Enlightened employers don’t limit vacation

We’re about to enter the holiday stretch for many parts of the world. This is a great time to look at vacation and how it is evolving as a part of our work. After all, do we work to live or live to work?

Cogs in a machine

Vacation is a legacy of the Industrial Age. When people were cogs in a machine, the time they weren’t actively performing their cog role needed to be limited as the ‘machine’ wouldn’t run properly. Vacation was a stingy benefit, carefully tracked and carefully approved in many parts of the world. Many American companies didn’t offer vacation until an employee was on board for a year. In the places best known for manufacturing, like China, Vietnam and Malaysia, vacation remains a very stingy benefit.

As an outlier, many made fun of Europe, the region where, “No one ever works” and their crazy month of August where nearly everyone’s off. I come from that place and growing up, never questioned the value of having a month every summer with my extended family. It is just how things are done and a part of a lifestyle that many envy, even as they critique. And while the Southern Europe is struggling, there are many other countries that have strong economies and have ample vacation. Vacation time doesn’t make or break a company or an economy.

But morale and energy do. 

Enlightened employers

In our mobile, social, always-switched-on world, location matters less than ever before and vacation is less of a hardship on the company. We can be in Tahiti and still be asked a key question, and we can catch a call while in the Back Bowl at Mammoth. We also compete for the same employees and if you believe Mark Zuckerberg, having just the right people is more important now than a whole team was in the past. Vacation policy is an important way to compete for the very best.

Flexibility is perhaps the greatest benefit of all.

Compromise

Now there are those who say, “When I’m on vacation, I’m on vacation.” But as employees we can’t have it both ways. Those who compromise are more likely to get the schedule they desire without too much argument. Employees who desire the flexibility are more willing to work hard to have it. It is a virtuous cycle.

And these things get noticed. The Motley Fool ran an article praising my husband’s company, TIBCO, a few months back:

According to a recent study by the Society of Human Resource Managers, of the 51% of companies that offered employees paid time off, only 1% offered what amounts to unlimited paid time off. TIBCO is one such company that allows its employees to take as much time off as they need as long as they get their work done and it’s cleared by a manager.

TIBCO employees don’t have carte blanche. They work it out with their manager, which brings up another great point: A manager that doesn’t offer flexibility will quickly be seen as hard to work for. Management today is less hierarchical than in the past and great managers don’t run top-down shops. Getting promoted has more social aspects than ever before. Allowing flexibility and getting the work done are hallmarks of a great leadership and is noticeable. A leader’s best description alongside running an effective group, is that “Everyone wants to work for him.”

Morale, energy, flexibility, leadership. Those are four descriptors of a place most people would want to work.

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Categories: Human Resources

Author:Jeanne Roué-Taylor

I'm fascinated by disruptive technology and its impact on our world. I manage sales operations for an excellent startup with a unique team of highly experienced data scientists.

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