Of late, companies have started offering Open vacations. It means that  companies do not want to regulate how much PTO (Paid-time-offs) employee takes as long as work is not impacted.

As Matt mentions in his blog, open vacation policy is loosely defined as  –

You’re encouraged to take as much time off as you can while maintaining high performance and achieving your goals. We don’t count the hours you work, so why should we count the hours you don’t? (Unless you’re a non-exempt employee, and only then because we have to!) Take what you need, when you can, and make sure to arrange coverage with your team. If you haven’t had a vacation in a while, you can expect to get a friendly nudge from your manager to get away from the office!

In the era of ‘declining’ employee engagement. this is something employees value much higher.

Does it prompt employees to take long vacations ?

Experience has been pretty much opposite. Employee took similar or less number of PTO days than they normally would. Kickstarter even scrapped open(unlimited) vacation policy since employee were not taking enough holidays.

Will employees abuse the system ?

Well, there has been few instances, but once you set the mechanism (like requiring approval of the manager or providing vacation reports), it can be prevented.

If it does not move the needle in terms of employee vacation days, why its been highly valued in technology companies ?

Firstly, offering Open vacation policy means companies acknowledges that employee have demands and interests beyond work, rather than just treating him as ‘resource’. As long as employee manages his/her work, he should have flexibility to regulate their personal lives.

Second, it conveys trust in the employee. After all, who is responsible for complete tasks – not HR director or his manager ? As long as he completes his tasks irrespective of time away from office.

Third, time off is personal issue. Vacation requirements differ for each individual. Working woman with growing kids will have total different requirements than person who is pursuing part-time education. So, ‘one-size fits all’ vacation policy becomes too restrictive for employees. Open vacation gives freedom to choose the vacations as per the circumstances.

This eventually shifts employer focus from ‘Clock’ to ‘Contribution’. If employees and manager have tools to define and asses contributions,  ‘physical time spent at work’ should not be major factor.

Finally, does it work for every company ?

As long as you work on building open culture, adopt manager mindset to be ‘contribution’ driven, it should offer real benefits in terms of increased trust and engagement. Do not even focus on ‘policing’ abuse or non-use of the policy. Treat your employees as ‘adults’ and help them excel in both – at work and at home.