Unlimited paid vacation makes most people light up like the idea of calorie-free cake and a new car every year for life. If only. So when LinkedIn became the latest major corporation recently to offer employees all the time off that they want (General Electric did the same earlier this year), it was quite the topic of conversation.
But the policy isn’t quite the sparkles and rainbow it seems at first. And that’s exactly why it might work.
Unlimited paid vacation makes life a whole lot easier for caregivers—parents (particularly single parents) and adult children who sometimes have to work around another human being’s schedule. Need to get a kid to the orthodontist regularly or a parent to dialysis? Unlimited paid vacation means you don’t have to choose between responsibilities for a loved one and a paycheck.
It also gives those of us born with wanderlust the ability to take off and travel more than the five to 10 days per year ordinarily offered by employers. What a powerful recruiting tool for companies offering unlimited paid vacation!
Of course the policy is designed to keep employees fresh and recharged, as vacations are known to do. But the reality is, the work still needs to get done. If you disappear for a week every month, you’d be hard-pressed to keep up with any kind of responsible position. Emails still come and go; projects still have deadlines; clients still have needs; production goals still must be met. It’s hard to stay on top of everything when you’re on a beach more than at a desk.
Even if you were comfortable with letting things slide, most employers wouldn’t be. When it comes time to offer raises and promotions, the guy who’s done his job is more likely to get ahead than the guy who’s done bicycling trips to all 50 states in the past year.
Odds are good that employees won’t flake out and disappear under a discretionary time off policy. Of those who receive vacation/paid time off, the average American employee reports using only half (51 percent) of his or her eligible time in the past 12 months, according to the Glassdoor Q1 2014 Employment Confidence survey. Without a “use it or lose it” vacation time schedule, many simply forget to use it.
We can applaud the effort to treat employees like they’re professional adults by giving them control over their schedules. Unlimited paid vacation is not without its challenges: coworkers who do disappear and leave you with the workload, or bosses who decide that any time off is too much. But it certainly lessens the administrative burden of tracking vacation time, and it can be a godsend for someone who is willing to work hard but needs a flexible schedule.
The bottom line: It’s good for employee morale, but unless a company is forcing employees to take a minimum amount of vacation time, most likely will work more and vacation less. As we all know, the workload doesn’t take a break when you do!