Although still rare, a growing number of companies with a broad array of workplace cultures are offering unlimited paid vacation with varying degrees of success.
Debates are abound in HR circles all over the country about how to implement and run unlimited time off programs, and how to navigate some of the obstacles standing in the way of their success.
Some longtime employees resent having the same amount of time off as new employees, according to reports, while other companies struggle with a contingent of employees who do not know how much time off to take without appearing lazy. These variables, among others, are being carefully weighed by HR managers trying to determine if unlimited PTO is the right fit for a given workplace.
Employee Retention Largely Unaffected, Clients Happier at Seer
The Society of Human Resource Management estimates only a fraction of employers, less than 2%, offer unlimited time off, and Seer, a digital marketing firm in Philadelphia is one of them. Netflix, Hubspot and LinkedIn are among some of the other companies to offer the benefit, according to an article from Philly.com.
“It’s about allowing people to do things that make them happy,” says Crystal Anderson O’Neill, Seer president, in the article. “It’s about being productive, being fresh, being your best self.”
Results have been mixed. After three years of offering unlimited time off, the company has not had a “significant impact” on employee retention. However client satisfaction is up as the company is expanding.
At Seer there are restrictions. The first round of vacations calls for a maximum of 15 consecutive business days, with a mandatory 30 days required before another 15-day stint is permitted. Time off must be approved and there must be coverage for clients. In 2015, employee time off ranged from 3.35 weeks to 8.2 weeks.
Not All Sunshine & Roses
For some companies, employees are “seething” at the idea of new employees enjoying the same vacation benefits as those who paid their dues. “It’s one of those things you never will mention, because it makes you look greedy or petty, but paid time off is a reward for service, or should be,” says one middle manager cited in an article from Digiday.
According to the story, some research suggests unlimited time off policies may actually lead to less time off taken off, not more. One New York company, Walrus, abandoned the policy as employees, especially millennials, asked for more structured time off policies. “Optically, it sounds great, especially for new employees,” says Frances Webster, COO, in the piece. “But it ended up being confusing to employees, and people struggled.”
The List Grows, Despite Uncertainty
Several of the 'Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For' offer unlimited paid time off, according to a recent article from Fortune. Workday, number 31 on Fortune’s list, which makes cloud-based HR applications; video-game developer Riot Games, number 39; and software company VMware, number 40 on the list, each offer the benefit.
While these companies are among the growing number of employees to offer unlimited time off, it still unclear exactly how desirable unlimited time off is for employees at large. A Glassdoor survey shows workers in America, in general, only take around half of their available time off and many feel they will be judged for taking off too much.