Unlimited vacation time . . . a new trend in the workplace. It’s an interesting time to be discussing this topic. Two weeks ago, I spoke with KUT about a Right Management survey that indicated that 70% of individuals did not use all of their vacation time in 2011.
Why is Vacation Time Going Unused?
- Some individuals felt pressure (internal or external) to make sure they showed their commitment to work by taking less vacation days.
- Other individuals are allowed to rollover vacation days each year and might have been saving some days for 2012 when they will need extended vacation (honeymoon, maternity leave).
- Some individuals are awarded compensatory time for hours worked after 40 hours each week and used the compensatory time rather than vacation.
Some individuals just don’t take a lot of vacation. They are wired to work more and vacation less.
Whatever the reason may be, I would expect people to take less vacation time when unemployment is high.
Another topic that we spoke about was whether individuals who did take days off really took a break from the job. Many individuals take time off and leave the office but are still plugged into the office through email or phone. They may call into meetings or answer emails while they are trying to relax. This, at times, defeats the purpose of vacation. Vacation is to truly relax and give individuals time away from work to become re-energized about their work. Is this a function of internal pressures (i.e. we want to be seen as a productive employee and worry about disconnecting from work), or external pressures (i.e. our boss never takes a true vacation and expects the same behavior from her employees), or a function of technology (i.e. we have the ability to work from anywhere so we do)? It can be one or more depending on the individual and the situation.
Will Unlimited Vacation Policies Work?
I love the idea. It is logical: each individual has different needs and can make vacation decisions based on their needs. On LinkedIn I saw an article speaking on the benefits of unlimited vacation days. An individual might not put off taking a vacation (even though she could really use it) for fear that she will run out of days if something comes up. Most individuals are aware of and can manage the work they need to accomplish each day and what they are responsible for. Unlimited vacation can be a very motivating factor for individuals who realize more control at work. It will work better for some companies than others and will be highly dependent on the company’s culture.
You might think that people will hardly come to work if they have unlimited vacation. In some cases, maybe, but the opposite problem is more likely. Thus, the company must ensure that employees are encouraged to take vacation time and make it clear that this is not a policy designed to make people take less vacation. For employees, this will be a shift from the traditional workplace. The workplace is ever-changing with flexible hours, telecommuting, technological advances, increase in independent contractors, etc. I am eager to see how the policy plays out as more and more employers implement it.
Please comment below with how you use your vacation days and what you like (or don’t) about unlimited vacation.