A small but growing number of companies are offering unlimited time off. It may seem hard to believe that a benefit like this exists, but it’s getting rave reviews in workplace around the country. While the majority of businesses offering unlimited time off are younger, forward-thinking companies in the tech sector, big names such as LinkedIn, Netflix and Best Buy have gotten on board with the idea.
But that doesn’t mean this perk is a great idea for every organization. In order to assess whether such a generous time-off policy would work for your business, you’ll need to ask a few key questions:
- If there are employees out of the office, can other team members cover for them?
- Does your company have a busy season that would prevent several employees taking time off at once?
- Does the current culture of your company lend itself to potential abuse of the policy?
- Is unlimited vacation something your employees really want, or would they rather have a clear but generous amount of paid time off?
Speaking with your employees will help you gauge interest, and if you find that this may be an option for your company, you’ll need to take a close look at the advantages along with the drawbacks. Here are some of the pros and cons to think about as you consider an unlimited vacation policy.
- Happier employees. An unlimited vacation policy means that your employees won’t have to worry about budgeting their vacation time based on what week or long weekend they want off. They’ll be free to take the time when they want or need it, and they’ll have the flexibility to take last-minute time off. Since unlimited time-off policies don’t differentiate between vacation, sick days and personal days, you also eliminate the added task of tracking this time.
- No end-of-year rush. Approximately 41 percent of full-time employees in the U.S. don’t use all of their vacation days. This unused time often goes unnoticed until the end of the year, when employees realize they have to use it or lose it. For this reason, many employers see a rush of vacation requests in the second half of December, and offices become desolate. With unlimited vacation, there’s no saved time off to use before it goes away.
- Competitive recruitment. Many cutting-edge companies, especially young startups, are offering unlimited time off as a perk to recruit top talent. This isn’t a standard benefit, so if you offer it, you’ll set yourself apart from the crowd and compete for talent with some of the most exciting employers in your space. The end result should be a more qualified and skilled applicant pool.
- Lots of communication. In order to help your team plan for employees’ days off, you’ll have to ensure that they communicate with their supervisors as openly and early as possible. Establish a policy that stipulates a minimum amount of notice that staff members must give before taking vacation days — two weeks, for example — and ask that employees provide specific explanation if they’re asking for time off on shorter notice.
- Lack of clarity. There should, of course, be a limit to how much time off an employee can take, but without an official cap, that line might not be clear. It will be up to the employee’s manager to approve vacation requests, and employees might become resentful of that scrutiny. If you choose to implement a policy like this, be clear to your employees that this is a benefit to them, and encourage them to take the time they need when they need it.
- Scheduling headaches. When employees are out of the office, much of their day-to-day work can’t stop. Your staff will likely be taking a bit more vacation time under an unlimited time-off policy, so you’ll need to schedule more carefully to make sure there’s coverage. You may also need to establish a cap on how many employees from a given department can be out at the same time.
There are many factors to consider when implementing unlimited time off. Work with your HR team to ensure that you cover all the bases, and communicate with your employees well in advance so you can answer their questions and set realistic expectations.
Allison Hutton is an experienced writer, editor, communications professional, researcher and social media consultant. During her more than 15 years of communications and writing experience, Allison has worked with a variety of clients, from small-business owners to Fortune 500 companies. She has an M.S. in entertainment business, a B.A. in communication and lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, with her husband and four children.