Latest Work Perk – Unlimited Vacation – Is It a Gimmick?


Our expertise was sought recently for an NBC News web piece about companies offering their workforce unlimited vacation.  It is an interesting concept, and not one that many organizations have tried.  While it is a great selling tool for recruiting the best talent, this arrangement isn’t right for every company.  The ideal candidate will have a strong organizational culture in which employees know what is expected of them and a culture that places true value on employees’ happiness and well-being outside of work.

While there are numerous benefits to a ‘free-reign’ vacation structure, such as unburdening HR of tracking PTO, another reason for recruits to join the company, and increased positive buzz (just ask Netflix and Coupa how they like the press from this and other articles), unlimited vacation time is chock full of risks.

Will employees feel truly free to take as much time as they need, or will there still be inherent pressure to keep their nose to the grindstone?  Will your workforce feel compelled to be “always-on” and compelled to check their smart phone day and night when on vacation?  If executives only take off a few days a year, middle management will almost certainly follow suit, which will trickle down through the organization.  Any of these cultural issues can easily produce the opposite of the desired effect and you’ll quickly have a workforce on your hands that resents your organization and wouldn’t recommend your company as a great place to work.  And that only covers part of the issue for how your corporate culture affects the likelihood of success.  Don’t forget all of the semantics.

While this isn’t to say that successfully implementing an unlimited vacation time arrangement is a bad idea or is impossible, it does come with plenty of challenges.  Many organizations who find it an intriguing idea might view flexwork a more reasonable solution.

A flexwork program can greatly reduce absenteeism.  Say you have an employee with a plumbing emergency at home.  Instead of faking sick, the employee can wait for the plumber to come and fix the leaky pipe, come in two hours later, and just work two hours past their normal stop time.  It is also great for employees with young kids at home.  If you want to watch junior pick dandelions and polish off some orange segments, go in early to work–you’ll still be able to make that 3 PM soccer game.  You may find some employees would rather work  4 10-hour days as opposed to the standard 5 8-hour days.  With a compressed schedule, workers can be every bit as productive (if not more) while feeling more in control over their personal lives.

Offering your workforce real work-life balance will cut down on your staff getting burned out and an organizational culture that truly values the employee does not go unnoticed.  If you’re thinking about making some changes to your corporate culture or if unlimited vacation or flexwork sounds like something that is needed in your organization, please let us know.  Companies around the globe have sought Stegmeier Consulting Group’s expertise in implementing workplace strategies to increase employee productivity, reduce workplace costs, and improve corporate cultures.

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Matthew Stegmeier is a Consultant with Stegmeier Consulting Group, a globally-recognized leader in workplace change management known for helping organizations effectively implement telework programs and other alternative workplace strategies.

He has been instrumental in applying the firm’s best practices and proprietary Critical Influence methodology to clients’ mobility, flex work, shared-space environments, and other alternative workplace strategies. Matthew Stegmeier is a graduate of Miami University’s Richard T. Farmer School of Business and co-author of the forthcoming book, CAVE People in the Workplace: Managing Citizens Against Virtually Everything.