“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” A catchy proverb from the 17th century suggesting that employees should be given time off. So why is 2022-Jack still a dull boy even though his company offers him unlimited vacation?
Reportedly, start-ups and tech companies were the first to offer their employees unlimited vacation. The policy helped attract young talent and, with equity-incentivized teams working overtime to launch new products and services, it wasn’t likely to be abused. More recently, unlimited vacation policies have gone mainstream, offered by large companies in a range of industries.
Evidence, perhaps, that large US companies have decided that employee welfare really is job one? Efficient work scheduling and maximized profits be darned? Not really. Critics argue that the opposite may be true. According to them, 2022-Jack is working longer and getting duller because:
Unlimited Vacations are Not Unlimited
Don’t believe the sound bites. Like Santa Claus, the reality differs from the marketing. Companies do not allow employees to take unlimited time-off. Studies show that most US firms with unlimited vacation policies closely manage employee vacation time, with relatively few individuals getting four or more weeks-off per year. Managers often tie vacation approvals to performance.
Companies Save on Administrative Costs
Real cost savings. Unlimited vacation policies eliminate the need to track vacation accruals and unused vacation days. For large firms, the savings can be material.
Upward mobility anxiety? In many start-ups, or other fast growing, competitive firms, workers are fearful that, should they take more vacation than their peers, they may miss out on advancement possibilities. The result, and one sometimes fomented by management, is workers taking less time off than they might have under use-it-or-lose-it vacation policies.
Unlimited Cellular Is Tracked, Too
Many firms offering unlimited vacations go so far as to state that they do not track employee vacation time. At all. “It’s a matter of trust.” “Hours worked do not necessarily correlate with job performance.” Blah, blah, blah. To any job seeker who hears this disingenuous, corporate blather, consider your cell phone plan. It’s unlimited also, but your use of it is closely tracked and, sometimes, slowed down.
So, there you have it. All work and unlimited vaca makes Jack a dull boy. For some reason I feel compelled to write that again . . . and again.
Mr. Dragone has spent the past twenty years as an acting/consulting CFO for a number of start-ups in a wide range of industries. Peter’s prior experience is that of a serial entrepreneur, managing various start-up and turnaround projects. He was a co-founder of Keurig.