Unlimited Vacation: Beneficial or Harmful to the Workplace
Throughout the past few years, many employers have toyed with offering new perks to their employees’ benefits package. One of these policies, in particular, is the unlimited vacation package. This perk is a relatively new policy that allows employees to take as much time off as they need or desire without any set limits or restrictions.
With organizations looking for alternative ways to increase their retention rate, improve employee satisfaction and soften the news of the “return-to-work” policies that are now coming into effect, the unlimited vacation policy has become more and more attractive. This is particularly so given that many employees have expressed their need for a better work-life balance within their current workplace or have sought employment at different organizations that provide this.
At first glance, the idea of unlimited vacation time may seem advantageous, causing many employers to believe that this new policy would benefit their employees and the company as a whole. However, various organizations from multiple industries have shown that the policy is difficult to manage and has resulted in a decrease in vacation time taken, hindering one’s work-life balance. With this in mind, an organization may want to give the unlimited vacation a second thought before moving forward and implementing this policy.
Disadvantages of Unlimited Vacation Time in the Workplace
Though it may seem beneficial, having an unlimited vacation policy can cause quite a hindrance within the workplace. Organizations that have already implemented and followed this procedure have noticed the following for the organization and the employees.
- Lack of Clarity
Unlimited vacation time causes employees to question, “how much time is too much time to take?” Unfortunately, every manager, employee and organization will have a different answer to this question.
A lack of clarity can result in some employees taking less than average amounts of vacation, if any at all, throughout the year. Rather than improving employees’ work-life balance, this can lead to an increase in stress and a decrease in morale as everyone works through this unknown territory.
- Vacation Overlaps
With an unclear system, managing expectations and employees’ time off can be hard, leading to vacation overlaps. While this can be managed on a smaller scale, larger organizations may find it troubling to ensure that proper coverage is provided and that multiple employees are not out of the office at the same time.
These unforeseen overlaps can lead to a decrease in productivity and an increase in stress within the organization as the team works to manage any vacation overlaps that occur.
- Policy Abuse
Unlimited vacation time can result in some employees taking fewer than normal vacation days; however, it can also have the opposite effect. Without any set guidelines or real clarity, some employees may take way more vacation time than their teammates or compared to the regular allotted amount of 10 – 15 days.
This can cause strife between employees in the workplace, leading to a toxic or poor culture. Not to mention productivity levels will decrease if certain team members are constantly out of the office or unavailable.
- Decrease in Employee Satisfaction
With this policy put in place, employees have been found to feel a little more stressed and uncertain when it comes to taking time off. Pair this with the added pressure of having to cover for multiple employees due to vacation overlaps or employees who abuse the policy, and organizations will find that their workplace culture has greatly shifted. All while their employee’s work-life balance has not improved at all.
Though this policy may appear to be the right choice to help employees feel less stressed and more motivated at work, it has been found to have the opposite effect. Therefore, the solution is not for organizations to provide employees with additional time off. Instead, organizations should focus on improving the overall culture and environment and provide employees with actionable and clear guidelines to help them establish a better balance.
Alternative Solutions to Unlimited Vacation Time
Fortunately, there are many alternatives to unlimited vacation time. Some of these options include:
- Improved Workplace Culture: A poor workplace culture can lead to burnout, stress, and decreased productivity rates. This causes employees to seek more time off or an improved work-life balance. By improving the organization’s culture, employees may feel more motivated and inspired at work.
- Encourage Use of Set Vacation Time: Employers should encourage their employees to use their allotted vacation time throughout the year. With clear boundaries and open communication, employees will feel less stressed or overwhelmed about taking their well-deserved time off, resulting in the set use of PTO.
- Holiday or Summer Hours: If employees are seeking some additional personal time off, a good solution may be to include extended, set holiday or summer hours. Some organizations have experimented with their offices closing early before a summer long weekend, giving employees that desired time to be with their family and friends.
- Work Flexibility: To help employees feel more balanced with their work and personal life, organizations can offer work flexibility for crucial appointments. This will allow employees to attend any pressing personal or family matters that may arise throughout the year without feeling overwhelmed due to their momentary absences within the office.
Since unlimited vacation time is still relatively new, there are many unknowns about how beneficial it can be to both the organization and the employees at hand. Rather than implementing this policy that is only attractive on paper, organizations should focus on improving their workplace culture and current vacation mandates, helping to prevent burnout, stress, or an increased need for work-life balance.
This change in direction will prove to be advantageous to all members of the organization, helping to attract new talent and retain current employees.