i think later it would be no much different than regular will be boring enough..

Kerouac said...

My approach is skewed? Give me a break. I guess my comment about whiners struck a little close to home.

Mike C. said...


Yes, when I see my coworkers having to work six and seven days a week, your comment becomes spiteful and out of touch. They can't "mindset" their way out of the increased workload nor the increased stress it creates at home.

So how about instead of being a jerk you address any of the points I or the other commenters brought up. Simply strolling in and saying that workload is somehow a function of attitude without further explanation nor refutation of the common experiences of others is disingenuous at best.

Kerouac said...

Mike, I believe I cited my own experience as a manager. I'm sorry if it makes me a "jerk" because I don't share your opinion.

I don't work with anyone who is putting in 7 days a week, nor am I aware of any of my friends, neighbors or family members who are putting in 7 days a week.

I'm not saying your co-workers aren't working that hard, but it's not happening here. The people I work with who complain about being overworked still put in only 40-50 hours a week, but get half as much done. That's been a constant everywhere I've ever worked... the inefficient and ineffective complain about their workload. You're welcome to your own reality - I'm only going to talk about mine.

Michelle said...

I'm one of these people who only needs to work a 5-6 hour day. Some days I might need to work a full day or some overtime, but I'd say about 75% of the time I finish my work well before the day is done.

My employer constantly "rewards" my efficiency by having me help others with their work.

Early in my career, I thought this was great - I learned new things, got involved with different teams, etc. However today, after several years on the job, I admit that I am resentful.

So yes, I'm all for unlimited vacation and I would take advantage of it (not abuse it) if it was available to me.

But the fact is, I know such a policy would never work at the company I work for because people would abuse it.

JG said...

I work for a company that actually has unlimited time off and it works for us. It is a non-accrual policy meaning that noone actually gets any time off at all per policy, but managers can approve an uncapped amount of paid time off each year and we do not differentiate between sick, personal, or vacation days, although we do track how much time is taken for a variety of reasons, many that are obvious.

We have a very flexible culture (mobile software company) and find that it not only provides us with a competitive advantage in recruitment but we actually find that when people know they have whatever time they need available, they are MORE dedicated, engaged, and are less likely to use this unlimited time.

We have decent managers who can talk about goals and objectives properly and have a team focused environment. This program is not for everyone and it is amazing when it works but a potential nightmare if implemented in the wrong organization.

gregbo said...

I'll just briefly give one data point with regards to vacations. My last employer did not have an unlimited vacation policy. I took a badly needed three week vacation last summer. I was very burned out from massive overtime, and needed a break. I left careful instructions with my boss (at his request) on how to handle my responsibilities in my absence. While I was gone, I still had to work, reading and answering emails late at night, which I wasn't very happy about, but accepted this as a reality of the difficult economy. (We were understaffed.)

However, when I returned from vacation, I found out that my boss not only did not handle some key customer-facing responsibilities of mine in my absence, he claimed that he had handled those responsibilities. I was very angry with him about this, and told him so, and also reported this to HR during my exit interview.

I would just like to say that it isn't always the case that people can take vacations without worrying about their tasks being handled. I have come to accept that under some circumstances, my only real "time off" will be when I am not employed. Since I left my last job, I have lost weight, am sleeping better, have lower blood pressure, and have been able to attend to some personal matters. If I was still working, I would not have been able to do most, maybe even all of those things, because I had so much work to do. I'm very good at managing my time, but I have no control over how my management manages projects. Ultimately, I needed to leave my last employer in order to attend to my personal needs. Others have come to this conclusion, it seems, based on this CNN article. (Note point #10.)