July 19, 2012
Unlimited vacation days; wishful thinking, right? According to Life Inc., some companies have made it a reality.
"This is an unusual benefit and not in the mainstream yet, but more companies seem to be looking at this as an option," said Steven Miranda, managing director for the Center for Advanced Human Resource Studies at Cornell University ILR School, in Life Inc.
Companies such as tech startup Coupa, job-matching company TheLadders and Netflix are leading the pack when it comes to offering an unlimited amount of vacation days to employees. Sanket Naik, senior director of cloud operations at Coupa, for example, took a six-week trip last year and the company did not bat an eye.
While the idea may sound absurd to some, Life Inc. notes that there are still checks and balances in place and employees are held accountable for all their work while out of the office. So, how does it work? Employees are required to get time off approved by their managers and must have a colleague cover for them while out.
"Organizations that have had success with unlimited vacation, such as Netflix and Red Frog Events, rely strongly on accountability," explained Matthew Stegmeier, workplace change management consultant, in Life Inc. "Employees must make sure all their responsibilities are covered prior to leaving, which often means counting on a colleague to pick up the slack. As such, excessive vacation usage will be frowned upon as it grates on colleagues."
According to an April article in Bloomberg Businessweek, Netflix co-founder Reed Hastings explained that another necessary element for making unlimited vacation work is employees who care about their work and company. Hastings noted that the corporate culture at Netflix is one of "freedom and responsibility"--in other words, what matters most is what people get done, not how many hours or days they put in.
Mashable noted that IBM is well-known for its very flexible time off policy, which allows workers to take time off anytime and even on short notice. Many tech startups, which are famous for their perks, are also starting to rely more heavily on personal responsibility and accountability rather than logged in hours and vacation limits.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, however, pointed out that most businesses have yet to jump on the bandwagon to revamp their vacation policies. But the companies that are onboard are not planning to turn back any time soon.
"We want to empower our people to make the right decisions and be responsible without bogging us down with many pages of policies and rules," said Mark Verbeck, Coupa's chief finance officer, in Life Inc.
Compiled by Heidi M. Agustin
"How to Set Your Employees Free: Reed Hastings," businessweek.com, April 12, 2012, Reed Hastings
"How'd you like unlimited vacation days?" blogs.ajc.com, July 19, 2012 Christopher Seward
"Latest work perk: unlimited vacations," lifeinc.today.msnbc.msn.com, July 19, 2012, Eve Tahmincioglu
"Netflix's Unlimited Employee Vacation Policy: Why It Works," mashable.com, April 13, 2012, Kate Freeman