One of the few perks of my current job was one that sounds good, but that I was pretty skeptical about. Unlimited vacation!
SURE… sounds great but I didn’t really like it because as a certified workaholic, when would I take that time off? It didn’t seem very likely.
A small part of me, the part that’s still insecure about stupid stuff like looking lazy for taking time off, wanted to insist on having 3 weeks totally off guaranteed instead of this weird yawning abyss of “unlimited” stuff. Probably so that I wouldn’t feel guilty for choosing to take time off. And what is that about? Is it the ingrained need to have “budgets” for everything? That sounds irrational but think about it: if you don’t have set accepted norms, then socially speaking, there’s a compulsion to follow the crowd. If the crowd doesn’t take a week off, then you don’t take a week off.
Long term and from an objective perspective, with an unlimited days off policy, you wouldn’t get paid out at the end of your employment period for unused days. While I never relied on that, I always felt like that was a bit of a bonus for me since I could never really take my vacations anyway. At the end of one job, I took home a check for more than 300 unused vacation hours. That was delicious.
Over a year later, I’m now curious whether my skepticism’s panned out, so I decided to do an informal collection of data.
I went through our timeoff log, and took down the number of days that people logged as holidays, days off, or travel days (just semantics). I didn’t take down everyone’s time, just a representative cross section.
1. Days off that span weekends since we all work weekends regularly enough that we often notify each other when we AREN’T going to be available on the weekend. For example, if we were marked off from Monday through Sunday, that’s 6 days.
2. Federal holidays, same reason as above.
3. Days working from a place that’s not home or the office on the assumption that in a traditional office, you’d have to take that time off entirely.
Work from home days because location only matters to some of us and it’s not considered a free day.
An important detail: we all tend to be available during our holiday time anyway. If we’re totally offline, it’s not for more than a couple of days, we just reduce our online hours during “vacation”.
Given that we’re all, voluntarily, only partly off during these holidays, these numbers should be taken with a grain of salt. Or a peck. But it is still really impressive to see that we are, in fact, really using our flexibility.
There are few reasons I think this works really well.
1. We’re all responsible adults. No one has to be nagged for anything, though some people will nag because it’s in their nature to do so
2. We recognize where our work intersects with or affects other people and we respect each other enough to take care of that work in a timely manner.
3. Most of us either had exceptionally strong, pre-existing working relationships with each other, or are really easygoing and don’t waste time on taking offense, taking things personally, or really, doing anything but getting the job done. This makes for an amazing work environment: no politics, very few arguments, even fewer meetings.
4. We’re still a small enough group that we simply don’t have the luxury of being or having deadweight.
I’m a convert and didn’t even know it ….
Granted, this could be because I made a pact to be open to taking time away. But topping the time off chart was totally unexpected.
I’ll be interested to see whether my numbers change when I can take the time off entirely, with full backup, because then that might start feeling excessive. Doing the math: When you boil it down, I probably work at 20-40% capacity while on vacation, so that works out to being “off” … 36.9 days. Honestly? The way I work, I don’t think that’s at all excessive.
So two months “off”? I don’t even feel guilty. When I’m on, I’m ON. Sixteen hours a day on, if necessary,
no complaints very little complaint. And when I’m off, well, until I have sufficient back up, I’m doing double duty working and vacationing at the same time. I prioritize and occasionally drop the non-critical stuff but I always, always get the job done.
I’m proud of myself for actually using the flexibility to be more present in our family lives, to do things we’ve never done before .
And you know what? This is the sort of thing that our work culture encourages. Get the job done, and do whatever you want otherwise: don’t be so stereotypically American that we only work hard and never play. In addition to all the above variables, no one really cares about when or how much time someone else is taking off because we make sure to cover the work and each other, and that’s really what matters at the end of the day: getting the job done reasonably well, efficiently, and on time.
For all the other life-things that are difficult, in this, I’m a lucky woman.
As far as our budget goes, I can’t say this is a GOOD thing, our travel budget in 2013 was astronomical! But we won’t be doing that much travel all the time.
:: This is, bar none, the most generous and flexible policy I’ve ever encountered, in writing and in practice during my working years. Have you had better? How do you prefer your vacation days?
:: Bonus: What’s your dream vacation?