What is the most mind-blowing benefit a company can give their employees? How about unlimited paid time off – a virtually unknown, unheard of phrase that sounds oxymoronic.
This holy grail of benefits is real for a growing number of businesses.
A little over one percent of US companies are now offering unlimited vacation time to some very lucky workers, a jump from what used to be just a handful, according to a recent World at Work survey.
Most employees have a measly 15 days to cram in doctor’s appointments, kids’ soccer games, a trip to the beach, and the unavoidable call-in-sick-for-a-hangover day.
But the companies doling out the unlimited PTO, including Seattle-based social media outfit Social Strata, believe these restrictions on personal time are actually hindering productivity.
“People have lives,” Rosemary O’Neill, Social Strata’s CEO, told NPR. “We want them to be able to, I don’t know, take a pottery class or go to their child’s play or help a relative who’s sick.”
Other workplace experts say that while the economy may keep employers from giving raises, they can offer something even more enticing to ensure employees remain loyal and productive.
World at Work’s Lenny Sanicola said in an interview, “Perhaps not being able to provide other rewards, some companies said as long as the work gets done and the productivity that we are looking for is achieved, you don’t have to track your time and you can take unlimited leave.”
While relatively new here, extended vacation time is common across the pond. It’s no secret that for decades European companies have been relaxing their PTO policies.
In France and Italy, employees are given a whopping 40 days or more to travel the globe, write a novel, or spend time at home with a new baby.
Brazilians and Germans each get a mandatory 35 days on an annual basis.
These numbers are the bare minimum that the employer must give, since many countries have chosen to set a standard for companies to follow. It’s not uncommon for workers to take two or three months off consecutively.
Embarrassingly, the US has no minimum. Fifteen days is the average, and three weeks is a glorified rarity.
In fact, Business Insider posits that US workers have the fewest number of vacation days than anyone in the world.
If more US companies decide to offer unlimited PTO, the question becomes, whom is this best suited for?
Obviously manufacturing facilities, education, and the healthcare industry would grind to a halt if workers suddenly took off copious amounts of time.
The benefit is probably more easily implemented at small companies or businesses without a lot of hourly workers. But there are employer examples that defy this logic.
In a recent article about vacation policy, HR industry expert Lance Haun writes that larger companies like Netflix and the Newman Group (before its acquisition by Korn/Ferry), had been handing down unlimited PTO for years with hardly any hiccups.
Do you think companies should mandate unlimited PTO, or would it be a disaster? Could your own company make it work?