Unlimited Vacation Policy? Thanks But No Thanks

I’ve seen more press than ever on unlimited vacation policy.  At first, this sounds wonderful.  Take all the time off that you want and answer to nobody, right?  Well, I don’t think it’s that easy.  Personally, I would hate an unlimited vacation policy.  However, I know that’s because of my personal situation.  I’m curious what you think.

What Is An Unlimited Vacation Policy?

Simply put, companies with an unlimited vacation policy don’t provide the standard time off allotments that we’ve all grown used to.  You’re allowed to take what you need.  However, there are things to keep in mind.

  • You have to fulfill your work obligations.  If you don’t get your work done because you’re taking too much time off, you’ll probably get pulled off the policy.  Or fired.
  • You have to have more awareness.  When you get an allotment of time off, the decision is made for you as to how much you can take.  When you don’t have that set, you have to become aware of how people in your company, or even your own work group, handle time off.  Say nobody takes more than three weeks off?  Well, that becomes the de facto standard.  It’s really only technically unlimited at that point.
  • You’ll get nervous.  At least I would.  If I take a lot of time off at one time, I get pretty nervous.  After all, if I’m able to be away for long periods of time, am I needed?  Maybe my boss would start to question that.
  • Calculating total compensation is more difficult.  Your paycheck is not truly how much ‘you make’.  You have to look at other benefits.  How much is your employer kicking in for insurance? 401(k) matching?  Everything plays a part, including your time off.  If you don’t have a set amount of time off, it becomes harder to quantify this.
Image from morguefile courtesy of jppi

Unlimited Vacation Would Suck For Me (At My Current Job)

Personally, I have no interest in unlimited vacation.  Thankfully I work for an organization that’s not exactly cutting edge, so I’m pretty sure this won’t work.  Now these are personal reasons but it shows that every situation is unique.

  • I get a lot of time off.  I’ve been with my company for over 10 years.  I also hired in when they had an extremely generous time off policy.  New hires don’t get as much, but they haven’t cut ours.  Yet.  So, I get a lot of time off.
  • We’re encouraged to use it.  You’ve all seen the stories where people don’t use their time off.  That doesn’t happen here. Our organization wants us to use the time off.  That works for me!
  • Our time off translates to money.  We accrue time off where I work.  So every two weeks I get 1/26th of my annual time off added to my bank.  If I ever quit or am let go, I get paid out at my hourly rate. If I had no time off remaining, I’d get nothing.  But, what if I had banked a couple of weeks?  That’d be like an extra paycheck.  In other words, my time off holds real, actual value.  I don’t see any reason to give that up.

So, while unlimited vacation raises the eyebrows, I don’t think it’s all that spectacular.  However, I know that every situation is different.  And, since big companies like Netflix are doing it, there has to be something to it.  Right?

Readers, what do you think of an unlimited vacation policy?  Have you ever worked somewhere with such a policy?  Would you be in favor if your current employer put it in place?  I’d be curious as to your thoughts in the comments below.  Thanks for reading.

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19 thoughts on “Unlimited Vacation Policy? Thanks But No Thanks

  1. I’d like to see my husband have unlimited vacation days. I think it would be a good fit for him.

    My husband’s job doesn’t let you roll over days or cash them out so that’s been a bummer.

    The difficulty is timing those vacation days. We now have to balance it with our little one’s school calendar.

    But having that time off really does make a difference. It’s good to recharge and recenter with vacation. 🙂

    • I totally agree that it’s necessary to take time off. I think it just has to be the exact right company and the right people to make it work with a fitting balance. If your husband ever has that come his way, I’ll be interested to see.

      Glad to hear things are going well with all the growing up!

  2. Unlimited vacation time policy is the worst! My biglaw firm did the same thing – we had a billable requirement and no official vacation policy. You could just “take it” whenever you wanted. All this meant was that basically no one took real vacations or if they did, they still constantly worked while on vacation. It has a way of making you feel bad for taking a vacation since you don’t technically have any vacation time.

    The other part that stinks – when you leave the gig, you don’t even get paid out your vacation time. I recently left a state job and was paid out for 87 hours of vacation, which is a nice little bonus to get. When I left biglaw, I received nothing..

  3. Hey I personally think that when I had a full time job, this would be useless to me! Like I get the time off would be nice but I would be stressed out all the time wandering if I had my job and if I was taking too much time off. I guess this would really suit some people but for most people I don’t think it would help! Good article 🙂

  4. I think the unlimited vacation is a great idea, but I also think it will mostly benefit the company. Like you said, if you quit, you don’t get paid for remaining time off like you do if you have a set number of days.

    I know a bunch of people who don’t take anywhere near their allotted vacation time as it is, never mind abusing an unlimited plan. Plus, if you have someone who is truly abusing it, you can take care of that with HR if they aren’t doing their job.

    That said, I’d like to not have to keep track of my days off so rigorously. I like to actually use mine and keep a few days “in the bank” for unexpected needs. I’ve got a spreadsheet that tracks all my hours through the next couple of years so I can plan longer vacations in the future without worrying about blowing past my accrued hours.

  5. My company switched right before I was going to take paternity leave. That effectively took pay away from me since I was no longer allowed to use PTO during FMLA…
    They made up for it but doesn’t change the problem for others.

    We haven’t seen any issues yet but a lot of people lost banked time. My manager just told me to pretend the old system was in place.
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    • I think when they switch they should have paid out banked time or done something. In essence people got punished for using time that they didn’t use before the switch, which does not seem write.

  6. I’ve worked for a startup who started out with unlimited vacation days. As the company grew, they abandoned it. Very few people actually took advantage of it, because everyone was obsessed with working 50-60 hour weeks.

    People need to realize there is more to life than work.

    Unlimited vacation only works if everyone is on board. Especially the managers.

  7. I’ve had an unlimited vacation policy at my work for the last 4 years and love it! For most of that time, I was a developer on a team which meant working with that team to make sure I could take time off. There wasn’t ever a vacation I wanted to take I wasn’t able to. I’ve switched roles to Product Management, and it’s about the same.

    It seems like the biggest things that help it succeed would are: a healthy company (that doesn’t need overtime/crazy hours), supportive coworkers (who want their other coworkers to take time off and be happy) and a mindset not to feel bad about taking time off when you want it. If there is a stigma in the organization for taking time off – that’s a bigger issue.

    In a healthy, cooperative company that meets these conditions, an unlimited vacation policy can relieve a lot of stress. I know whenever I plan a trip or need to take a day off for home repairs I just let my manager know and go about it. 🙂

    There is an area where an unlimited vacation policy gets interesting — when coworkers start dating. For my wife and I, our vacations are limited by the number of days SHE can take off. But if both of us had unlimited days, we’d be taking longer, more frequent ones — at least I think.

    • Interesting thoughts. It sounds like you have a company culture that supports it, rather than discourages it via an air of competition. I would think that took a tremendous amount of work by leadership to make sure that the policies and culture were not simply words. That’s huge and it sounds like (with good reason) that you have little intention of leaving.

  8. The vacation policy at my job is pretty good. Better than any other place I’ve worked, that’s for sure!
    Since I’m not in a financial position to take any real vacation, I’ve been allowed to use my vacation days to take every Monday off between September and December. Which is pretty amazing! In the new year, I’ll also be able to move to a compressed work-week in order to get days off. If I could pair the two, maybe I’ll only have to work 3 days a week???

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