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Unlimited vacation was an initiative that landed with a boom when it was first mooted several years ago. 

Employers that were bold embraced it, expecting to see a surge in satisfaction ratings from employees, in regard to their employee benefits; the actual results made interesting reading.

As the title suggests, in essence, the concept is such that employees are free to take as much time off as they want, providing they get their job done.

For many companies, the aim of offering unlimited vacations is to reward employees, recognising their input and emphasise results rather than only tracking the hours worked.

“We should focus on what people get done, not how many hours or days they’ve worked.”Netflix

However, for businesses that have spent years offering regulated days-off, it can seem quite a daunting prospect to implement this somewhat bohemian approach.

But there’s another part of the equation to consider with this concept, which is ensuring the company’s compliance with in-country employment legislation – can there be a successful marriage of the regulatory element and the relaxed approach?

In this blog, we’ll explore how you can maximise the effectiveness of unlimited vacations to ensure an engaged, productive and forward-thinking workforce.

1) Setting expectations

Some employers will undoubtedly worry that this benefit will be abused – but fear not, by setting expectations at the outset, you can create a result-driven culture.

Ensure that you and your managers are setting clear targets for employees so that everyone understands what work needs completing by what deadline.  

This is about empowering the workforce to manage their workload and balance their home/work life to suit them as individuals.

Once your workforce knows what’s expected of them, it’s far easier for them to balance their work and rest periods effectively, and employees can fully embrace the concept.

Nathan Christensen, CEO of MammothHR, stated that: “Over the course of the year, the policy (unlimited vacations) became one of our employees’ most valued benefits.”

2) Ensure visibility

While the days available may technically be unlimited – this doesn’t suddenly mean that you could find everyone unexpectedly on vacation.

By utilising tools such as a company-wide outlook calendar or a holiday booking system within an HR software such as IRIS Cascade, you can note and track each employees’ request.  

This way managers can see what days people are working, and they can accordingly approve or decline requests based on data, ensuring you’re never understaffed.

From an individual perspective, this process helps foster team collaborations and promote personal management of the work/life balance; it gives individuals a level of control with personal goals, projects and deadlines. 

From the employer’s perspective, the ethos of self-management amongst the team generates a support culture, that in turn, drives productivity harder. 

But importantly, it also enables the business to track and report on critical areas – for example, are employees taking their minimum entitlement by law?  Are they taking time off regularly, counteracting the potential for burn-out? 

Other critical considerations sit around understanding what employees utilise their time off for – one example is sickness absence masked as a holiday – this could have a detrimental effect on disability claims, which opens up a completely different avenue for the HR professional. 

Education has an important role to play here.

3) Implement guidelines

Similar to setting expectations on what’s required from employees in their day-to-day, you also need to implement guidelines regarding holiday taking.

Employees should be aware that a set amount of notice is required before booking time off – otherwise, you risk last-minute, two week holidays to the Caribbean being requested the day before they’re due to leave.

Whilst everyone is unique in their approach to time-off, it’s an interesting observation amongst many employers with an unlimited PTO policy that employees tend not to go overboard, meaning that they generally don’t over-indulge in their approach. 

In fact, it’s common to see many employees take less than the legal minimum, which is of course, a compliance issue. 

So, establishing some key guidelines designed to enforce time-off minimum guidelines is important.

 4) Communicate the change

The concept of having unlimited holidays can understandably be bizarre for many.

If you want your benefit to have its desired impact, you must ensure employees are fully aware of the policies and that they’re comfortable with taking the time off. 

Messaging is all-important to getting it right.

Otherwise, you risk there being a sense of unease when requesting holidays, and it could have the opposite of the desired effect.  

You want employees to embrace the notion of downtime versus feeling guilty towards their colleagues for doing so.

An example of this is within the company Buffer – when they looked at their stats, they found that employees on average were only taking 15 days off even though unlimited vacations were in place.

We’re here to help

Taking the step to abolish your old ways of working and introducing this new and exciting, results-driven culture can be quite the task.

But IRIS HR Consulting is on hand to help. Our experts specialise in benefits and compensation, providing you with the necessary support to make your transition a success.

With our knowledge of the intricacies of benefits law and practice, you can rest assured that with us, you’re in good hands.

For more information and to speak to our team, click here.