Imagine buying tickets to Paris without first painstakingly counting your vacation days down to the hour, making sure you can squeeze it in. Imagine not asking HR for permission, or your boss if your trip to Paris fits into her plans. While it’s not widespread just yet, more and more companies are offering an unlimited vacation days policy.
Like those few grade school teachers who let you go to the bathroom without permission, unlimited vacation policies presume employees are the best judges of when they need to take time off. The policy also presumes that driven, empowered people will get their work done.
Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group, said in this Forbes article, “... in my 13 years as an entrepreneur, I’ve learned that when you treat employees like grown-ups, they act like grown-ups. When employees know they are trusted to take vacation when they need or want one, they’re more willing and excited to produce good work when they’re in the office.“
Careful hiring and clear communication are key to making unlimited vacation days work. The interview process is the first step in guaranteeing success. Candidates who follow through on resumes and phone calls, who take initiative in interviews and appear engaged with a company’s mission, are likely to be the type of workers who work as hard as they play.
Self-starters will make sure projects are done and deadlines are met. People excited about their jobs will self-police, making sure their time off doesn’t compromise the quality of their work. When this flexibility is abused by employees, it's usually the result of a hiring mistake, not a flawed policy.
There’s another reason not to worry about vacant office cubicles. A study by a research initiative called Project: Time Off, which looks into the cultural and economic benefits of vacation time, finds that most of us are very reluctant to take a break.
Project: Time Off reported that Americans lose 169 million days of paid time off a year.