Unlimited vacation anyone?

Mark Garrison Jul 7, 2015
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Unlimited vacation anyone?

Mark Garrison Jul 7, 2015
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An American company offering unlimited vacation sounds like an unthinkable fantasy in a country famed for stingy time-off policies compared with other Western countries. But unlimited time off policies are a reality at a small number of American companies. And the results that they’re getting have other businesses taking a look.

Take ZocDoc, a healthcare technology company. Its New York offices have everything one expects from a young tech company these days: a tastefully industrial workspace, free yoga on Thursdays, a casual dress code, a ping pong table and a whole wall of free snacks (though as a health company, the munchies lean more wholesome than typical tech offices). The benefits package includes a time off policy that goes beyond generous: it’s endless.

“Team members can take time off whenever they need it or whenever they want to,” says Netta Samroengraja, CFO and chief people officer. “We feel like we have a much more motivated work force and they’re absolutely much more productive as well while they’re here.”

Asked how much time the average employee takes under an unlimited policy, she has no answer. The company doesn’t even track it. Staffers need to get permission from managers to schedule vacations, but face no limits on how long they’re gone, as long as they get their work done well. The same unlimited, untracked policy applies to sick days and personal days.

Carol Tyger, who works in marketing and took six weeks off last year, says when she explains the company’s policy to family and friends, she gets a mix of naked envy and total awe.

“I get a whole lot of reactions from: do you even work, why would you go to work and how do you get anything done?” she says. 

Many managers are skeptical about unlimited time off. But some are curious, says Bruce Elliott, Manager of Compensation and Benefits at the Society for Human Resource Management.

“The first question we always get is: how are employees gonna abuse it?” he says. “That’s really the wrong question because what we do find is that employees don’t abuse this policy.”

Elliott’s numbers show just under one percent of American businesses have unlimited vacation policies. But there’s great deal of interest in these companies, as many cite gains in productivity, employee engagement and retention.

ZocDoc definitely isn’t going back.

“Overall, we’re really happy with how it’s turned out and it’s actually a great recruiting tool for us right now,” says Samroengraja.

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