There are several ways to create work-life balance in your business, but many companies across the U.S. are jumping on a new employment trend that pushes the idea further than ever before: unlimited vacation time.
Taking time off has long been stigmatized in U.S. business culture. Kimble, a professional services automation company based in Boston, found that 47 percent of workers did not take all of their earned paid time off last year. The advances of technology in the workplace have resulted in employees that struggle to unplug while they're on vacation. The same study found that 48 percent of workers check on work-related matters while vacationing, 19 percent every single day.
U.S. businesses have been combatting worker disengagement and decreased productivity as younger workers push for more autonomy in their corporate lives. Unlimited paid time off has become an extension of the culture larger companies claim workers want – one where trust and autonomy results in increased responsibility and more engaging work. But how to implement this perk is a common cause for concern for Business.com community members such as Kimberly Lesak.
Some of the best places to work in the U.S. are offering unlimited paid time off. The employee perk has gotten attention in recent months as a way to promote employee autonomy and exemplify a better business culture. The Netflixes and Googles of the world provide these kinds of perks as an extension of their already progressive HR culture, but small businesses can learn from these organizations and, potentially, even implement similar policies.
"Top talent today is motivated by mission, not money," said Katie Burke, chief people officer at Hubspot. "By giving employees the autonomy to make decisions, you create a more flexible and more productive workplace … Instead of reduced productivity, the unlimited vacation policy creates more engaged and focused employees."
Hubspot introduced unlimited paid time off in 2010, and has been among the most outspoken organizations in favor of a culture where employees are trusted by their managers and company. As a small business owner, the decision to give your employees free reign to use paid time off can be a daunting one. With the right considerations and implementation strategy, you can provide your employees with unlimited paid time off and reap the productivity rewards.
Why implement unlimited PTO?
In addition to the possibility of a better business culture, heightened productivity and more engaged workers, unlimited PTO can provide some tangible benefits to company operations. By providing unlimited time off, you can save money and time tracking employee hours. You don't have to worry about vacation time rolling over, and you don't have to payout employees for unused paid time off.
The biggest benefit, however, could be in terms of recruiting. Crystal McFerran is the vice president of marketing for Velo It Group, a small business based in Dallas, Texas. McFerran said that Velo implemented the unlimited paid time off policy about three months ago. Although still early, the decision has, according to McFerran, increased employee productivity and become a good perk to advertise to potential employees.
"It's been great for recruiting, we can promote that on social media," she said. "We've done things like say, 'Here's how so-and-so uses their unlimited PTO,' and then post a picture from their trip."
This creative approach has made it a two-fold perk: It leads to more engaged workers and attracts top talent. Burke echoed this concept, saying it's an employee benefit that, with the right culture, can push the entire company forward.
"It's imperative that every company consider how to ensure employees get a meaningful break from work," she said. "Making time away a core benefit at your company has two key advantages: you attract candidates who share similar values and you create a meaningful promise built on trust."
The most important aspect of implementing a progressive policy like unlimited paid time off is understanding whether your company's culture is built to handle it. It's important to have established a culture where your employees value autonomy and are committed to your organization's overall goals. If you can't trust your workers with responsibility and autonomy, it's a sign that your business's culture may not be fit to handle this type of policy.
"Organizations [that] don't already embody a culture of high performance and transparency will have a more challenging experience," Burke said. "If your employees don't think like founders [who] are passionate about your business and want to deliver work that has an impact, an unlimited vacation policy won't be effective."
Of course, this doesn't necessarily mean that introducing unlimited PTO will mean no one shows up for work ever again. Instead the major challenge is ensuring employees actually take advantage of the perk in a healthy and competent way. If done wrong, you could end up with a workforce that doesn't feel comfortable taking time off. This, as you can imagine, is counter-productive.
The best way to combat this issue, according to Burke, is to have managers and company leaders set the example. By getting leaders on board and actually exercising the policy, you can ensure that employees will soon follow.
"If your executive team doesn't take vacation, none of your employees will," Burke said. "We noticed that some of our newer managers were uncertain on how to set the tone on vacations for their team members, so we started … putting vacations on our monthly management priorities as an executive team."
If you want to introduce unlimited PTO, assess your business culture and determine whether it would fit your organization. Once you've announced your policy, work with managers and business leaders to use the benefit so other employees feel comfortable taking the time they need. If you establish that you measure an employee's value by the quality of work they produce as opposed to the amount of time they spend in the office, you'll be on your way to creating a better business culture with Unlimited PTO.
"Our CEO is very supportive of our personal endeavors," McFerran said. "Also [it's] just to be a little bit further invested in employees and show that we're going to reward you with the perks that you desire and deserve if you're willing to invest in the company."
Unlimited vacation time is a policy that is possible to implement into your business regardless of its size. If you think your workers and business could benefit from this policy, make sure you get company leaders on board and establish that employees should be able to take time off so long as their work is getting done