Why you should drop your unlimited holiday policy for a minimum vacation policy

It sounds like the dream job description at first when you commit to an unlimited holiday policy. However, there are a lot of things you should understand about the culture that it can create at your company. Purely my opinion from working at / observing employees at businesses that have created an unlimited policy.

There is no doubting that employees work longer hours and in quite a few cases take less holiday altogether than they would take. However, this should not always be seen as a positive, as usually, it is hiding some serious issues with the atmosphere created.

In my experience, unlimited holiday due to its very nature of being relatively undefined creates a lot of un-needed stress around the subject of vacation. Common questions surrounding the issue are:

  • How much holiday can I take at once?
  • Can I go on multiple big trips?
  • Will I always be paid in full no matter what?
  • What do my team think of my holidays?
  • How much is taking the piss?

The last two leads me nicely onto my criticism; you are creating a peer fear atmosphere and culture at your company. Your staff shouldn't be thinking about what does Joe Bloggs think about my upcoming vacation? They should be focusing on what they do best, their job. Holidays are simply an integral part of any person job. No one should have to be scared to take a week away; it should be something they look forward to and are encouraged to do. There have been many links between staff fatigue/burnout and time away from the office (Be it remote of physical)

What should we do instead?

The easiest way to change this slightly so that it makes the focus more on making sure your staff take their holiday is to make it a minimum vacation policy. You can still have an unlimited plan on top of this, but there is a distinct difference between the two. One puts the emphasis on the employer getting the largest benefit; the other puts the staff's interest at the heart of the situation. It is not the biggest of changes to what you may already have, but here are the benefits:

  • Your team will feel happier that you have their best interests at heart
  • It shows them that you are thinking about their work life balance
  • Less confusion will occur due to not understanding when and for how long the staff can take holidays
  • Due to the higher morale, your team's productivity and effort levels increase (https://hbr.org/2015/12/proof-that-positive-work-cultures-are-more-productive)
  • If the work is also interesting, your turnover of staff will decrease (less per year)
  • Staff who take regular holidays/vacations are less likely to burnout.