The Genesis of (Unlimited) Exodus – Where and when did the idea start?
When you hear about unlimited paid time off, Oceana’s 2012 hit “Endless Summer” or Aerosmith’s “Permanent Vacation” – if you are an 80’s rock fan – might pop into your head. If it does – great! – it will serve as a suitable soundtrack as we delve into the real-world technicalities of unlimited holidays.
If you have never heard of this subject, worry not! Unlimited paid time off (hiding behind a charming acronym UPTO) is quite a novel concept in the contemporary workplace. While some well-known entities such as Netflix or LinkedIn offer their employees discretionary paid leaves, these companies are still in the minority. The idea is still slowly gaining track – according to a 2022 employee benefits report from SHRM, only 6% of US employers offer an unlimited leave policy. What is more, this trend is the most visible in IT circles.
Blessed be the benevolent boss! – What exactly is unlimited paid time off?
The idea behind unlimited holidays is that you can potentially take all the vacation time you wish. As always, there are certain asterisks attached. You are only eligible for unlimited holidays if:
Your company has implemented an UPTO policy.
You completed all of your work.
And finally, and most importantly, you have your boss’s blessing.
The above conditions are the metaphorical holy trinity of unlimited holidays but meeting them is not always easy.
“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” – What are the advantages of unlimited holidays?
As you can imagine, there are numerous ways in which employees might benefit from UPTO policy. Below are just some of the many advantages of this approach:
Greater flexibility – Flexible schedule offered by the concept allows employees to better balance their work responsibilities with the personal life, their commitments, such as family, or aspirations – like traveling or getting additional education.
Preventing or reducing stress and job burnout – Well-rested employees, with better work-life balance (as mentioned in point 1) are less likely to experience feelings of tiredness and dissatisfaction in their posts.
Greater motivation – On the one hand, this is the effect of the two previous points. Under the OPTO system, the employees coming back from holidays should be brimming with energy to get things done. On the other, they should also want to get them done as fast as humanly possible – after all, as soon as they will have finished, they could (theoretically) leave for holidays again.
Preserving mental health – In a way, this is the sum of all the previous sub-points. Work should not be a factor contributing to your bad mental health. And in the UPTO system, it won’t be. In theory, with unlimited paid leave you are well rested, you spend time with family and loved ones, and, most importantly, you love your job and your boss (who, let’s admit it, deserves to have a shrine built in his name for accepting all your vacation requests). What is more, if you do love your boss, effectively you could be spending time with your loved ones 24/7.
Improved job satisfaction and retention – To put it simply: if you love working for your company, you will be less likely to leave it. After all, you are already leaving it on a regular basis to go on holiday. Any more departures would be just cliché.
Liberty for all, Equality – for none: What are the drawbacks of unlimited paid time off?
If you read the previous paragraph, you might be thinking: “Oh my, that sounds wonderful! Why isn't every company doing this?” As always, there is a good reason for that. While the concept of unlimited leaves holds considerable promise, it also presents corresponding challenges. Those include:
Every policy can be exploited – Naturally, employers might fear that workers might misuse the unlimited vacation system. This can entail other adverse effects, such as the ones below.
Decrease in productivity and quality of work – There is a real risk that employees might want to finish assignments as soon as possible, as this technically qualifies them for holiday leave. In doing so, they might overlook certain steps in the process. This could in effect have a negative impact on the quality of work, as well as the general productivity of their company.
Inequality of leave periods – Let us assume that some people might need twenty days of paid leave. What happens if others feel like forty leave days are more fitting? A policy accepting an unequal number of leave days could lead to feelings of resentment and injustice among employees. Liberty far all might sound fine and dandy, but even the French motto of “liberté” means little, when “égalité” and “fraternité” go down the drain.
Where do the unlimited paid leaves leave the employees?
At the end of the day, the intricacies of unlimited paid holidays are a bit of a mixed bag. In some respects, UPTO represents a substantial shift in the approach to work-life balance and employee well-being. In other – its drawbacks might greatly outweigh its benefits.
All in all, the concept of unlimited paid time off seems like a dream come true. For some people, it may be exactly that – and the successful implementation of unlimited holidays in Netflix or Instagram seems to prove it. Unfortunately, for others, this dream of freedom might just turn into a nightmare.
BBC - The Smoke and mirrows of unlimited paid time off
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