The Ups and Downs of Unlimited Vacation Time
You walk into work, tired and desperately in need of a good vacation. You saunter over to your desk, open your email, and read a companywide message stating that from now on, you and your coworkers have unlimited vacation days. How do you respond?
That concept might be difficult to wrap your head around, but it’s a real policy that Virgin Group founder Richard Branson has put into practice at his company. Salaried employees who work at Virgin's main offices in New York, London, Geneva, and Sydney can take a vacation whenever they want, for however long they want. And no one is keeping track.
Branson believes this initiative will allow employees to take time off whenever they feel they have all their immediate work done and their leave won’t negatively impact the company or their careers. The entrepreneur has taken notice of the increased flexibility that most employees seek today, so this is his attempt to update vacation policies for the modern times.
He’s not the first person to go this route, though. Back in 2010, The Telegraph reported that Netflix was allowing its staff the same unlimited holiday plan. It sounded even crazier back then, but Netflix has grown to become the clear market leader for video streaming. Whatever the company has been doing has led to massive success.
This freedom is meant to give employees a boost in morale, creativity, and productivity. The seemingly friendly and understanding policy should attract additional talent, giving people the sense that their company puts a high value on personal time.
However, not everyone agrees with this thought process. Lotte Bailyn, a professor emeritus at the MIT Sloan School of Management, told The Huffington Post that this lack of structure might actually lead to workers feeling less comfortable with taking days off. People often find it difficult to break out of the habits established from previous jobs.
“Typically, without any guidelines or structures, people don’t quite know what to make of this,” Bailyn said. “They tend to fall back on expectations they have formed in previous terms.”
An article in Time added that this "endless summer" mentality will also help the company’s bottom line, as employers don’t have to pay workers for unused vacation days. The bold policy could also push workaholics to work even more because they don’t feel the pressure of their accumulating paid time off on their shoulders.
Branson has openly used the word “love” when referring to his employees. The argument here shouldn’t be that the Virgin Group boss is implementing this plan just for his own benefit. What should be put into question, though, is just how advantageous this unlimited time off is for the people who are receiving it.