Benefits: Unlimited Vacation

Unlimited Vacation

Imagine, you’re interviewing at a company, and they tell you that they offer unlimited vacation benefits.  Awesome, right?!  Maybe, but first, you need to do your homework.  While it’s been around for a while, it’s only offered by one to two percent of companies in the United States.  Netflix, GE, LinkedIn and a fair number of small to mid-sized technology companies have these types of flexible vacation plans.  In the case of Netflix, they don’t track vacation usage, but they expect the time away to be reasonable and ensure that employees still get their job done.  At General Electric, around 43% of the US salaried workforce can take as much vacation, sick, and personal time off as needed without any tracking involved.  Since GE’s policy only applies to a particular population, it could create quite a divide among the employees that work there.

Why offer Unlimited Vacation

Offering unlimited vacation can be a smart move for business.  It’s no secret that Americans have less vacation than the majority of the world, and in 2016 an estimated 662 million vacation days were given up.  An unlimited plan eliminates the administrative burden of tracking and monitoring of leave usage.  The biggest benefit to employers is that it removes the financial responsibility to pay out unused days to employees who leave the company.  Finally, It can be seen as a great perk for employees and is used to help stand out against competitors.

While in theory, an unlimited vacation policy might seem great, it could backfire.  If you are considering a job somewhere that offers unlimited vacation, be sure to do your research and ask questions.  Glassdoor can be helpful to see how current and past employees feel about the benefit.  Some companies offer unlimited vacation but make it difficult to get time away from work.  Others might have a culture that frowns upon taking time off, even though it’s available.

Questions to Ask

When you start asking questions about benefits, choose your timing carefully.  It can be a big turn off to hiring managers when applicants ask lots of benefit questions during an interview.  Typically, the best approach to is to wait until you get the job offer.  Here’s a list of questions you can ask that will give you an idea of  how the benefit works at a company:

  • What are the parameters around the vacation policy?
  • How many days do employees typically take off each year?
  • What is the approval process like and how far in advance should requests be made?
  • What holidays does the company recognize?
  • How do you measure performance?

Company Culture

You also want to take into account what you know about the company culture.  Anytime you are on site for an interview take note of the way the team interacts in the workplace.  Often, it’s easier to get a feel for the culture from potential peers than from hiring managers, since they tend to speak a bit more freely about how they feel about certain topics. As you meet with hiring managers and peers through the interview process keep in mind the following:

  • Is the type of work you’ll be doing primarily independent or team-based?
  • Are you the only person who will be doing that kind of work?
  • Do people typically respond to emails at night or during weekends?
  • Are the leaders modeling the behavior and taking time away from the office?

The goal is to determine if employees make use of the unlimited vacation policies or if there’s a subculture that frowns upon it.  Also, think about how the policy makes you feel.  If you worry that you won’t take a vacation because there’s not a set number of hours assigned, it might not be the best fit.

Ultimately, this should be one data point among many when deciding to accept a new job.  You want to take into account the total compensation and benefits package and the kind of the work you’ll be doing.  As long as you can see yourself happily at the company for at least two years, then go for it!

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