Unlimited Vacation Policy? Do This FIRST

We don't have a vacation policy here at Ohos. And chances are, we never will. We're not big fans of "policies" anyway. We may end up having some guidelines to encourage healthy balance but not something restrictive. Besides, telling people that we own their time and we get to lease it back to them in certain increments is stupid, old-fashioned, and based on the notion that people are replaceable cogs.

We focus on the performance of the machine and their contributions to it. We allow for those who might integrate their life and work (headed to Maui and you want to take your laptop with you, go right ahead!) or people who like to keep work and life separate (don't want to touch your phone after a certain time, don't.) There is no right way for people to manage their time and energy so you have to give flexibility for all preferences when it comes to that. There is scientific research that proves unplugging for a certain amount of time is a good thing and we encourage that as much as possible. We are also dedicated to creating a space where someone can manage their weeks in a trusted autonomous way so they can join their significant other for a picnic afternoon, go catch a movie when the theatre isn't packed, help at their kid's school, sleep in after a hard night of hanging with friends, or just take a day to sit on the couch, drink tea, and read a book - those are just as important as taking that 2-week sabbatical. 

But before you go eliminating your vacation policy and going a la mode with unlimited time off, there is something you need to do first.

Train your leadership and managers to communicate and track PERFORMANCE. WHAT is expected, by WHEN, and from WHOM. If your managers can't clearly communicate those things, it becomes very easy to simply manage where some one was on Tuesday. Where they were is immaterial, the work was not done on time - THAT is what matters. And managers need to know how to have that conversation. 

Also, from a systematic perspective, be cautious of celebrating warriors. The people who seem to burn the candle at both ends and are always taking on more, more, more. This is particularly rampant in western society and needs to be actively managed. Celebrate the people who delegate, support, and work together to help each other find balance. You want people who ask for help as often as they give it and vice versa. Celebrate the balance.

In the end, analyze WHY you want an unlimited vacation policy in the first place. Is it for your company's benefit, or your employees'? If it for the former, trust me, people will figure it out and you can burn out your brightest stars quickly. If it is the latter, make sure your leaders and managers encourage the balance and focus on the performance, not the attendance.

Dave NeedhamComment