February 2, 2016 | 4-minute read (649 words)
This guest post is from Bethany Walsh, Head of Marketing for Abacus.
It’s a well known fact that most people don’t take enough vacation or downtime. They are always plugged into their ever present smartphone with email and Slack notifications, whether they’re sitting on a sandy beach or in a conference room. And most employers don’t pay much attention to this - they’re too tied up in it themselves.
It’s no secret that you’ll get better quality work out of someone who’s rested than when they aren’t - there’s lack of attention to detail, burning out and other side effects. So unlimited vacation seems like the best answer to solving the dilemma, right? Give the team as much time as they need to take care of themselves - seems logical. But what is it that really stops them from taking time off in the first place and does unlimited vacation solve that?
Unlimited Vacation - The Good
The best thing about unlimited vacation plans is that employees don’t need to worry about running out of time off if they get sick or need to take a personal day. It’s not a decision of do I take the time off or will I need it for something more important later. You are also building trust with your team - the expectation is that the policy won’t be abused and that they can self-manage their schedules to get their work done. This breeds loyalty and can increase length of employment.
Unlimited Vacation - The Bad
There is no “use it or lose it” mentality to encourage taking time off. In fact, there is no real incentive to take time off at all. Being responsible for managing your own schedule and priorities means that there is more pressure put on employees to carry their weight which builds anxiety around taking time off - the dread of falling behind.
Making an Unlimited Vacation Policy Work
Unlimited vacation policies, especially at startups, are considered the standard and used as a benefit while recruiting new talent. Companies that are successful at implementing it are ones that don’t just leave it at that - a grey area surrounded by anxiety. They often modify them to truly encourage work-life balance, such as adding a required time off clause - requiring every employee take at least two weeks off a year.
Time-off Policies Represent Your Culture
Because work-life balance is always the underlying current of any company culture, your vacation policy will have a direct impact, so don’t make it a grey area. Clearly communicate your vacation policy to employees and interview candidates - how they should request time off or notify the team. Don’t make vacation a dirty word.
It’s easy to burn out and it’s common knowledge that anxiety levels have increased since the line between work and personal has become more blurred. There isn’t much that we can do to separate the two anymore, except to encourage personal time and discourage the behaviors that take away from that. On top of a vacation policy, make sure employees understand that they don’t need to respond to emails at midnight or while taking personal time. Be sure to close the office down for holidays, breaks or fun time. Ingraining downtime in your company culture will keep the creative juices flowing and attitudes positive, creating loyalty between you and your team.
Bethany Walsh heads up marketing for Abacus, a NYC-based startup replacing the expense report with the first real-time employee expense solution. By leveraging the data collected as expenses are submitted, managers get instant visibility into employee spend. Abacus processes next-day reimbursements, enforces your expense policy, reconciles corporate cards and syncs with your accounting software. Businesses like Foursquare, Coinbase and Pinterest use Abacus to simplify their expense management.