You might have heard about unlimited holiday….sounds scary, right? You mean, you actually let people decide themselves how much holiday they need? At this point you might be having visions of sitting on your own in an empty office trying to run your whole business on your own. And we don’t blame you.
“Always on” culture
But in fact, these types of arrangements are becoming more common. And their proponents argue that nowadays, we expect flexible working from our people. Emails come in at all hours of the day and night – who doesn’t take their smartphone to the beach now? So if employees are expected to be connected constantly, doesn’t this blur the boundaries between work and home life? And shoudn’t they then be permitted to set their own hours not only beyond the 9 to 5, but beyond the 28 day strict limit too?
Household names are leading the way
A number of well-known businesses have gone down this route, Virgin among them. Boss Richard Branson said:
“Flexible working has revolutionised how, where and when we all do our jobs,” he says. “So, if working nine to five no longer applies, then why should strict annual leave policies?”
Pluses and minuses
Yes and no. This policy can have advantages, but before rushing to agree unlimited vacation time for everyone who works in your company, consider whether its right for you. Obviously, its not right for each and every business and every industry.
Its worth remembering that a lot of the innovation in holiday and vacation leave originates in the US, where their vacation day allowance is a lot less generous, with only 10 days being given to even senior people. We have a much more generous allotment fortunately. So is unlimited vacation time really needed in the UK?
Of course there are lots of workplaces where it would be challenging – if you need constant round the clock cover, are public facing, or need numbers of people in one place at the same time to fly a plane or drive a bus. However even this can be overcome with a little creativity.
The true downside isn’t what you might think, its not that employees might take too much holiday. It’s that they might take too little.
In an organisation with a great, positive culture, where employees love their jobs and their team mates, have fun at work and are measured not on hours served but on their contribution, there is a danger that they fear letting their team mates down by going off on leave. You’d need to think carefully about how to ensure people get enough holiday, as well as stopping them taking too much.
Structuring roles and teams
In an ideal world, every role in the business is going to have enough work to do to stretch the person during an average work year. If a role has too little to keep someone busy and engaged, then perhaps the answer isn’t to give them more holiday, it’s to restructure the team.
Most businesses need to plan and schedule leave. Keeping track of this can be a hassle, so look for a simple tool like Air’s holiday calendar to help with this. Everyone’s holiday can be scheduled and approved with a click. And whatever you do, ensure that the basic guidelines are documented, communicated and understood. You’ll find some great free policy templates on Air to help you out, and when you’ve set them up you can store them all in Air’s company files area.
What else is new in the holiday and leave scene?
We’ve heard of companies giving “duvet days” (a set number of sick days people can take without calling in sick), days off for birthdays or other significant events. Increasingly, people are taking volunteering leave, in today’s world there is no shortage of causes to volunteer for both at home and overseas.
The rise of bleisure..
What a great idea – if you have sent your employee to a conference or sales call overseas, letting them tag on more days of leave, and maybe flying over their families to join them at your expense, can be hugely motivating. If you have an overseas office, try to organise assignments, job swaps and the like with free days in between.
Company retreats can be organised cheaply; take the whole team away, do a project sprint for a few days, and enjoy a new country and culture during the evening, as well as bonding with your team.
Being sensitive to what matters for today’s employee, (and this isn’t just “milennials”), makes for a much more engaged workforce, higher productivity, and ultimately will benefit your business performance.
Of course you can offer sabbaticals or career breaks too. The limit is your own creativity, and it all depends on what is right for your business. Find out more about creating the right holiday policy for your company here.