As I study the job market, I’ve come across two radically different concepts regarding company vacation time. On the one hand, you have the standard packages, with a certain number of days or weeks allotted to employees per year. This is typically based on position, tenure, and other factors. However, with the explosion of tech and startups over the past many years, they have pioneered a new benefits model, with unlimited time off available for employees. It’s a hypothetical of course, but given both options, which would you choose? Below, I talk about some pros and cons of each company policy.
Unlimited Vacation / PTO
This is more often found in start-ups or nascent companies. This distinguishing perk of their benefits package helps set them apart from what would be considered “traditional” companies.
Pros: The benefits of unlimited PTO is the freedom and flexibility it purportedly gives to employees. Employees should still be cognizant and schedule vacation around a project completion or lull in business. Thus, PTO is still typically signed off by management to ensure smooth business continuity. However, the flexibility is very important, such as for families or those scheduling long trips, both domestically and internationally.
Cons: There is (still) the stigma of those who take time off, and especially for those who take extended time off, as lazy or not as hard working. This makes people reluctant to take vacation whether unlimited or not. To mitigate this, management should set an example by using the vacation benefits provided. Employees might take more vacation time than with a standard vacation policy, potentially disrupting the business flow. Or, I can see employees hesitating to take time off for fear of being seen as slackers or taking advantage of the generous policy.
Standard Vacation / PTO
This is what most people may be familiar with: a company giving two, three, or more weeks off per year. Most companies have employees accruing fractions of a vacation hour per hour worked.
Pros: For me, a huge pro was the accrual, leading to a large payout of the saved time upon leaving. This happens regularly and can lead to hundreds or even thousands of dollars. It may force you to take time off, if it expires. This especially true if you cannot stack or carry over vacation from year to year. With this concept, you may end up taking more time off than an employee with unlimited PTO!
Cons: Obviously, you’re constrained by a finite amount of time off, perhaps requiring you to borrow from future accrued vacation. This restricts and complicates the possibility of longer trips. This is a poor comparison in the United States (where many employees start at just 2 weeks of vacation, or 10 days) versus those in Europe, where six weeks or more is the norm. Additionally, capped employees may still face the negative stigma of taking time off. They may not progress or advance within the company as a rapid pace as those who take less vacation.
While work-life balance is important, employees may hesitate taking time off during with either company policy. The stigma may convince employees that they are delaying their growth trajectory or employee development if they take time off. If unchecked, this could damage company morale. Companies benefit from a refreshed and rejuvenated workforce. Thus, encouraging regular time off whether the policy is unlimited or otherwise is key. By taking their own vacation and setting a clear example, company management can help dispel the stigma and anti-vacation sentiment. Employees already have enough items to worry about – time off should not be one of them.
Featured image from Pixabay of a luxurious beach vacation. I’ll do it soon, and report back!
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