Unlimited Vacations: Not all workplaces can make it work, but I’d like to.

Even with upwards of 4+ weeks vacation per year, I’ve still never taken it all no matter where I’ve worked.

Have you? And I’m not just talking about management teams either. I’m talking about front-line employees as well.

What is it with Americans and work, work, work?

For hourly workers that’s an easy one. For one, I’ve had a whole bunch of family who has worked in public safety and in prisons and taking less time off and working more overtime can be quite lucrative.

No judgment from me, other than that’s another economics discussion for another time when we’re talking fiscal problems in the public sector. There’s also the issue that U.S. is alone in the industrialized world in that millions of mainly hourly low-wage workers have no paid vacation at all.

Unfortunately no surprise there. Yet another economics and employee engagement discussion for another time.

Quick segue: in Dan Aierly’s book Predictably Irrational, Dan outlines some experiments done around things being “free”, and the fact that most people chose the free over the discounted premium every time.

What about unlimited vacation time? Wouldn’t knowledge workers of today jump at the chance? Not necessarily. Too many other factors at play here.

Like their livelihoods.

However, according to an NPR story and a WorldatWork study, 1 percent of U.S. businesses say they offer unlimited paid vacation.

Wow. Really?

According to the NPR story, Studies have long shown that — believe it or not — such flexibility actually makes workers more productive and engaged…and with all the perks being cut during the recession, vacation time has held its own.

Then why the heck aren’t we taking vacations?

Some critics worry that in a culture of workaholics, unlimited vacation might really mean no vacation; that without a specified time to be “off” employees might feel pressure to always be “on.”

Is this generational? Is it specific to title and responsibility strata? Do leaders have to always be on?

The movie subscription service Netflix has had unlimited leave for a decade.

Netflix says it works. They are one of the more progressive companies in the world.

Steve Swasey, vice president for Netflix corporate communications, calls traditional vacation, in fact the whole 9-to-5 workday, a “relic of the industrial age.” Swasey says Netflix values workers who can manage their own time.

And isn’t that one of the primary drivers here? The fact that the company values workers who can manage their own time, who are personally responsible. These are folks who enjoy what they do, are highly productive, and really do manage the flexibility well.

Not all workplaces can make it work, but I’d like to.

Or would I?


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