Unlimited Vacation: The Holy Grail of Employee Benefits?

Toronto Sales Recruiter Rhys Metler
By Rhys Metler, Toronto Sales Recruiter

What is Unlimited Vacation?

As many vacation days as you want, whenever you want, and for as long as you want… as long as you get your work done.  A literal buffet of vacation time?  It certainly sounds like the Holy Grail of employee benefits.

Hold on, does that mean I can take June, July and August off as a paid holiday? Or what about a 3 day weekend…every week?!?!

Not quite.  Companies that have implemented unlimited vacation request that your professional objectives be met before exercising this benefit, so employees are in the position of deciding for themselves how many vacation days they should take; too few and they might burn out, too many and they might feel their job is in jeopardy.

Unlimited Vacation Benefits

Why Do Companies Offer Unlimited Vacation?

As the war for talent intensifies, organizations are becoming more and more creative to gain a recruitment advantage and draw in top talent, and unlimited paid vacation is one attractive sounding employee benefit.

Unlimited vacation is currently most common among small, start-up tech firms that are trying to lure top tier candidates away from larger organizations.  Joining a start-up company always comes with a degree of risk and unlimited vacation can help tip the scales of the decision making process for a potential employee.

In an interview with Yahoo! Finance, Jake Gibson, COO and Co-Founder of Nerd Wallet said: “The way that we think about it is, no one has time to count all of your vacation days, just take them when you need them.” The idea is to avoid employee burnout.  Nerd Wallet also enforces a mandatory two-week vacation.  “We worry that if we didn’t force some of the vacation, no one would ever leave,” Gibson says.

Zynga, an online gaming company utilizes a similar approach. In the same interview with Yahoo! Finance, Chief People Officer Colleen McCreary stated that, since the company opened its doors in 2007, it’s never had a traditional vacation plan: “We hire great people who are all invested in growing the company so we trust them to make good decisions about their time.”

Is Unlimited Vacation a Good Thing?

To most, unlimited vacation sounds like an upgrade to the traditional approach.  Complete your work and take whatever time you need to recharge.  Treat adults like adults and let them choose how much time off they need and when to take it.  A no-brainer right?

Maybe.  According to a survey conducted by the Society of Human Resource Managers in the US, only about 0.5% of companies have adopted an unlimited vacation policy.  Without significant statistical data, it is difficult to say if this type of policy is more or less successful than the traditional vacation model.

But consider this; according to a survey conducted by BusinessInsider.com, 26% of respondents said that they work during vacation time, meaning they are not really disconnecting and getting the respite needed to avoid burnout.  Under the caveat, “sure, take vacation, but don’t let your work slip”, it might encourage less R & R.

Does this mean that unlimited vacation is just a philosophical tactic used to gain a recruitment edge?  Perhaps it is too early to tell if these policies have a dramatic effect on productivity and work-life balance. But it will be interesting to see how quickly this fad is utilized by large corporations.

One thing is for certain – As professional demand increases, we need to evolve and enact better ways of managing our effort and energy so that we can achieve peak performance more frequently.  Unlimited vacation seems to be a step in the right direction.

What do you think? Is unlimited vacation too good to be true?

Check out more of Toronto Sales Recruiter Rhys Metler’s other blog posts and connect with him on LinkedIn.

 IQ PARTNERS is a Recruitment Agency with offices in Toronto, Montreal & Vancouver, We help companies hire better, hire less & retain more. Our recruiters specialize in Marketing, Communications, Consumer Goods & Services, Retail, Sales, Technology, Finance & Accounting, Financial Services, Life Sciences, HR & Operations, and Construction, Property & Real Estate. IQ PARTNERS has its head office in Toronto and operates internationally via Aravati Global Search Network. Click here to view current job openings and to register with us.