Can there be value in unlimited vacation time?

February 04, 2018

What MBA degree holders need to know

A business man is relaxing on the beach
Is unlimited vacation time a revolutionary new way to achieve better work-life balance?

Unlimited vacation time is one of the most controversial and polarizing workplace trends to emerge in recent years. For many experienced employers, the idea seems counterintuitive, counterproductive, and costly to implement.

Yet, a number of top companies, including Virgin, Hubspot, and Netflix, now have some form of unlimited vacation policy in place, and the feedback from both employees and managers has been overwhelmingly positive.

So how does unlimited vacation time work, and should you look to implement it within your organization? Keep reading to learn why the idea might just be worth investigating.

Offering unlimited vacation time promotes a culture of ownership and trust

Unlimited vacation time policies work on the principle that employees can take as much time off as they like, whenever they like, provided they are still getting their job done. The idea is that they take ownership and responsibility of their duties, while being afforded the flexibility to achieve their ideal work-life balance.

Different organizations take different approaches to the concept. Some will monitor the amount of time off individuals are taking to make sure the policy is not abused, while others make a point of not tracking it at all.

Similarly, some companies allow employees to take time off whenever they like without notice, while others require them to make formal requests to ensure they not left short-staffed. Advocates of the idea argue that it fosters an organizational culture of conscientiousness and trust, encouraging a results-driven yet relaxed environment.

Unlimited vacation policies can help MBA degree holders recruit the best talent

One major reason that many organizations adopt unlimited vacation policies is to improve their chances of recruiting more experienced talent. Often, professionals who have been with the same organization for a long time will be entitled to longer vacation periods than newer staff,  and can be very reluctant to give this up to start again at another company.

A man is sitting by a tree
More experienced professionals are often reluctant to give up their vacation time for a new position.

An unlimited vacation policy instantly solves this problem, making it easier for employers to attract more qualified and knowledgeable staff. And since MBA degree holders are among the most coveted professionals on the job market, this trend could also make it easier to seek new opportunities in your own career.

Challenges of implementing unlimited vacation policies after your MBA degree 

While there is definitely some merit to introducing unlimited vacation time, you should think carefully before considering it as an option for your organization after your Masters in Business Administration program. Unlimited vacation policies can be well-suited to businesses which already allow for a certain amount of flexibility, but can be challenging to implement in more restricted environments.

For instance, a customer-facing company which requires a certain amount of staff to be available to deal with clients might find it difficult to deliver unlimited vacation time effectively. Workplaces which require team members to collaborate closely with one another might also find their results suffering if they attempt to introduce it without careful consideration.

A team is discussing something
Implementing unlimited vacation time is challenging for teams who work closely on projects together.

Another common problem that often comes with unlimited vacation time is more surprising. Many organizations find that their staff end up taking less time off than before, rather than more. This tends to occur when employees are conscious about being seen to abuse the policy, and unsure about what management considers acceptable.

To combat this, some employers will set minimum amounts of vacation time that employees must take, such as Hubspot’s ‘two weeks to infinity’ policy.  This helps ensure employees take the time they need to be well-rested and productive, while still offering them the flexibility to create a schedule that works for them.

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