By Adam Steele, owner of Loganix.
I followed a great discussion in an entrepreneur Slack channel recently called "Online Geniuses." The members were taking turns discussing what made them leave their old jobs and go independent as an entrepreneur. The replies were probably pretty close to what you'd expect, but between complaints about stifling offices and inflexible rules, one policy seemed to come up surprisingly often: the vacation policy.
More than a few people in the discussion said they'd left old jobs over bad vacation policies. A few others stated that they had turned down job offers because of them. These comments were concerning to me, because I hadn't thought about the vacation policy my business offers in quite a while.
Here's how this discussion helped me rethink the value of vacation policies:
Why Traditional Vacation Policies Drive People Away
When it comes to small, high-performing teams like those that operate startups, a one-size-fits-all solution just isn't practical. A lot of complaints were brought up in this discussion, including claims that most policies were too short, too inflexible or too hard to use when vacation days were really wanted. The conversation quickly turned to one of the more recent policy developments: unlimited vacation.
Is Unlimited Vacation the Answer?
I think most of us heard about unlimited vacation plans for the first time when Netflix announced it several years back. At the time, it sounded like a radical idea. But now, it's the same policy used by Virgin America, Best Buy, GE, and many other giants like Linkedin, GrubHub and Hubspot.
It's not too hard to understand why workers might like this plan; it offers them the ultimate flexibility: Instead of running out or cramming vacations into the last few weeks of the year, vacation days can be taken at any time. But that leads to a problem. If you have a business full of hard-working people who care a lot about their work goals, you probably have a troupe of workaholics on your hands.
With a traditional vacation policy, people are encouraged to take vacations because it's time they'll lose if they don't. What happens to workaholics when they could always "just take time off next month" is that they don't take vacation time at all. In our group discussion, several people claimed that working at places with unlimited vacation made them feel guiltier about taking vacations.
Others claimed that their managers deliberately used the policy as a way to pressure them into not taking the time off at all because they were always "really needed right now." While a policy like this can quickly become a slippery slope, several participants recommended another model that may be perfect for businesses trying to strike a balance.
What About 'Unlimited Plus?'
The "unlimited plus" model was identified by several commenters as a superior vacation policy. The plan offers unlimited vacations, along with a mandatory minimum of at least a few weeks. According to them, incentive-wise, this is the best of both worlds.
Employees have the assurance of mandatory time off if they have trouble scheduling it for themselves, but they also don't have to feel constrained by a limit if something comes up in their lives that requires more flexible scheduling.
Make a Solution Fit For Your Team
While I'm not advocating for any one model, and unlimited vacation certainly isn't going to be the perfect fit for everyone, I think the policy that's designed for your team is the best one.
Take some time to think about your vacation policy in the coming week. After all, you don't want to risk driving away good talent with a bad policy.
Adam Steele is the owner of link-building agency Loganix.