Infinity Zillion Vacation Days, the HORROR

Costa Rica beachAs Anna North points out in her Op-Talk column (where she has occasionally mentioned us, thanks Anna, we love you!) the newest cool-office trend might be giving workers unlimited vacation days. Naturally, the chattering classes think this is terrible.

In a post on his blog, Mr. Branson praises Netflix’s vacation policy, which he describes thus: “The policy-that-isn’t permits all salaried staff to take off whenever they want for as long as they want. There is no need to ask for prior approval and neither the employees themselves nor their managers are asked or expected to keep track of their days away from the office. It is left to the employee alone to decide if and when he or she feels like taking a few hours, a day, a week or a month off, the assumption being that they are only going to do it when they feel a hundred per cent comfortable that they and their team are up to date on every project and that their absence will not in any way damage the business — or, for that matter, their careers!”

And, he writes, “I’m delighted to say that we have introduced this same (non) policy at our parent company in both the UK and the US, where vacation policies can be particularly draconian.”

“Draconian” is right. 1 in 4 US workers get no vacation at all. Imagine a world where employers trusted employees: to take what they needed and not (too much) more, to do a mixture of what was best for them and the company, to make thoughtful, long-term financial and personal decisions. Wouldn’t employees, by and large, endeavor to prove worthy of that trust? (ANS: Yes, they would.)

Instead we have a fear-based situation where everyone’s worried that everyone else is taking advantage of them. It’s exhausting. And yet even when the status quo sucks, people cling to it out of habit. As Anna recounts, and as I discovered when I Googled the subject, the reaction so far has been discouraging: “How Great Is Unlimited Vacation Time, Really?” asks Businessweek. “Unlimited Vacation Time: Why It May Not Be As Awesome As It Sounds,” cautions Yahoo. Ugghghhhhhh, says Ester. GUYS. This is why we can’t have nice things.



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