3 Reasons Why Unlimited Vacation Is A Brilliant Idea

A report recently found that America is the only developed nation that doesn't require employers to offer paid vacation. While many employers offer full-time workers two weeks time off, a small, but growing number, including Gallup, Netflix and Hotspot, have stopped tracking time off altogether. Instead they offer a flexible time off policy, essentially allowing employees to take as much paid time off as they need. Is this a crazy idea? Or would it benefit everyone? AOL Jobs contributor Laura Vanderkam, who writes about productivity and time-management, gives her take.

There are some jobs that - for the time being, at least - require someone to be at a certain place at a certain time. Many teaching jobs are like that. Childcare, obviously, requires a proximity to the child at a certain time. Most medical procedures are done in person, and plenty of us who shop still appreciate live clerks who are actually in the store.

But other jobs are not like that. Much information work can be done any time or any where. At least in theory, you should be paid for results, not time spent achieving those results. Sometimes this manifests itself as flexible scheduling. But another interesting approach is to create unlimited vacation/sick day policies.

A recent World-Herald article listed several Omaha-area businesses with such policies, and I'm guessing Omaha isn't the only hotbed of vacation day liberation. I think such policies are mostly smart. Here's why.

More:Company Offers Employees $7,500 To Take Their Paid Vacation

1. Trust is a great motivator. In the absence of real reasons to require someone to be onsite at certain times, limited vacation and sick day policies signify a belief that you think people will behave like truant children if not carefully policed. Sure, some people can't be trusted not to claimto have the flu 365 days a year...but maybe you shouldn't hire people like that. You can also have ways to weed out anyone who doesn't meet expectations.

2. An unlimited vacation policy requires an emphasis on expectations and results. Why, exactly, do you need this number of people in your department? What should they be accountable for doing? What's a challenging but achievable goal for each employee for each week, month, year? Communicating expectations, and holding people accountable to them, is part of good management. It's also less prevalent than it should be.

3. An unlimited vacation (and sick day) policy removes problems that don't have to be problems. I remember reading an HR publication's Q&A, in which a manager wrote in asking if he should count an employee's absence as a sick day - the father didn't come in because his kid had been up sick all night - vs. a vacation day. This struck me as a lot of bean-counting and bureaucracy. In a different world, that father might be trusted to make up his work after he'd taken a nap. No one would worry about how to attribute the day.

More: Bosses vs Workers: Who Takes More Vacation Time

Of course, there's a downside to being held accountable for results...which is that you actually have to achieve results. And that doesn't always allow for taking chunks of time off with no communication. When vacation time is accrued in the traditional way in traditional jobs, you're entitled to it. If your job involves manning the cash register at a store, you clearly won't be doing that on vacation. The lines are cut and dried. You can tune everything out. If you have to achieve certain results - but can take off whatever time you want - you may be checking email once a day, and handling anything directly related to those required results while on the road.

But personally, I think that's a good trade off. Since I work for myself writing things (rather than, say, fixing toilets or running a bakery), that's pretty much how my work works. I go or do whatever I want...but I'll send emails from a beach house at night, or file a story from a hotel. People who've worked with me on projects have worked the same way. Maybe it's not pure vacation, but I also get away from my desk a lot more often that way.

What's your organization's policy toward vacation?

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