The new model started with tech companies like Net Flix and LinkedIn. These workplaces attract self-motivated and focused employees who are driven to succeed and who typically work long hours. These employees are also the type who are reluctant to take vacation time, leading to a greater potentiality for "burn-out" and stress-related illness.
Thus was created the concept of "Unlimited Vacation", where valued employees could enjoy the benefits of rest and relaxation without feeling guilt or being left behind in the struggle for advancement.
The traditional model in American business has been a defined benefit plan for employees regarding sick days, vacation time, and personal time off. Typically, the longer one worked at a company, the greater the time off one could accrue (up to some reasonable limit, of course.)
Lately, this concept of"Unlimited Vacation" has been reaching the wider business community. We recently visited with one employee of a company that adopted the new paradigm one year ago. She is Mary Lambs, a 44 year-old woman and 23 year veteran at Wellness/Caring Inc., the giant health insurer formed by the mega-merger of Wellness Health and Caring People,LLC. (The company posted a net profit of $23 billion last year.)
We asked Mary how the new policy was working out:
"Well," she began, "I can't really tell yet, as I haven't actually taken any time off this past year. I used to get five weeks of paid vacation and I would use three and sell two back to the company to pay for my Christmas expenditures."
We asked why she hasn't taken advantage of her new"Unlimited" benefit:
"Well, you know, one criterion of the policy is that you can take as much time off as you like as long as your work is up to date. And what with the budget cut-backs and all the lay-offs after the merger, my work load is such that I haven't quite been able to catch up with my work."
Noticing her red eyes, runny nose, and the trash basket brimming with used tissues, we asked if it might not be a good idea for her to take care of her cold (or flu?) at home to avoid infecting fellow members of her department:
Looking around at the empty work stations that surrounded her, she replied to our query. "Being the only person left in the department, contagion really wouldn't be a problem here now and I really have to get this work done or my ass is out the door. If you would excuse me ..."
We were somewhat taken aback by her seemingly abrupt dismissal of our concerns for her well-being, but took her apparent refusal to answer further questions as simply dedication to her valued work at this forward-thinking and progressive corporation.