A, "dude, that's a cool idea," wave has passed through the technology sector in the wake of an article about a minimum vacation policy. This was billed as an evolution of the Unlimited Vacation Policy that is standard at startups these days. The article correctly points out some of the social features of unlimited-vacation-polices that aren't commonly voiced:
- No one wants to be the person who takes the most vacation.
- No one wants to take more vacation than others do.
- Devaluing vacation means people don't actually take them. Instead opting for low-work working days in which they only do 2 hours remotely instead of a normal 10 in the office.
These points mean that people with an unlimited policy end up taking less actual vacation than workplaces with an explicit 15 days a year policy. Some of the social side-effects of a discrete max-vacation policy are not often spelled out, but are:
- By counting it, you are owed it. If you have a balance when you leave, you're owed the pay for those earned days.
- By counting it, it has more meaning. When you take a vacation day, you're using a valuable resource and are less likely to cheapen it by checking in at work.
- There is never any doubt that you can use those days, just on what days you can use them (maintain coverage during the holidays/summer, that kind of thing).
Less stress all around, so long as a reasonable amount is given. To me, this looks like a better policy than unlimited.
But what about minimum-vacation? What's that all about?
The idea seems to be a melding of the best parts of unlimited and max. Employees are required to take a certain number of days off a year, and those days have to be full-disconnect days in which no checking in on work is done. Instead of using scarcity to urge people to take real vacations, it explicitly states you will take these days and you will not do any work on them. For the employer it means you do have to track vacation again, but they're required days, don't create the vacation-cash-out liability that max-vacation policies create, and you only have to track up to the the defined amount. If an employee takes 21 days in a year, you don't care since you stopped tracking one they hit 15.
The social factors here are much healthier than unlimited:
- Explicit policy is in place saying that vacations are no-work days. People get actual down-time.
- Explicit policy is in place that N vacation days shall be used, so everyone expects to use at least those days. Which is probably more than they'd use with an unlimited policy.
- Creates the expectation that when people are on vacation, they're unreachable. Which improves cross-training and disaster resilience.
I still maintain that a max-vacation policy working in-hand with a liberal comp-time policy is best for workers, but I can't have everything. I like min-vacation a lot better than unlimited-vacation. I'm glad to see it begin to take hold.