The human resources department in any company is always thinking of new ways to attract and retain talent. Whether that is with free coffee or extending paternity leave, companies are increasingly more original in their proposals to retain employees.
Within these motivational benefits comes the ultimate proposal: unlimited holidays. Can you imagine having complete freedom to choose when and how many vacation days you can enjoy? Well, it's already a reality in companies such as Netflix, General Electric or Evernote..
In this post we want to reflect on this and how other measures for attracting and retaining talent are revolutionizing many corporate cultures.
Digitization comes with labor flexibility
Since Álvaro Nadal, Spain's Minister of Energy, Tourism and Digital Agenda recently expressed in the Future Digital event that, due to digitization, perhaps someday we could enjoy three day weekends, the comments on this idea have been flowing ever since in Spain.
From his point of view, the digital transformation of companies could increase our free time and enable professionals to better balance their personal and working life. But this is not the first time that we hear about these kind of initiatives that support expanding free time for employees.
In fact, in the United States some of the most innovative companies are already implementing flexible labor policies, such as unlimited vacations.
What kind of companies can implement an unlimited vacation policy?
The essence of this initiative is to offer employees the freedom to decide on their leisure time, with the condition of meeting their objectives and not creating harm for the rest of the team.
The key for this proposal to succeed is that companies must counts on a good organization plan that allows to coordinate among professionals and avoid any problems.
Additionally, to implement this free vacation policy, it's key that communication flows in the company and that managers trust their teams.
The companies that can offer unlimited vacations are those that practice a new type of leadership: those that focus on results and trust that their professionals know how to manage and organize their work, without needing supervision.
Greater autonomy creates a responsible culture, where employees are motivated and more productive.
What are the benefits of unlimited vacations?
The companies that have implemented these flexible vacation policies confirm the positive effects that this measure brings in their team’s operation and productivity:
- They save paying for days off that employees do not enjoy.
- They retain the best talent, by creating a sense of loyalty towards the company for this gesture of trust.
- It enhances creativity, productivity and motivation.
- It resolves the problem of frequent absences for no reason.
What are the negatives of flexible vacation policies?
Of course, not everything’s rosy.
When Richard Branson shared his unlimited vacations policy in his company Virgin, he made the conditions clear: “They can only do so if they are 100% certain they this will not harm the company or their professional career”.
And this is what creates problems: when some employees don't know how to react or if their holidays will harm the company. They doubt on how much is fair when it comes to vacations.
There are even cases of companies that have renounced this initiative for these kind of problems. One example is the crowdfunding platform Kickstarter.
In Kickstarter this measure did not work: by not having limited holidays, competitiveness increased. Pressure arose among professionals and many began to work more days.
Obviously, in this case the human resources management was not successful, since they did not know how to orient a team towards results and not towards hours in an office. One of the roles of the HR department is precisely to avoid these types of problems through communication and coordination.
For Ben Geoghegan, Director of Content at CurrencyFair.com, an Irish financial company with 100 employees, the greatest challenge was just that: try to make employees understand that they will not be penalized if they take free days, and that the team will survive without them.
One way to do so, in Geoghegan´s opinion, is that managers set an example by taking the necessary vacations and by reminding employees that the unlimited holidays policy exists.
Other similar initiatives that provide flexibility are:
1. Sharing vacation days
Google’s latest innovation is allowing employees to share vacation days among themselves. In this way, if a worker has used all of his/her free days, he/she can still enjoy those that can be borrowed from another colleague who doesn’t want to use them.
The idea has no cost for the company, because it does not give more vacation days that were originally set out. Furthermore, it creates a sense of solidarity among employees and facilitates work and family reconciliation.
2. Buying vacation days
Another formula that is becoming a trend is the employee buying additional vacation days from the company. It is a matter of being able to enjoy more days than originally set for the employee in exchange for a reduction in salary.
3. A sabbatical month in addition to vacations
In the advertising company St. Luke`s, rated as one of the most innovative companies in the United Kingdom, where all employees are shareholders and there are no hierarchies, they also enjoy a very attractive initiative of freedom and responsibility. After five years of working in the company, a sabbatical month accumulates due to tenure and is added to the traditional holidays.
In our current digital economy, where the boundaries between leisure and work are increasingly blurry, these initiatives seem like the future. From Signaturit we support on building a work environment based on trust. More and more, professionals of all ages are looking to work for companies that offer greater flexibility when it comes to schedules and free time.
In fact, this flexibility is a good employer branding technique, which shows how attractive a company is to work at.
Could an unlimited holidays policy be possible in your company?